UW-Madison Program For Future Entrepreneurs Skyrockets

Wisconsin School Of Business Program Lures Many From Other Majors

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Gerry Broome/AP Photo

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is trying to better teach students how to become entrepreneurs. It comes at a time when the state fares poorly in national rankings for its lack of business startups.

About seven years ago, the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison opened up its program for entrepreneurs to all students on campus. Dan Olszewski, director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at the business school, said last week during a downtown Madison Rotary club meeting that enrollment has skyrocketed, with the majority of students coming from other majors.

“It’s still probably another 10 years before we see the real fruits of this change with these entrepreneurs and what they do,” he said. “But these early results in seeing what the students have already done is quite promising.”

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For two years in a row, the state of Wisconsin has come in dead last for startups according to a national report. Gov. Scott Walker has noted the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation report does not take into account the long term success of startups in each state.

Mark Maley, spokesman for the Wisconsin Economic Development Council, said in an email that “federal data shows Wisconsin has one of the highest levels of business survivorship in the nation – we’re ranked in the top 10 for both six-year and 10-year survivorship rate.”

Olszewski said the national rankings may be due, in part, to the state’s risk-averse culture and difficulty securing investment capital.

“I think there’s a lot of debate over the statistics. I don’t think we are 50 out of 50. I also would say we’re not top 10,” Olszewski said, noting there have been improvements but the state still has a long way to go.

“I think it’s a matter of culture and capital because we have a lot of great ideas here in the state,” Olszewski said.

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