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Five local universities partner to support entrepreneurs

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MILWAUKEE -- Building a business from the ground up can be a very difficult task.  Coming up with a business model or a marketing strategy, entrepreneurs oftentimes don't know where to start. Now, there's help, made possible through a partnership of five Milwaukee-area universities.

Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Parkside and UW-Whitewater have teamed up to create the Wisconsin Center for Commercialization Resources (WCCR).  It's a center where anyone interested in starting a business can go to find resources and services to help guide them through the process.

“We've all come together to harness resources that people in Wisconsin can utilize to help commercialization of their products.  If you've got a great idea and need to move it forward, you can come to the center and we can help,” WWCR Director Carmel Ruffolo said.

Several graduates have used university services to launch their businesses.

“Been down to Honduras, been down to the coffee farms as an undergrad in 2008. From there, I kind of had the impetus or the idea of starting Buena Vida,” Kate Novotny, a Marquette University graduate said.

While she was in school, Novotny started Buena Vida Coffe, a student-run nonprofit business.

“We sell it to mostly college university students as a fundraising mechanism and our profits go back to an orphanage in Honduras,” Novotny said.

Justin Nicols, a graduate of UW-Milwaukee, also credits his university for helping him launch a social networking app called “Study with Me.”

“It's an application on your phone for students to connect at a course level to help complete your homework on the go,” Nicols said.

WCCR hopes to grow more small businesses and encourage innovation.  The WCCR is funded through a $2 million federal economic development grant.

If you'd like to start your own business, you can begin by filling out a survey on WWCR's new website.