North Iowa Businesses Compete in Venture School Launch Day

North Iowa Businesses Compete in Venture School Launch Day Main Photo

7 Apr 2021

MASON CITY, Iowa— The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center hosted Venture School Launch Day on Thursday, March 25, 2021. The spring 2021 cohort of nine teams competed in person after attending classes virtually for 8 weeks of training, doing customer discovery and developing their business model alongside local entrepreneur mentors. A panel of judges (Stacy Doughan, Clear Lake Chamber; Jayson Ryner, ReEnvision Ag; and Joyce Martin, Pappajohn Center Marketing & Communications Coordinator) selected First and Second Place winners, and two Honorable Mention awards.

First Place – Nathaniel Julseth, Nate’s Powder Coating, Northwood. Awarded $2500 prize.

Second Place – Catarino Martinez, Casa Mezcal, Clear Lake. Awarded $1500 prize.

Honorable Mention – Marie Boyd, Deb Lassie, and Lisa Parker, The Kitchen, Mason City. Awarded $500 prize.

Honorable Mention – Shawn Flitcroft, Brigid Porter and Billy Koci, Pipe Dream Pizza, Mason City. Awarded $500 prize.

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. Your team will accelerate the startup process by testing your business model hypotheses immediately. You will get out of the building to talk to customers, partners, and competitors, rather than relying on statistics and secondhand market research.

Each team is assigned a local entrepreneur as their mentor. On the launch day, participants compete for seed money with the top team winning $2500. In addition, eligible teams may compete for cash awards at the state level during the Venture School Launch Day at EntreFEST in Cedar Rapids. The cost for the course is $299. Contact Mary Spitz at with questions. If you are a local entrepreneur interested in becoming a Venture School mentor, please contact Candi Karsjens at To apply for the fall 2021 cohort, visit and select the Mason City cohort in the drop down menu.

The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is the expert in rural business innovation and success. In partnership with North Iowa’s Small Business Development Center, together we provide tools, support, and resources to Iowa’s entrepreneurs. We counsel both new and existing local businesses, from Main Street to industry leaders. We’re growing Iowa’s entrepreneurial culture through grade school initiatives, college and community programs, and business training and development. Contact the NIACC Pappajohn Center at 641-422-4111, or

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