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Entrepreneurship nurtured with seed grants at UW-Madison

September 28, 2009

Entrepreneurship is thriving across the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, and four student-run businesses captured that spirit and have been awarded seed grants to nurture their startups.

The $3,000 grants — awarded by the university’s Office of Corporate Relations (OCR) with the support of the chancellor’s office — were announced as the university was recognized as one of the nation’s top 25 campuses for entrepreneurship last week.

That distinction, by Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review, comes partly because of campuswide entrepreneurial activity, much of it supported by the Wiscontrepreneur initiative, an effort coordinated by OCR.

UW-Madison senior Anthony Hernandez is one of the recipients of a Student Venture Seed Grant from OCR. The Miami native works with his business partner, Rick Jensen, in the Student Business Incubator in the Student Activity Center on campus.

The two run a Web site design, development and hosting company, Gogzmer Media, off the laptops they received as high school graduation gifts. Their firm provides branding advice and helps small businesses market to a younger, more urban demographic.

“That’s a lot for our old computers to handle,” Hernandez admits. He will use the seed grant money to purchase new computers.

“The Student Venture Seed Grant program is intended to strengthen and support student entrepreneurial skills and confidence,” explains Charles Hoslet, OCR managing director. “By encouraging the formation and development of viable businesses or nonprofit organizations by UW–Madison students, we’re helping them convert their enthusiasm and ideas into sustainable ventures.”

To do this effectively, OCR manages a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to expand the culture of entrepreneurship to all UW–Madison students. The program has been named Wiscontrepreneur.

“What stood out most to me in judging the Student Venture Seed Grant finalists was their passion about the work they do,” says Laurie Benson, one of the grant proposal judges. “Each finalist clearly articulated their dreams, their goals, the resources they needed, and their plans for success.”

“It was also impressive to see how these students are actively collaborating with other people and organizations,” adds Benson. “I know our future is in good hands with this next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Three other UW–Madison students received seed grants to help further their businesses. Michael Garson, a junior from Cleveland majoring in marketing and human resources, runs Badger Trips. His company provides transportation and lodging for off-campus sporting events.

Travis Blomberg, a junior from Colfax, Wis., majoring in political science, operates Stripes Officiating Agency. The company trains sports officials through mentorship programs and clinics, and then matches those officials with local sporting events.

And Bryon Shannon, from Milwaukee, owns and operates Wisconsin Relic. His company creates and distributes shirts with Midwest slogans on high-quality fabrics.

Other Wiscontrepreneur-supported initiatives include the Entrepreneurial Residential Learning Community, the 100-Hour-Challenge, the MERLIN Mentors program and more.