Beyond Barriers Retreat to Elevate Iowa City Women

The Iowa City-based business hosts retreats in Iowa to help women discover what they have worth learning from others. This weekend, Big Grove Brewery is hosting a Retreat Beyond Barriers, organized in part by University of Iowa event management students.

Daniel McGregor Heyer

Benders Studio owner Carla Flynn poses for a selfie at the yoga studio on April 21, 2022.


As an ode to the women of Iowa City, Cara Flynn opened Beyond Barriers in 2020 before the pandemic hit. During the lockdown, she said she was thinking about what she wanted to be beyond barriers – and now her vision is as clear as ever.

On April 23, Beyond Barriers, a day retreat dedicated to women, will hold its first Iowa City day retreat of 2022 at the Big Grove Brewery. Flynn said that with more than 25 participants signed up, it will be the largest retreat for the Beyond Barriers to date.

The company has smaller retreats in Iowa, but is unable to hold many retreats in 2021 due to the pandemic. Going forward, Flynn said she hopes to host more frequent events.

Flynn owns and partners with several local businesses in Iowa City, one of which is Benders Studio, a yoga studio on Iowa Avenue.

RELATED: Benders Studio aims to empower Iowa City with yoga, fitness

Flynn said teaching yoga at Benders helped spark her desire to help women see their talents. On a whim, Beyond Barriers was born while organizing a separate women’s event.

Flynn said women should be able to come together, hear each other’s stories, and inspire each other during the Beyond Barrier Retreat.

“If we pushed through all the barriers and found the transcendence we’ve always dreamed of, what would our life be like?” Flynn said. “There are a million inspiring people, and the person who inspires you the most is probably your next-door neighbor.”

University of Iowa students who attended an event management workshop taught by UI Event Management Certificate Coordinator Heather Spangler have also been helping organize the retreat.

Before the semester begins, Spangler said, she needs to assist with another event for students at the workshop. That’s when UI alumna Addison Mittelstaedt, now events director at Big Grove, told her about the Beyond Barriers retreat.

“I’ve always thought that it’s really nice when the pros of the students we work with sit in their exact positions and work with me on this project,” Spangler said. “Then they came back and they gave back to the project by working with students again.”

In addition to enjoying the food provided by the brewery throughout the day, the retreat begins with athletic activities, followed by guest speakers and charity discussions.

For the 2022 philanthropy, Beyond Barriers partnered with Iowa City’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP). A representative from the organization will also speak at the retreat.

DVIP Director of Community Engagement Alta Medea will be one of the group’s representatives at this weekend’s retreat. When Beyond Barriers reached out last fall, she said, she was glad to have the opportunity to reach more people, because awareness of organizations like DVIP is mostly spread by word of mouth.

“The main thing is being able to have time to share the work we do with so many female leaders who are working hard for themselves so they can be a resource in other people’s lives,” Medea said.

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