Ahoya Inc. Inside the university’s new and Jesuit-influenced startup culture. “Young and hungry.” That’s how Sam Wesley describes the entrepreneurial climate at Marquette. “From the administration to the faculty and right down to the students, it seems everyone is hungry to develop their own ventures and promote other initiatives. And this is just the beginning,” Wesley says. 2 He should know. Wesley, a junior IT and marketing student, and Andrew Hampel, Eng ’15, founded Seiva Technologies, an intelligent clothing maker that developed garments that measure muscle activity for therapy patients.
president for research and innovation. See story on page 23.) “There’s a lot going on, and much of it is student led,” she says. “Their initiatives have inspired us to create a culture of entrepreneurism on campus and help spur more ideas.”
The two first met at the Commons, a 10-week program launched in 2014 that brings together Milwaukee-area college students and mentors to develop their entrepreneurial talents. Michael Hostad of the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Innovation in Milwaukee, or MiKE initiative, says Marquette students are playing a key role in the success of the Commons: “Of the 143 students from 23 colleges and universities in southeast Wisconsin participating in the program during its first year, 54 were from Marquette.”
An important complement to these purely entrepreneurial efforts is programs that focus on the social aspect of entrepreneurship. Kelsey Otero, social innovation coordinator in the Office of Research and Innovation, oversees programs that seek to promote socially minded business ventures. “President Lovell is a champion for innovation and has created a culture of entrepreneurship and social innovation that fit with our Jesuit mission to be men and women for others,” she says. “These initiatives give us an opportunity to support ideas that will benefit and transform Milwaukee and the rest of the country.”
Hostad credits Marquette President Michael R. Lovell with creating “numerous opportunities for students to learn about entrepreneurship and what it means to be innovative.” One of them? Lovell helped MiKE and Startup Milwaukee launch the Commons by hosting more than 20 presidents and chancellors from area colleges and universities. Taking advantage of another of these programs, Seiva placed first out of 25 startups competing for the $10,000 prize in the April 2015 Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship’s third annual ImpactNext Business Model Competition. Megan Carver, associate director of the Kohler Center, says this is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur at Marquette. As an example, she points to new initiatives like the Dorm Fund, a student-run venture capital firm that invests up to $5,000 in student-run companies, and the Marquette Enterprise Seed Fund, which partners with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to provide awards of $25,000 and $50,000 to up to six student- or faculty-run businesses per year. (The fund is coordinated by Dr. Carmel Ruffolo, associate vice 2 4
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Otero highlights three programs that promote social entrepreneurs on campus. First is the $25,000 Good Money Challenge. Held in partnership with the Brady Corp., it is a pitch competition much like Shark Tank but for social entrepreneurs. Next is Boost, a three-day program during which social entrepreneurs work with business mentors on everything from financial model basics to target segmentation and marketing. Finally, Marquette University Law School offers the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic and free legal services to startups. It will be interesting to see which entrepreneurial ideas succeed and what is learned from the process of supporting these initiatives, says Dr. Jeanne Hossenlopp, vice president for research and innovation. “It’s an exciting time, and I’m sure that next year and beyond we will still be refining, adapting, and increasing our support of innovation and entrepreneurism at Marquette.” GUY FIORITA
Photo courtesy of Dori Zori, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.