Business Horizons: A volunteer's perspective

January 11, 2016

Karen Rieck’s Business Horizons experience began like the experiences of many of the students she has mentored over the past decade – with skepticism.

However, she quickly realized the value the weeklong business program brings to both high school student participants and volunteers.

“Trying to describe Business Horizons to someone who has never participated can be a challenge, because there is no good verbal explanation to describe the experience you’re going to have,” Rieck said. “I often tell people, ‘You just have to trust me.’ ”

Business Horizons, a program of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) Foundation, has been
educating students from across Iowa about economics, entrepreneurship, teamwork and the skills they need to be successful in the workplace for more than 30 years.

Rieck has been involved in the program for the
past decade and recently completed her third year as chairwoman of the Business Horizons Board of Directors.

“Business Horizons is unique in that it helps students hone skills they need for life,” she said. “Everything translates, no matter where they end up. It’s transferable to any industry and any size organization, public, private or self-owned.”

During Business Horizons, students are divided into teams, known as industries, and tasked with creating a product made of materials collected from a pile of junk. Each industry spends the next three days refining its product, its business plan and its sales pitch before presenting
to an investor panel composed of Iowa business leaders.

“The team meeting following the investor pitch is the highlight of the week for me each year,” Rieck said. “Without exception, students come back with so much enthusiasm, and they hug and high-five. There is such a feeling of camaraderie and pride.”

As a volunteer, Rieck takes pride in knowing she has helped give students some direction in their career path. Throughout Business Horizons, students interact with dozens of volunteers with diverse backgrounds.

“Students are influenced by what they know and experience, and Business Horizons is a great opportunity for them to learn from so many different professionals about what they do and the path that led them to their career,” Rieck said. “If I can play even a small part in helping students identify what they’re passionate about, that is the most rewarding part.”

Learn more about the Business Horizons program and how you can volunteer or nominate a student!