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North Iowa businesses win prizes at Pappajohn’s Venture School Launch Day

First Place – Caleb Renner, Renner Ag Solutions, Klemme. Second Place – Sherri Stensrude, The PlayBarn, Joice. Third Place – Journey Wellness, Sarah Innis, Plymouth.

MASON CITY — The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center hosted the University of Iowa Venture School Launch Day competition on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The NIACC Spring 2024 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. The judges were: Jordan Colby, Venture Analyst with Ag Ventures Alliance; Lindsay James, Executive Director of Visit Mason City and Main Street Mason City; and Rod Schlader, CEO (Retired) of MercyOne North Iowa.

First Place – Caleb Renner, Renner Ag Solutions, Klemme IA

Awarded $1500 prize. Renner Ag Solutions saves farmers their fingers and their lives with the AgriNet. The AgriNet is a safe, innovative alternative to grain bin sweeps.

Second Place – Sherri Stensrude, The PlayBarn, Joice IA

Awarded $1000 prize. The PlayBarn creates a secure, nurturing environment where kids can explore, learn, and push their boundaries safely. Not just a playground, The PlayBarn is also a space where parents can find community.

Third Place – Journey Wellness, Sarah Innis, Plymouth IA

Awarded $500 prize. Good health is a lifelong journey. Journey Wellness helps people get in tune with their bodies so they can feel good, have energy, and live their best lives by using holistic, natural tools.

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.

Each Venture School team is assigned a local entrepreneur as their coach. On Launch Day, participants compete for seed money. In addition, eligible teams may compete for cash awards at the state level during the University of Iowa Venture School Launch Day at EntreFEST in Cedar Rapids, IA on June 13-14, 2024. The cost for Venture School is $299. If you have questions about applying to Venture School or are interested in becoming a Venture School coach, please contact Ashley Page at To apply for the Fall 2024 cohort, visit and select the Mason City cohort in the dropdown menu.

The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is the expert in rural business innovation and success.

(From left: Eric Jellum (Jellum Geothermal), Sarah Innis (Journey Wellness), Eric Burt (EB Edits), Virginia Hall (Hall’s Homemade Kitchen), Caleb Renner (Renner Ag Solutions), and Sherri Stensrude (The PlayBarn) via NIACC)

(TOP PHOTO: From left: Sarah Innis (Journey Wellness), Sherri Stensrude (The PlayBarn), and Caleb Renner (Renner Ag Solutions) via NIACC)

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