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News

Carthage senior excels at entrepreneurship

  • Katie Krizan
    Katie Krizan
September 19, 2018

Katie Krizan, a rising senior at Carthage College, always dreamed of starting her own business. She always thought of it as a long-term goal — one that would have to wait until she graduated — until an incredible opportunity allowed her to pursue that dream while still in college.

A communication major with minors in Asian studies and business administration, Katie was accepted to The Commons, a Milwaukee-based innovation accelerator program. For nine weeks of her sophomore year, she and a team from ManpowerGroup collaborated to develop a digital solution that would remind clients to update their resumes.

The next year, Katie brought her own startup idea to The Commons: Breathe Buddy, a portable carrying case for liquid oxygen. The idea was inspired by her mom, who requires liquid oxygen and needed an easier way to carry the eight-pound oxygen canisters.

Katie, who received internship credit for the project, says the customized design of the case differentiates the product. It’s intended to be a confidence-booster.

“It shows who they are as a person, rather than just a patient,” she explains.

Teamed with other student innovators, she created and launched a business (Mobile Oxygen Solutions), even writing a proposal for a six-figure grant. Although her team wasn’t awarded the grant, Katie said the process was incredible.

Katie’s ability to follow her dream and develop her first business idea would have been next-to-impossible without help from the Wisconsin Tuition Grant and other sources of financial aid. Carpooling helped to limit expenses, but the significant time commitment required her to sacrifice paid employment for the duration of the program.

“I’m all on my own, supporting myself,” she says. “This grant helped me stay at Carthage and The Commons, where I get to learn skills that I’m interested in and will help me advance.”

Katie’s long-term entrepreneurial goals remain firmly in place, but her work also solidified an interest in digital communications. She recently made it through a three-step interview process to obtain a yearlong internship at Baird, an employee-owned financial services firm headquartered in downtown Milwaukee.

Katie’s initial projects have included competitive intelligence reports and demo websites for Baird advisors. Contrary to the financial industry’s stodgy reputation, she has found the company to be extremely open to forward-thinking ideas.

Co-founder of the new Innovation Club at Carthage, Katie will serve as its president this coming year. She credits Professor Jennifer Madden, an established entrepreneur who directs the College’s graduate program in business design and innovation, for providing support and guidance as the student organization’s faculty advisor.

Bitten by the innovation bug, the senior is eager to make that culture contagious on campus.