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Dylan Dierkling headshot.

A Dorm Room Eco-Designer

Dylan Dierking, of White Bear Lake, spent his freshman year at the University of Iowa questioning his path to becoming a nurse anesthetist. So instead, this self-taught designer made an eco-conscious clothing line from his dorm room. His entrepreneurship attitude earned him a full ride to the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.

Receiving full tuition was a surprise for Dierking, who had never applied for a scholarship before. “I didn't really see myself as someone who would get a scholarship, especially a full ride,” he said. “I honestly don't think I have a grasp at how huge this scholarship is.”

Scholarship interviewees were impressed with Dierking's can-do attitude. He was among 22 finalists for the Schulze Innovation Scholarship named for Richard M. “Dick” Schulze, founder of Best Buy. Ten individuals received the full-ride scholarship after being observed in mock team business activities and interviews.

Dierking's t-shirts and sweatshirts are emblazoned with images of endangered and threatened species. Fifteen percent of profits go to organizations that help the species survive. He calls his clothing line, Threads for the Threatened. “If I don't know how to do it, I’d figure out how to do it.”

Dierking took out loans to attend the University of Iowa last year. His mother, Lynn Dierking, said the scholarship means more than being relieved of college debt.

“The more important thing is just the amount of pride we have in him,” Lynn said speaking for herself and husband Jim. Their son initially was not going to apply for the scholarship because he didn't think he'd receive it, but they encouraged him to apply.

Threads for the Threatened is in its early stages. Dierking does everything — he bought a heat press and transfers the designs onto clothing he orders. He hasn't yet made a profit but is getting close. For inspiration, Dierking put his grandpa's name — Erv M — in tiny writing within the animal designs. Only he knows it’s there.

Dierking plans to improve his clothing line and start new businesses through his education at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. “The opportunity for growth and learning is infinite — there is just no end to it,” he noted. “After college, I hope to take all that knowledge and start more businesses or consult for other startups.”