With three businesses as charter members, the UW-Whitewater Student Chamber of Commerce has launched operations. The chamber is a collaboration between the university's Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization (CEO) and Whitewater Student Government. It will work to encourage students to start their own businesses while creating a campuswide culture where students are encouraged to take business risks.
"UW-Whitewater is differentiating itself as a supporter of entrepreneurs. They didn't wait for others schools to set the expectation for how this should happen. UW-Whitewater has taken a strong lead," said chamber member Tyler Sailsbery, a 2010 graduate and owner of The Black Sheep restaurant in Whitewater.
The chamber will help its members advertise on campus. Sailsbery wishes the chamber had existed while he was a student starting NoMoreDorms.com.
"I spent a lot of money and time trying to reach students. If there had been a chamber of commerce, I could have grown a lot faster," he said.
Michael Fitzpatrick, a senior from Oconomowoc and owner of Thirsty Clothing, a campus-based T-shirt company, said he is honored to be a part of the state's first university-level chamber of commerce. He has already seen the benefits.
"Through the chamber, Thirsty Clothing was able to sell its 2012 homecoming shirts in the UC. The chamber will also offer free printing and business fliers available on campus. Joining the chamber will open up networking opportunities to student and alumni businesses," he said.
For an annual fee, members can set up a table in the James R. Connor University Center once a month, advertise on the digital signs in the University Center, run two free, black-and-white ads in the student newspaper each year and post on the bulletin boards around campus.
For students interested in starting their own business, CEO and the chamber will help them make it official. The organizations provide the links to register their business with the state, file for an Employer Identification Number, and connect students with professionals and alumni mentors, said Dan Fink, CEO president.
"In order to be considered a student member, your business must be operated by a current student," said John Jensen, president of Whitewater Student Government. There are membership options for alumni business, as well as an associate member option for businesses that are not run or operated by an alumnus or student. The membership fee is $50 for students, $75 for faculty and staff members and $100 for alumni. Student entrepreneurs and businesses interested in joining or needing the chamber's help can contact Justin Murphy, chair of the Student Chamber of Commerce executive board, at MurphyJE01@uww.edu.