UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
May 2, 2022 - An internship at the St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center turned into an entrepreneurial pursuit for one University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduating student.
Woll, originally of Woodbury, Minn., and now of River Falls, is leasing a cubicle space in the center to run his startup business at. He started leasing the space in March.
The center, located at 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls, provides incubation space, training and support to foster entrepreneurship and enhances businesses’ success resulting in a more vibrant regional economy, new job opportunities and increased wealth. UW-River Falls, the River Falls Economic Development Corp., the city of River Falls and Chippewa Valley Technical College are partners in the center.
Woll, who was an intern at the center from April 2021 to February, heard from many small business owners at the center they needed marketing expertise and social media management and knew other business owners with the same need.
“I picked up a real need for consistent marketing and web development in the area,” Woll said. “I am not only good at that, but I also enjoy it. This is kind of a golden opportunity. There is a market for this business I can provide, and I have an incredible support system to start and run my business.”
Woll enjoyed interning at the center. “I was able to collaborate and connect with entrepreneurs and learn their stories and about what made their businesses unique,” he said.
“Part of what I love about the innovation center is it is a very collaborative environment,” Woll said. “Connections are formed weekly.”
Businesses can learn marketing and social media management, but often owners don’t have the time nor the revenue to hire staff, Woll noted.
“I found a niche,” he added. “I am fresh out of college so I can use the experience. I love small businesses and that is a market I can cater to.”
Center Director Sheri Marnell believes Woll will do well with Visionary Media Solutions.
“He has that growth mindset and will take advantage of the services we have and serve the community,” Marnell said.
Brienna Schuette, a UWRF associate lecturer and internships program coordinator in marketing communications, said it is unusual for graduating students to start their own companies.
“We're seeing students become more and more entrepreneurial as time goes on,” Schuette said. “The speed at which technology evolves and the movement to more remote work has allowed students who want to launch businesses to do so. Today's students are incredibly tech-savvy and the ability to work from anywhere allows flexibility in producing projects from campus or home. Several students in our program have their own businesses specializing in social media's user-generated content and influencer marketing, as well as photography and graphic design.”
Woll was an ambitious but understated student, Schuette said, noting she first met him when he took her Marketing Communications 100 course.
“He always shows up, engages, listens to learn and does the work,” Schuette said. “He's a no-drama, noticeably professional, get-stuff-done kind of guy. Josh asks great questions and thinks critically -- in a good way -- about decisions and their impact on his academic success, as well as how they will impact others. It's not surprising to me that he's a young entrepreneur. He's got the professionalism, network and ambition to be very successful.”
Woll chose to attend UWRF because he wanted to stay close to home and liked the beauty of the campus.
He chose marketing communications because he enjoys being creative and the major allows for that.
While a student at UWRF, Woll participated in the Liberty Society, a group that encouraged open discussions and the expression of ideas.
He also loves creating music. He plays the guitar, ukulele, piano, mandolin and bass. He also writes songs and plans to eventually release some of his music.
“When I play music, I really feel it,” he said. “I barely know the notes and chords. I play from the heart.”
Woll would encourage others if they are interested to start their own business.
“If you are passionate about it, do your research and determine if you have a good idea and how effective it might be,” he said. “The only way you know if it can succeed is to jump in and try it. Put in the work. When you are working on your own business it is exponentially more rewarding. To build your brand and business and see it come together and flourish is incredible.”
UW-River Falls commencement ceremonies are at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday in Knowles Field House in the Falcon Center. A total of 805 students are part of the two ceremonies that also will be livestreamed. For more information, go to the commencement website.