Duane Wilson has a voice for radio and a smile for television. So, what made the one-time cinema major switch his career path?
“I started a miniature production company with a student in the business program,” Wilson said. “After one of my teachers asked if they could get a job from us, I decided to switch majors.”
Enter the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (Iowa JPEC). That’s where Wilson honed the skills to become a leader in nonprofits, startups, and youth empowerment initiatives. A passion for working with and teaching youth about entrepreneurism began after he served as a counselor for an Iowa JPEC summer camp. In 2011, Wilson published a book, Jackie and the Dreamstalk, a short story that aims to grow ideas, goals, and dreams for children ages 9-14. The book has also been used by businesses as a project management tool.
“Iowa JPEC taught me that entrepreneurship doesn’t just have to be starting a business,” Wilson said. “Entrepreneurship can actually be a lifestyle. Are you looking at opportunities? How do you optimize them? How do you build your team? Those are things I have taken to heart.”
A native of Villa Park, Illinois, Wilson is the first person to graduate from the University of Iowa with a degree in interdepartmental studies, social entrepreneurship in 2008. He said his biggest take-aways from Iowa JPEC were being able to utilize the lessons from the professors, but also the learning that took place in the “extra curriculars” from the student entrepreneurial group to the Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute.
“I loved the business consulting class,” Wilson said. “It was a chance to work as a group and to work with a local business on strategy to help their business. It was the first time I got a taste of the consulting side. I said, ‘Oh, this is actually kind of fun.’ Then you get out of school and realize you can get paid to do it.”
Wilson resides in San Francisco where he is a media consultant and strategic executive. One of his specialties is a voice over service that has been utilized from several major brands around the world, including Disney and McDonalds. His voice has been used in a variety of mediums from promotional events, interactive media such as video games, and to compel donors to support worthy causes globally. Wilson has the technology to record and master voiceovers remotely, so he can serve clients around the globe.
That isn’t the only way Wilson has given his voice to others. His work in nonprofits shows that his mission has been to speak for those without a voice in society. His first leadership position was running Peace Corner, a Chicago youth organization. Being an advocate, he was often called to speak to the issues of the community. Wilson’s interests grew to doing voiceover work, creating the brand image and voice for all kinds of clients — from great causes to commercial clients.
“I remember doing two sessions at the Jacobson summer camp where I was a camp counselor, teaching kids the principles of entrepreneurship,” Wilson said. “That has had such profound impact seeing the joy of the kids learning something, and it’s something I still do today.”
Late in August, Wilson flew to Chicago and volunteered with Polished Pebbles. He assisted with its six-week Mommy & Me summer program, that provides programming to girls and their mothers while building entrepreneurship skills.
Wilson will return to campus in September for the first time in five years. He is eager for a homecoming.
“Over the years I have stayed engaged with many of the folks at Iowa JPEC,” Wilson said. “I may not have built a large corporation, but I have still integrated the principles of entrepreneurship throughout my career from leading companies to helping many other people start their own companies.”
Wilson has received the 2022 Alumni Entrepreneurial Leadership Award in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Honors. The University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center will recognize him Sept. 9 at Old Capitol Museum.