Therese Kuster, a senior public relations major at the University of Northern Iowa, recently won the Young Entrepreneur Council/Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization Student Entrepreneur of the Year at the National CEO Conference.
Kuster won UNI's Elevator Pitch competition in September and is an active member of UNI's chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Association.
Kuster, who traveled to Fort Worth, Tex., at the end of October for the conference, won the award as a result of her essay about entrepreneurship, letters of recommendation and financial statements from her business, TargetClick Marketing Solutions.
TargetClick Marketing Solutions works with local businesses to develop websites and optimize existing websites for better search engine rankings. Kuster's business launched in 2010 as a collaborative effort between her and UNI alumnus Greg Jass. In June 2011, the two merged with TargetClick to form the business in its current state.
Amid the frantic pace of the business world, Kuster admits things haven't always come easily.
"Some days it's hard to go to class because I'd rather be with a client, and other days it's hard to go to the office because I have homework and group projects," Kuster said.
Despite the challenges, Kuster said she has never thought of throwing in the towel.
"I've had my fair share of doubts and concerns, but because my office is always my favorite place to be at the end of every busy day, I know I could never give it up," Kuster said.
Laurie Watje, manager of the Student Business Incubator program, admires Kuster for the award and her tenacity.
"She's very professional," Watje said. "She's juggling being a full-time student and full-time businessperson and still maintaining a strong GPA … I'm very proud of Therese for bringing the award home to UNI."
Kuster said UNI, and specifically the SBI, "has been instrumental in my entrepreneurial success."
"I have had access to incredible resources, experiences and mentors thanks to UNI," Kuster said.
After her graduation this spring, the Boone native plans to continue working with TargetClick full-time.
"Each of us has a career with TargetClick, and we're fortunate to be able to support ourselves with our business," Kuster said.