Business Horizons helps prepare students for future

August 11, 2017 | Rethinking shop and trade classes Maddie Galloway,

High school students from across Iowa recently graduated from Business Horizons, a program of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Foundation (ABI Foundation). The program teaches students about career opportunities, the business world, teamwork, leadership and personal development.

For more than 30 years, Business Horizons has shown students from all across Iowa the career opportunities that lie within the state. To achieve this, Business Horizons offers exciting, hands-on experiences that are both challenging and engaging. During the weeklong program, the students gain knowledge of how to be successful in the business world. They work in teams to create and produce a product, develop a business plan and pitch their proposals to actual business leaders who serve as mock investors.

This program just doesn’t happen overnight. There are many people involved making this program successful. Some of the biggest contributors are the sponsors for the program. Kaci Kohlhepp-Conetzkey works at DMACC, which has been a sponsor for almost five years. In that time, Kohlhepp-Conetzkey has helped the program by being an adviser during the week. She sees firsthand how the program benefits the students.

“Every year I see students that are quiet and reserved really come out of their shell,” she said. “By the end of the week everyone is contributing to the group, which is really awesome to see.”

Dawson Goodridge of Union County was one of the many students who attended Business Horizons this past summer. “When I entered Business Horizons, I was deathly afraid of public speaking,” Goodridge said. “After BH, I can say I now have the confidence to be a leader and to speak in front of others.”

There is more to the program than breaking students out of their shells. Kohlhepp-Conetzkey said that teamwork is one of the biggest skills that Business Horizons tries to instill in the students.

“No matter what field you go into, everyone has a different thought process and you might not get along with everyone,” she said. “Business Horizons teaches you to put those differences aside to create a product and to sell the product. You have to learn to work with others to do that.”

Kay Neumann-Thomas, vice president, programs for the ABI Foundation, oversees the program. She says that Business Horizons not only helps build better social skills but also helps the students find their potential. “During the program, students discover their personal strengths and what it truly takes to run a business, as well as a new network of peers and mentors.”

Neumann-Thomas said Business Horizons not only teaches valuable life skills, but prepares students for future career success within Iowa.

“Students graduate from this program with a greater understanding of the futures available to them in Iowa and are better prepared to pursue those goals,” she said

Another student who attended this summer, Alexis Schares of Black Hawk County, saw how powerful the program was for preparing her for the future.

“For me, Business Horizons was a great experience,” Schares said. “I made a lot of new friends, learned a lot of how to prepare for my future, learned a lot about teamwork, and overall had a ton of fun! It has inspired me to take action by showing me the importance of preparing for my future now.”

Gaining real world experience means seeing directly how actual businesses run. The students visit Iowa businesses and manufacturers to develop a better understanding of the innovative companies doing business in Iowa every day. They listen to expert speakers on how to manage money, how to work in a professional environment, and much more.

For more information on Business Horizons and the ABI Foundation, visit