North Iowa Businesses Compete in Venture School Launch Day

North Iowa Businesses Compete in Venture School Launch Day

$5500 in Prizes Awarded to Local Entrepreneurs

The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center hosted the Venture School Launch Day competition on Thursday, November 16, 2023. The Fall 2023 Venture School cohort competed in person after attending classes virtually for 7 weeks of training, customer discovery, and developing their business model alongside local entrepreneur coaches. A panel of judges selected First, Second, and Third Place winners, one Honorable Mention, and one Director’s Choice award. The panel included: Al Lorenzen, The Business Brokers; Molly Watson, Home Style; and Rick Whalen, Retired, Butler County REC. The prizes awarded were:

First Place – Matthew Evans, Kick Rocks Athletics, Mason City IA.

$2500 prize. Kick Rocks Athletics provides software solutions for high school sports programs, with a focus on an efficient, user-friendly solution for golf tournament management.

Second Place – Ian Nelson, Digital Reimagining, Mason City IA.

$1500 prize. Digital Reimagining is a local web design and development company, with expertise in creating stunning, lead-generating websites for local businesses, transforming their online presence into a powerful sales tool.

Third Place – Meagan Dennis, Still Waters Day Spa and Scalp Spa, Clear Lake IA.

$1000 prize. Still Waters Day Spa and Scalp Spa specializes in massage therapist and nurse esthetician services with the goal of providing rest to the mind, body, and soul. We strive to give a one-of-a-kind encounter that leaves you saying, "My cup runneth over."

Honorable Mention – Jackson Hertel, Hertel Custom Builders, Northwood IA.

$500 prize. At Hertel Custom Builders we provide home remodeling services where we strive to turn your vision into a reality. We have nearly 15 years of experience in both residential and commercial construction to help bring the customer dependability and quality craftsmanship.

Director’s Choice Award – Catherine Lemay & Family, Mainline Depot, Kanawha IA.

$500 prize. Mainline Depot is a family-owned inn, café, & farm-to-table market that helps our town grow and thrive by combining hospitality, community, and necessity into one solution.

The University of Iowa Venture School is a premier statewide program for entrepreneurs and is built from a streamlined curriculum developed by the National Science Foundation I-Corps at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. Venture School emphasizes real-world entrepreneurship and innovation based on leading edge curriculum. Teams will accelerate the startup process by testing their business model hypotheses immediately. They get out of the building to talk to customers, partners, and competitors, rather than relying on statistics and secondhand market research.

On Launch Day, Venture School participants compete for seed money to help launch their business. In addition, eligible teams may compete for cash awards at the state level during the Venture School Launch Day at EntreFEST, taking place in June 2024 in Cedar Rapids. If you are interested in learning more about Venture School in North Iowa, contact Ashley Page at To apply for the Spring 2024 program, visit and select the Mason City cohort in the dropdown menu.

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