An entrepreneurial lifestyle

Bob Walker, a Lecturer for the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC), is an entrepreneur at heart. As a kid, he mowed yards, cleaned gutters, sold greeting cards door to door, and even picked up babysitting gigs. This entrepreneurial energy continues to fuel him in adulthood. After graduating from college, Walker worked for retail banks, was part owner of a vitamin/supplement shop, and ran his own consulting practice. His consulting business eventually led him to work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on a consulting job with a bank in the Slovak Republic in 1997.

Walker then switched his career path towards education. Part of his new trajectory involved co-authoring a textbook – “Personal Finance: Building Your Future” – with his wife, Kristy. The duo also publishes a personal finance blog and tweets about finance @frugalfinances and @heyprofbob. Today, Walker serves as an educator and mentor, helping students at the University of Iowa discover their passions and build a plan to follow them.

Outside of his work for Iowa JPEC, Walker’s entrepreneurial activities include running two LLC’s; one business as an author and the other business running a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organic farm. Walker’s career path is anything but traditional, yet he ended up with “the best job in the world.” He began teaching banking courses at Kirkwood Community College in 1990, a profession that brought him unexpected joy. While at Kirkwood, he created an entrepreneurial certificate to engage students in Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurship throughout Iowa kept growing and evolving and Walker took notice of Iowa JPEC’s work in this movement. When he received the chance to teach at Iowa JPEC, he jumped at the opportunity.

Making dreams come true

Walker sees teaching as both a privilege and a responsibility. He says, “I feel that I have the best job in the world to have the opportunity to interact with students and help them discover their passions and dreams, and help create a path where they can make their dreams come true.” Walker lectures for several courses at UI, but his favorite classes are the ones where students have the opportunity to improve someone’s livelihood by using entrepreneurial action in an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable way.

He explains, “These courses take what we teach in the classroom and use it to help someone fulfill their dreams of owning and running a successful business. This experiential learning sticks with students and creates creative and critical thinking skills that can be applied every day in students’ lives.”

Walker excels at bringing students out of their comfort zone on domestic and international trips, motivating students to succeed in and outside of the classroom, and community building. One of his efforts to achieve all three of these goals is a student internship opportunity for RAGBRAI® that is offered to students each summer. Walker advises students who work with RAGBRAI®pass-through towns in order to maximize the economic impact of RAGBRAI®for the day of the ride and create sustainable progress for businesses in pass-through towns. He is incredibly proud of the work the students have done to benefit Iowa communities. Walker’s dedication to his students has led to his involvement in Iowa JPEC’s student organizations.

Do well and do good

Walker is the faculty advisor of the three Iowa JPEC student organizations: Sigma Nu Tau, I-Envision, and Enactus. Each organization provides opportunities for students to engage in entrepreneurship and network with successful business owners. He also oversees MoneyThink, a group that teaches at-risk high school students about personal finance. Walker divides his time between each of these organizations, mentoring students on what it means to be an entrepreneur who does well while also doing good.

His role at the intersection of student and teacher experiences at Iowa JPEC has showed Walker that entrepreneurship revolves around community. “Working and teaching at Iowa JPEC has taught me that entrepreneurship is truly a team sport. It is great to work in a department full of entrepreneurs who support each other, are willing to take risks and do what is best for the students.” At the other end of the spectrum, Walker says, “The student orgs provide a community where students can be successful, reach their full potential, take leadership opportunities, build their network, have fun, and get a lot of things done.”

For University of Iowa entrepreneurship students who aren’t participating in any of Iowa JPEC’s student orgs, Walker advises them to “GET INVOLVED and BUILD YOUR NETWORK!” Iowa JPEC has grown from one student organization to four student organizations just in the past few years, so all students can find a group to fit their needs.