There are many reasons to choose to live in the StartUp Learning Community your first year at UW-Madison. Some students wish to live in the self-selected community of 64 in order to enroll in our amazing fall and spring semester seminars. Others are excited for the site visits and monthly community dinners which introduce them to the Greater Madison-area entrepreneurial scene. But for those residents who wish to take advantage of it, our Dream Big Grant program is a once-in-a-freshman-year opportunity for them to secure funding for venture ideas they are passionate about getting off the ground. In many ways, the program embodies the ethos of StartUp: Capabilities, Confidence and Connection.
This grant program, exclusive to the StartUp Learning Community, encourages students to more fully flesh out unique, exciting or innovative ideas they would like to explore during their first year of college. Some, like Matt Burzec, were able to expand on a previously-envisioned businesses while they lived in the Community. He used the grant funds to help jumpstart his customized sneaker company, Kicks of Chicago. Others, like Josalin Kumm, let circumstances, such as a worldwide toilet paper shortage during COVID, drive their creative thinking—in her case launching t-shirt startup Rona Tees. The experience she had creating her product, which showcased a roll of unfurling toilet paper in its logo, solidified her desire to get her Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the Wisconsin School of Business. Both Matt and Josalin lived on the floor as part of the 2020-21 cohort.
This year has brought the most industrious group of students to the floor yet. A record nine current residents applied for and received up to $1,000 in Dream Big Grant funds to launch their ventures straight from their dorm room floors. Their ideas were as unique as the students themselves. From a customized Dungeons and Dragons figurine company, to an original first-person video game, to a dual chamber water bottle which allows easy flavor mixing, this year’s cohort has undoubtedly taken advantage of one of the StartUp Learning Community’s most unique assets—the awarding of grant dollars that instill the confidence to go after making entrepreneurship dreams a reality.
StartUp is always looking for ways to connect its current residents with alumni in the entrepreneurship community. If you are interested in becoming more involved, feel free to contact Faculty Director John Surdyk at email@example.com or Program Manager Sari Judge at firstname.lastname@example.org.