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Genia Stevens to be First Entrepreneur in Residence at Madison College South Campus

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Marketing and strategic planning consultant Genia Stevens will be the Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at the Madison College Goodman South Campus when it opens this fall.

Stevens is founder of the consulting firms Belwah Media and Belwah Strategy, as well as the peer-to-peer mentoring group Dane County Masterminds. She has been an independent marketing entrepreneur for 18 years. While she still lives in Beloit, she moved the headquarters of her business to Madison in 2018 and has spent a good deal of time in her first year and a half here just reaching out to leaders in the Madison business community.

“I have years of experience, I have 18 years of experience in marketing, I really know marketing and strategic planning, but I don’t really know what the community needs from me,” she said in an interview. “And so I’m sending out my emails and doing all these workshops and trying to really get a feel for what the community needs from me.”

One of the people she reached out to was Bryan Woodhouse, executive director of the Madison College Center for Entrepreneurship. A meeting over coffee was all Woodhouse needed to invite Stevens to become the sixth Madison College Entrepreneur in Residence, and the first at the new South Campus, being built on South Park Street.

The Entrepreneur in Residence program is still relatively new, and over the last several years has offered students the opportunity to meet with and learn from real-world entrepreneurs who offer about 30 hours a month to hold office hours, meet one-on-one with students who have new business ideas, and lead “Lunch and Learn” and evening workshop events.

“Anybody can make an appointment with them, talk about a business idea, talk about coaching, talk about scaling a business, whatever it is they want to talk to them about,” Woodhouse said. “Sometimes we will ask the entrepreneur in residence to either lead a workshop or help us maybe identify tools for different types of workshops that we might be looking for, kind of cultivate those for us. Sometimes they lead field trips around town. They take students to (coworking space) 100 State and (small business incubator) Starting Block and other cool destinations around town.”

Woodhouse said Stevens will “anchor our efforts at our new South Campus.” Third Space founder Scott Kohl will be EIR at the Truax Campus, and Woodhouse said a third EIR will likely be added before fall.

Stevens said she’s uniquely able to prepare South Madison students, especially students of color and other disadvantaged populations, for the unique barriers they might face as they launch their businesses.

“This was something that I was extremely excited about doing because I’m a veteran, LGBT, woman,” Stevens said. “I’m extremely excited to be able to work with students who fit all of those categories. And me being someone who has that very unique perspective of being an entrepreneur … trying to figure out how to navigate all of that in the last 18 years as an entrepreneur. So I was very excited to be able to bring all of that to the table in this role.”

She said that’s not always a commitment that entrepreneurship programs make.

“I think that sometimes when these entrepreneurship programs are developed and people develop curriculum for helping entrepreneurs launch businesses, I don’t think that they are culturally relevant,” she said. “I think when I look at a lot of these curriculums, I’m looking at them from my viewpoint and I’m seeing a lot of that missing. And so I think it’s a great idea for Madison College to be looking at who their EIRs are moving forward. Particularly if you’re trying to work with a certain demographic, your EIR’s need to be people who have experience working with that particular demographic. So I was very excited when I was asked to be an EIR for the South campus because it only makes sense to do that.

Stevens said she’ll offer whatever advice and guidance she can to each individual student she mentors, but will always have a few specific pieces of advice ready for each one of them.

“Never wait for somebody to invite you to the table” will be one thing she shares with all of her students, she said. “If they’re not inviting you to the table, create your own table and invite them. And that’s the lesson, the most important lesson that I think I’m going to always keep in my back pocket because sometimes you can feel like, ‘Am I doing something wrong? How come I’m not getting invited to speak? How come people aren’t asking me to this event or that event?’ You know, you can’t get lost in that. You have to remember that you have something of value and it’s just a matter of you doing the work to get out in front and show people that you have it. And that, for me, was extremely valuable, and when I coach and mentor people already, I tell them that.”

Woodhouse said it was “a no-brainer” to expand the EIR program to the South Madison campus from the early days of planning.

“(Madison College President) Dr. (Jack E.) Daniels set that huge commitment obviously to the South Side but also to entrepreneurship, and it was from day one focus that when that campus was ready to go we will have a presence and activities and small businesses and entrepreneurs. It was intended from day one,” Woodhouse said.

The Goodman South Campus is set to host its first classes on September 3.