Beyond Barriers retreat to uplift Iowa City women

The Iowa City-based business holds retreats around Iowa to help women discover their worthwhile learning from others. This weekend Big Grove Brewery will host a Beyond Barriers retreat, partly organized by University of Iowa event management students.


Daniel McGregor Huyer

Benders Studio Owner Cara Flynn poses for a portrait in a yoga studio on April 21, 2022.

Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

As an ode to the women of Iowa City, Cara Flynn opened Beyond Barriers in 2020, just before the pandemic hit. During the lockdown, she said she pondered exactly what she wanted Beyond Barriers to be — now her vision is as clear as day.

On April 23, Beyond Barriers, which specializes in day retreats for women, will hold its first Iowa City-day retreat of 2022 at Big Grove Brewery. Flynn said that with over 25 participants signed up, this will be Beyond Barriers’ biggest retreat yet.

The business has done smaller retreats throughout Iowa but was unable to hold many of them in 2021 because of the pandemic. Moving forward, Flynn said she hopes to hold more frequent events.

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

Related: Benders Studio aims to empower Iowa City through yoga, fitness 

Flynn said teaching yoga at Benders helped fuel her desire to help women see their own brilliance. On a whim, when putting together a separate women’s event, Beyond Barriers was born.

Flynn said that at Beyond Barriers’ retreats, women should be able to come together, hear each other’s stories, and be inspired by one another.

“What would desired lives look like if we push aside every barrier, and we find the beyond that we’ve always dreamed of?” Flynn said. “There are a million inspirational people, and that person who is probably going to inspire you most might be your next-door neighbor.”

University of Iowa students taking the Event Management Workshop, taught by UI event management certificate coordinator Heather Spangler, have also been helping put together the retreat.

Spangler said that before the semester began, she needed another event for students in the workshop to assist with. That’s when UI alum Addison Mittelstaedt, now the event director at Big Grove, told her about the Beyond Barriers retreat.

“I always think that’s really neat when the professional that the students we’re working with have been in their exact seat and done this project with me,” Spangler said. “Then they come back, and they give back to the program by working with the students again.”

Aside from chowing down throughout the day on food catered by the brewery, the retreat will start the morning with a movement activity and followed by guest speakers and philanthropy discussions.

For its 2022 philanthropy, Beyond Barriers partnered with the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, or DVIP, in Iowa City. Representatives from the organization will also speak at the retreat.

Alta Medea, director of community engagement at DVIP, will be one of the organization’s representatives at this weekend’s retreat. She said that when Beyond Barriers reached out last fall, she was excited for the opportunity to reach more people because awareness for organizations like DVIP is mostly spread through word-of-mouth.

“Sort of the primary thing is being able to have time to speak and share the work that we do with so many women leaders doing the hard work on themselves so that they can be a resource for those other people in their lives,” Medea said.