Marquette University Discover Research Magazine 2019

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Pop Hit As a student-run business program grows, two undergraduates score with a locally sourced store. 3 Holiday shoppers in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point who strolled into the Nest Holiday Pop-up Shop found an inviting interior and artfully displayed products from local entrepreneurs. Although it looked every inch the kind of fashionable boutique that populates the neighborhood, it was something more: the creation of Jack Toner and Isabelle Block, both seniors in the College of Business Administration.

Opening a week before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, the shop — and its longer-term sister venture Nest Incubator — were launched through Blue & Gold Ventures, Marquette’s student-run business program in the College of Business Administration. Since its founding in the fall, the

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program has been off to a fast start, fostering student-led businesses in industries ranging from food and beverage to event planning. The example of Block and Toner reveals budding entrepreneurs growing into their roles through a combination of grit, resourcefulness and expert support, including from generous alumni. A great deal on a prime storefront space just south of Milwaukee’s Third Ward came from building owner Lacey Sadoff, Comm ’05, after a referral from Matt Cordio, Bus Ad ’12, a Blue & Gold Ventures board member and leader in the Milwaukee startup community. For the merchandise mix, they targeted local entrepreneurs, who appreciated the additional exposure for their products.

To design a large space on a small budget, Block stepped outside her comfort zone as a finance major. “I had to think on my toes and be strategic,” she says. “I used antique furniture from my old house that was in storage and paired it with modern Ikea shelving. … I have never worked so hard on a project in my life.” Tracking their performance, the students “were disappointed with foot traffic” but had 44 percent of shoppers make a purchase, reports Toner. And with 20 entrepreneurs represented in the space, they exceeded that benchmark too — all valuable lessons from the student-run business experience. KALEY ROHLINGER, COMMUNICATION INTERN, AND STEPHEN FILMANOWICZ