This semester we had the pleasure to catch up with Troy Vosseller (BA ’06, MBA ’09, JD ’10), co-founder of gener8tor, Sconnie Nation, and Sconnie Beer.
Vosseller’s entrepreneurial roots date back to his undergraduate studies at UW-Madison. Together with his friend and business partner Ben Fiechtner, Troy launched Sconnie Nation, a Wisconsin-themed apparel company, from his freshman dorm room. The two partners invested $300 each to purchase 100 t-shirts with the now familiar Sconnie logo. After selling out of their entire inventory in just one week, Troy knew they were onto something.
“We saw an opportunity to create a brand,” Troy says, but they had to work hard to turn Sconnie into a business. While many of his classmates were tailgating before football games, Troy could be found working his vendor booth to sell Sconnie gear outside of Camp Randall stadium.
When asked whether he missed the opportunity to experience the more “traditional” college lifestyle, Troy laughs: “we hustled hard, but it was worth the tradeoff.”
His hustle paid off as Troy grew the business beyond the dorm room. Troy remembers the excitement he felt when selling Sconnie gear through such venues as retailers along State Street and the UW Bookstore. Today Sconnie Nation has grown far beyond just t-shirts, and is now one of the most recognizable brands in Madison. Through various licensing deals, Troy has expanded the business to include the popular SCONNIEBAR on Regent Street, and Sconnie Beer brewed by the Wisconsin Dells Brewing Company.
While working towards his JD and MBA degrees, Troy gained experience working for larger companies as a Legal Intern at Qualcomm and an MBA Marketing Intern at Intuit. Although he enjoyed these jobs, Troy missed the excitement of small business and entrepreneurship. As such, Troy decided to stay at UW after graduation as a Clinical Assistant Professor and Supervising Attorney for the Law & Entrepreneurship (L&E) Clinic. Anne Smith, co-founder and director of the L&E Clinic had this to say about Troy, "Troy was an entrepreneurial rudder for us in the early days of the L&E Clinic. He made sure we were nimble and holistic yet legally thorough enough to truly help entrepreneurs."
Since leaving the L&E Clinic, Troy became co-founder of gener8tor, a nationally ranked GOLD-tier accelerator program that invests in high-growth startups. Troy and his co-founders, Joe Kirgues and Jon Eckhardt, launched gener8tor to help Wisconsin-based entrepreneurs gain access to the resources needed for success. By taking a concierge approach to the accelerator model, gener8tor has done just that. To date, the program’s 65 alumni have raised more than $150 million in follow-on financing.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact that Troy has had on the entrepreneurial community, not only in Madison, but throughout the entire Midwest. Under his leadership, gener8tor has grown to house four full-time accelerator programs along with nine shorter gBETA accelerator programs in five states. Troy is currently focused on expanding gener8tor’s efforts across industries and geographies. These efforts include such programs as the OnRamp Conference Series, which connects startups to corporate venture capital across multiple industries.
Troy is encouraged by the amount of resources available for entrepreneurs in Madison. Aside from the support that programs like gener8tor provide, he points to the growing involvement that the university plays in entrepreneurship.
Highly regarded for his willingness to give back to the university and its students, Troy continues to be an active member of the UW-Madison community. In spring 2017, the university awarded him with the annual Entrepreneurial Achievement Award, which honors alumni for their entrepreneurial success and commitment to encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Troy is often called upon to provide mentoring or support to students, and he is quick to advise them against viewing entrepreneurship as a “one-shot deal.” Rather, he encourages them to view entrepreneurship as a long-term career path, and consider how each opportunity can open up doors to others.
When asked for other pieces of advice for would-be student entrepreneurs, Troy encourages them to go for it: “there is no better time to start a business than as a student.” Not only are people more willing to help out (“you can only play the ‘student card’ for so long!”) but even if your business fails, you still graduate and have plenty of unique experience to put on your resume.
We are happy that Troy heeded his own advice and took his chance at entrepreneurship as a UW freshman. Our university, and truly the entire entrepreneurial community, is better off as a result of his dedication, hard work, and success.