Dupaco-Sponsored Venture School Helps Entrepreneurs Pursue Dreams

DUBUQUE, Iowa—Focused on helping entrepreneurs turn their business idea into a reality, Venture School came to Dubuque earlier this year, thanks to a partnership between Dupaco Community Credit Union and Creative Adventure Lab in Dubuque.

The program returns to Dubuque in October, and Creative Adventure Lab is registering entrepreneurs and mentors for the next session. To register, go to www.innovationlabdbq.org/new-events. Applications are due Sept. 16.

Dupaco partners with the nonprofit Creative Adventure Lab because of its mission to foster creativity and innovation to benefit the community. Venture School was a natural next step in that partnership, said Michelle Becwar, partnership development supervisor at Dupaco.

“Dupaco’s mission is about empowering people and improving their social and financial well-being,” she said. “Small business entrepreneurship is one way to help people better their financial positions by creating job opportunities.”

The Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation turbo-charges the credit union’s sponsorship of Venture School by providing scholarships. In the first session, the foundation offered four scholarships to participants. The foundation will provide four additional scholarships for the fall session.

Venture School was created and is supported by the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center in Iowa City. The statewide program coaches entrepreneurs who have spent time exploring a business idea, though they don’t need to have a business plan in place yet.

“Venture School helps budding entrepreneurs and small-business owners who are looking to take their business to the next level,” Becwar said.

Eight entrepreneurs joined Dubuque’s first session, which launched in February. Participants’ ideas ranged from nothing more than a concept to scaling an existing product or service, said Eric Dregne, business innovation director at Creative Adventure Lab.

Two entrepreneurs from Dubuque’s first session went on to compete at Venture School’s statewide pitch event at ENTREfest in Cedar Rapids. Eric Peters, of Boundary, took second place for his concept for a better dog training/fence collar, winning $5,000. Tyrel Nelson, of Horse Auction Block, placed fourth for a new site selling horses online and won $1,000. A third participant, Shamika Rainer, of Luxurious Hair Salon, was named the Dubuque winner of the Iowa Main Street, Open for Business Competition, for her new line of hair oils. She’ll compete for up to $20,000 at the state level this summer.

“We engaged a diverse group of entrepreneurs, connected them in meaningful ways to resources and, most importantly, we impacted the trajectory of their business ideas,” Dregne said. “We also engaged a group of partners and mentors, strengthening the entrepreneurship ecosystem in our community.”


Dupaco Community Credit Union is a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative. It is dedicated to the financial sustainability of its members, and specializes in customized financial counseling, money advice and education. It offers savings, loans, investments, insurance and wealth management products for individuals and businesses. Dupaco serves residents in 108 counties throughout Iowa, northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin. Chartered in 1948, membership totals more than 118,000 with assets exceeding $1.8 billion. Visit Dupaco at www.dupaco.com.


Creative Adventure Lab is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that fosters creativity and innovation to generate value for its community. The organization envisions a thriving, successful community in which all people have the tools to launch new ideas and create new opportunities.

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