ST. ANSGAR | “My first business was recycling pop cans when we lived in Colorado,” said Daniel Wilbur, 17, of rural St Ansgar. “I put a 55-gallon drum in a business, where they were just throwing away their cans, and I began recycling them. I was making from $7 to $10 a week, which was pretty good for an 8-year-old.”

Wilbur’s enterprising ventures have grown and recently he was awarded $500 in cash and a $500 scholarship from North Iowa Area Community College through a contest sponsored by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, at its Youth Entrepreneurial Center, located on the campus of NIACC. He was awarded the cash and scholarship for his presentation of a business plan for his current business, North Iowa Diesel Repair, located northeast of St Ansgar. Wilbur is currently finishing his home-schooling requirements and is also enrolled in NIACC’s Diesel Mechanics Program.

Along with his school work, Wilbur finds time to do mechanic work in his shop, where he works for farmers, works on lawn mowers, and repairs and tunes small engines. Living at home with his mother, Lisa, he has also spent a considerable amount of time remodeling their home.

Though Wilbur’s entrepreneurial ventures started with pop cans, it changed when his family moved to Cresco.

“When I was probably 9, I was always tinkering with stuff and I started fixing up lawn mowers,” he said. “I also had a lawn mowing business when I was in Cresco.”

Later, when his family moved to rural St Ansgar, Wilbur cleaned out an old building and converted it into a shop. Currently, he is rebuilding a seven-point, three-liter diesel motor, which came out of a 1999 Ford Truck.

Wilbur’s introduction to the Youth Entrepreneurial Center’s contest, came last spring while he was taking a welding class at St. Ansgar High School. His instructor, Craig Christensen, gave him information about the contest that was held over the summer at the Center.

Each of the 15 participants in the contest, took a week of classes, which focused on how to fine tune a business plan. Each day, the students were presented information, centered round one aspect of starting and sustaining a business.

Along with business information, “speakers spoke on the business advice they wished they had known, when they started their own businesses,” Wilbur said.

During the week, each student was instructed on how to develop a business plan.

“At the end of the week, they had a business plan competition, that was pretty much like 'Shark Tank,'” he said. “They had a panel of five judges, and you went before them and pitched your business plan.”

“I am attending NIACC’s Diesel Tech Program to further my skills and to become certified. I will graduate in 2019, and upon graduation, I will pursue my business full time,” said Wilbur. “Currently, I am marketing my business solely by referrals, because I have a limited amount of time and space due to still being in school.

“Once I expand to a new shop and am certified, I will market my business through radio, a sign out front, flyers and word of mouth,” Wilbur said.