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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Kelsey Otero named recipient of Milwaukee Business Journal 40 Under 40

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg
Kelsey Otero was named a recipient of Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 under 40.

Kelsey Otero, associate director of social innovation in the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship in the 707 Hub at Marquette University, was named a Milwaukee Business Journal 40 Under 40 award recipient Jan 11. 

The 40 Under 40 recognition is given out to emerging leaders under 40 years old who are making a difference in the Milwaukee community, Otero said.

“From my standpoint, I think this speaks to the work I’ve done with students on campus, but also a lot of it has to do with the support I’ve been able to provide to local businesses, start-ups and social enterprises in the Milwaukee community, because they’re the ones who are really on the front lines making a difference,” Otero said. 

Otero runs boot camps for entrepreneurs who want to start businesses in the near west side neighborhood. She also holds boot camps for social enterprises that want to not only launch businesses, but solve social issues in the Milwaukee community.

Otero also co-chairs the Commercial Quarter Working Team for the near west side neighborhood. She runs the Rev-Up MKE business competition that provides the opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas.

Otero teaches in the College of Communication and the College of Business as well. 

Otero said she is humbled to have received the award.

“When they came out with the list of all of the other people that were on this year’s 40 Under 40 list, I became more humbled,” Otero said. “It’s a really impressive group of individuals that were named this year, (and to) be included among them is quite an honor.”

Keith Stanley, executive director of the nonprofit Near West Side Partners, said he is excited for Otero.

“I am so proud of Kelsey,” Stanley said. “If there is anybody I know that deserves an award of this stature, it’s her.”

Stanley has worked with Otero for about three years at Near West Side Partners. 

He said Otero has been an instrumental part in the design, development and implementation of the Rev-Up MKE competition and has also helped launch a number of other programs improving the near west side. 

“She’s an amazing role model and human,” Stanley said. “Not just professionally, but personally too, she’s a go-getter.”

Stanley gathered recommendations and wrote a write-up on Otero’s contributions in improving the near west side as part of the nomination process. He said Otero has helped launch 26 new businesses in the near west side. 

“She has a heart for the community and she understands the people,” Stanley said.

Megan Carver, associate director of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship, said she is elated that Otero received the award. Carver nominated Otero for the award. 

“Kelsey and I work incredibly close, and we’re friends as well so I can’t honestly think of anyone else that’s more deserving,” Carver said.

Carver and Otero met while Carver was working in industry at Brady Corporations in Milwaukee and Otero was at Marquette working on her Master of Business Administration.

“We actually met because of the fact that I was working on a project with Marquette to start a social innovation challenge for local entrepreneurs,” Carver said. “Kelsey was the point person who helped to coordinate a lot of things and to really help bring the competition to life while we were going through that.”

After that, Carver said she accepted the position of associate director of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship at Marquette.

“After President Lovell came and created the Office of Research and Innovation and really focused on innovation, he brought the two programs together under the 707 Hub umbrella, and so we were very fortunate to get to work together again and also co-lead this wonderful student innovation space,” Carver said.

Carver said Otero is always more than happy to lend a helping hand, no matter how big or small the task is.

Otero said receiving the 40 Under 40 award speaks volumes to the work university President Michael Lovell has done with innovation and it is a reflection of the university’s desire to encourage everyone, whether faculty member or student, to be the difference.

“I think it makes complete sense that Kelsey received the award,” Benjamin Rangel, a graduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences, said.

Rangel said he thinks his time at Marquette would be incomplete without her.

He said Otero was essential in helping him and his colleague start their podcast “Bridge the City” and participate in the pitch competition Brewed Ideas Challenge that is hosted by the 707 Hub.

“I am incredibly grateful to the people who nominated me,” Otero said. “I am so unbelievably blessed with the team I get to work with (and) while I was named as a recipient, this award extends far beyond me.”

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