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UW-Madison: Wiscontrepreneur initiative examines entrepreneurship, athletics
10/2/2009

Athletics and fitness have a way of exciting people and bringing them together

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Corporate Relations (OCR), through its Wiscontrepreneur initiative, sees this as a perfect way to reach even greater numbers of students and to fuel their entrepreneurial instincts. That's why the office is sponsoring "Work Hard, Play Hard," a series of special events during the 2009-10 academic year.

A collaboration among OCR, the UW-Madison athletic department and Badger Sports Properties, the series kicks off with a panel of student (and recent alumni) entrepreneurs at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, in the Kohl Center media room.

At that time, Erin Byrd, Kara Kabellis, Michael Garson and Travis Blomberg will take questions about how they turned their passion for athletics and fitness into viable businesses, while maintaining their academic and extracurricular lives (see below for more about the panelists).

Then in November, OCR/Wiscontrepreneur will co-sponsor a number of Global Entrepreneurship Week events (Nov. 16-22) on and off campus, including a presentation by successful UW-Madison entrepreneur Kenny Dichter titled "Confessions of a Bleacher Creature" on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Heritage Hall in Camp Randall Stadium. Dichter, originator of Bucky's Bleacher Creatures, is founder and CEO of Marquis Jet.

The Oct. 7 panelists include:

- Erin Byrd, MBA student entrepreneur and a UW-Madison grad with a bachelor's degree in business administration. Byrd was a four-year starter on the UW-Madison women's volleyball team, earning All-America honors, as well as Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year. After graduation, she continued to play volleyball professionally, including the USA National Team. In 2007, she started her own business, Mission Volleyball, which hosts beach volleyball camps across the nation.

- Kara Kabellis, who graduated with a political science degree in 2007. The former UW-Madison soccer player started her business, i.kabellis, with a teammate in January. While playing semi-professionally in Los Angeles, the young entrepreneurs created a simple logo for their team and put it on a T-shirt. The success of the team shirts lead to the creation of other clean designs.

- Michael Garson, a junior in the Wisconsin School of Business with a double major in accounting and management and human resources. A native of Cleveland, he was attracted to UW-Madison because of his passion for Badger athletics. Garson co-founded Badger Trips LLC, a company created to provide transportation and hotel accommodations to away UW-Madison football games.

- Travis Blomberg, a junior majoring in political science who is the creator of The Stripes Officiating Agency (SOA). As a coach and athlete, Blomberg saw a lack of quality sports officials and designed SOA to help provide expert officials for sporting events. Last year SOA was granted space in the Student Business Incubator on campus. He has also won a Wiscontrepreneur Scholarship.
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