5 years later: How the 707 Hub continues to be an innovative force on campus and in Milwaukee  

By Anna Wallace, communication intern in the Office of Marketing and Communication

On March 27, the 707 Hub celebrated its fifth anniversary at Marquette. Long a space for ideas to be shared, challenged, and brought to life no matter their stage, the hub has seen significant changes over the past five years, as it has developed into an innovative space that provides business support for current students, faculty, and staff to come together and flourish. 

Five years ago, alumni Sam Wesley and Creighton Joyce submitted a proposal to the Strategic Innovation Fund (now called the Explorer Challenge) that inspired the current 707 Hub.  They suggested moving the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship, located on the 4th floor of the 707 building, and expanding it in size and resources so all students could benefit. The proposal was selected and began to pave the way to combine the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship and the Social Innovation Initiative and house them in the 707 building under one roof, and thus, the namesake hub was born. 

President Lovell cuts the ribbon for the official opening of the 707 Hub

Megan Carver, previous associate director of the Kohler Center and current innovation consultant for the hub, shares what makes the space unique and how unifying two innovative programs put Marquette ahead of its time. 

“Generally, at other institutions, entrepreneurship and social innovation are separate,” Carver says. “Here, we are bringing them together because social innovators can learn so much about the business principles used by entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs can learn so much about giving back in the social elements that are so important to a business.” 

Carver (left) and Otero (right) begin demolition on the old 707 workspace

Since these two areas have combined forces and gained a presence on campus, Carver and Kelsey Otero, director of innovation at the 707 Hub, have consistently used student feedback to diligently transform the space. Flexible furniture, whiteboards, sewing machines, hand tools, photography equipment, printers, and supplies were brought in. Spaces were created for every work style including open, collaborative workspaces, meeting rooms, and quiet nooks. And programing was developed to help students advance their ideas and bring together community and business partners with Marquette students. 

This collaboration with students has maximized the 707 Hub’s effectiveness as a transformative space, and it has also provided a rewarding and dynamic experience for everyone involved. 

Otero and Carver view blueprints of 707 workspace

“We want students to come in and feel like they have a place in this space,” Otero says. “My aspiration is that every student who comes to Marquette can see themselves as an innovator who is capable of being a difference-maker, and that the 707 Hub has helped them move from idea to action.”  

Carver and Otero say it has been incredibly special to work so closely with such creative individuals, adding that the 707 Hub has hosted dozens of programs and opportunities to help students, faculty, and staff grow their ideas. 

Participants of The Brewed Ideas Challenge (2019)

The Brewed Ideas Challenge, for instance, is an annual Shark Tank-style pitch competition, hosted by the 707 Hub in partnership with Brady Corporation. In its ninth year, the program aims to “brew” innovative ideas while recognizing and rewarding entrepreneurs with seed money to help them grow their ideas and expand their business objectives. A hybrid challenge will be held this year on April 29. 

“This challenge is all about recognizing and supporting student entrepreneurs and social impact leaders on campus,” Otero adds. 

Another program, The Dorm Fund,  is a Marquette student-run venture capital firm that invests exclusively in student-run companies and provides funding up to $2,500 to help accelerate new ventures. The investment team comprises student investors (associates) committed to supporting student entrepreneurs and startups at Marquette. 

Carver says this opportunity is unique because it provides a space for students to empower each other and elevate their ideas, while promoting collaboration and business techniques for a life-changing learning experience. 

This year, to celebrate the 707 Hub’s fifth anniversary, Carver and Otero plan to virtually invite young alumni — many of whom have taken part in these programs — back to campus to share how the hub has evolved because of their impact.  

“As our students and partners are changing, we change with them to meet their needs and push the boundaries,” Carver says. “So, it will be really rewarding to welcome those alumni back and share with them the changes they have sparked within our space and the greater Milwaukee community. Innovation truly does start here.” 

Stay tuned to Marquette Today or follow 707 Hub on social media to learn more about the upcoming celebrations and stories. 

The 707 Hub by the numbers: 2017-22 

  • $180,679 in funding awarded to student entrepreneurs, with a projected $200,000+ by the end of the academic year 
  • $77,179 invested in 36 students’ businesses through the Dorm Fund  
  • $103,500 awarded through the Brewed Ideas Challenge 
  • 14 successful, still-active Brewed Ideas Challenge businesses 
  • 100 mentors who have supported student entrepreneurs, innovators, and difference makers 
  • 104 organizations and small businesses supported through programs such as Boost, Rev-Up MKE and hub-sponsored bootcamps 
  • Average of 8,000 card swipes into the 707 Hub on an annual basis