Marquette, four other Wisconsin universities receive startup grant

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Marquette is about to help small businesses get bigger.

Five Wisconsin universities, including Marquette, have received funding from a federal grant to form a statewide coalition in support of entrepreneurs and startups, according to a joint press release from the new coalition.

Using the grant funds, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Marquette joined forces to become the Wisconsin Center for Commercialization Resources. According to its website, the WCCR aims to facilitate the commercialization process by providing resources and services for moving a project through various stages from idea to proof of concept to launch.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration funds the grant through its University Centers program, which harnesses university resources – faculty, libraries, laboratories, etc. – for research, technical assistance and other activities to boost regional economic development. The WCCR initiative is one of the latest in a series of University Center grants and the largest in the Midwest, totaling more than $2 million with matching funds from its five partner schools.

Marquette start-ups Buena Vida Coffee and H2OScore were both showcased in WCCR’s event Tuesday at UW-Milwaukee, which featured 10 early-stage entrepreneurs who used university assistance to launch their businesses. Both businesses referred to services at Marquette’s Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship to get started.

“Each university offers a unique set of resources to help entrepreneurs,” said Tina Quealy, associate director of the Kohler Center. “Marquette offers outstanding legal services, engineering expertise, and has many contacts with experienced entrepreneurs and investors.”

Buena Vida Coffee, a student-run nonprofit, fosters economic opportunity for coffee growing communities in Honduras. Kate Novotny, a student in the Graduate School of Management, founded the organization in 2010. She said it was exciting for Buena Vida Coffee to be featured at the WCCR launch.

“It reaffirms universities’ critical role in fostering entrepreneurial learning and business development,” Novotny said. “I hope that this initiative will support the launch and advancement of new business ideas that will allow students to solve critical social problems.”

The other featured Marquette startup, for-profit enterprise H2OScore, was founded by McGee Young, an associate professor of political science. H20Score allows consumers and businesses to track their water usage over time and learn conservation strategies.

Entrepreneurship assistance programs at the four other partner universities include MSOE’s Rapid Prototyping Center, the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization at UW-Whitewater, the Student Startup Challenge at UW-Milwaukee, and Small Business Development Centers at UW-Milwaukee, UW-Whitewater and UW-Parkside.