The entrepreneurial bug bit early!
It was a hot summer day in Madison, Wisconsin when Julie Ann Wood had her first lemonade stand at a boat race near her home. The memory of fun and excitement of making money at age 7 started her entrepreneurial journey. The 2nd endeavor was not quite as successful but is where the The E-Seedling name came from. At age 13 my neighbor (who lived about a mile down the road) and I started a business together. We both lived on a farm and liked plants (and money) so we came up with the idea of starting a plant business. So we bought some peat pots, soil and seeds, planted the seeds in the pots, watered them and put them in the window of a shed to sprout and grow. At first, we checked them every day and finally they sprouted into seedlings. We were already dreaming of what we were going to spend the money on. Once the seedlings appeared we were less diligent on checking them. One day, I rode my bike down the road to check on the plants and to my dismay they had all dried up and died. I was devastated; my first real business had failed. I kept thinking how she could let that happen, after all, the plants were at her house. At the time I didn’t realize it, but I had learned some very valuable lessons about starting a business. 1) Make sure you have a partnership agreement that includes who is going to do what when, and 2) Sprouting the seeds is the easy part; it’s cultivating the seedlings that takes time, care and attention. Julie’s parents were also entrepreneurial as they each had their own businesses for a period of time (her mom an antique business and her dad an HVAC business). Growing up on a farm, Julie and her brothers learned about business in 4-H by raising steers and selling them at the fair to raise money for college.
Two Passions: Entrepreneurship and Teaching
Julie always had a passion for teaching and can remember playing school with her brothers where she was always the teacher (of course her brothers would tell you she was just being bossy). She incorporated her love for teaching as a teen where she was a camp counselor, dance teacher and religious education teacher. She graduated at the UW-Madison with a B.S. in Elementary Education but since the job market was dim, she decided to go back to school and get an associate degree in Accounting/Data Processing from Madison Business College. She started teaching and developing curriculum to train both staff and customers on how to do basic accounting and computerize their accounting systems. At age 27, Julie started and ran Check + Balances, an accounting systems business, she employed 5 employees and eventually sold the business to a larger regional consulting firm at the age of 30. After having two sons, she moved from consulting to director of operations for a management consulting company that worked with Fortune 100 companies in the Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing and authored The Team Handbook (which she was the project manager for). That company was sold to another company in New Jersey and Julie decided she wanted to leave the corporate world and pursue a M.S. Curriculum & Instruction, specializing in Educational Communications and Technology (where she had a blast learning how to play video games and use her kids as her research subjects).
The Journey leads to Youth Entrepreneurship
It was at that time she also started working at the UW-Madison Small Business Development Center coordinating the WI Business Answerline, a hotline to answer business questions, and was on the camp staff for the Youth Entrepreneur Camp for middle-school aged kids. The main instructor was an independent contractor that the center paid to teach and run the camp while the SBDC staff assisted for the week. When the center’s funding was cut, the camp was in jeopardy of being cancelled. Julie took it upon herself to propose to the director to write the curriculum so that the camp could be taught using existing staff. It was a great success and Julie was made director of the camp in 2008. Julie is very passionate about the camp; she continues to improve the camp each year and finds sponsors each year to keep the camp going. She is proud to say that students come from all over to attend the camp; there have been kids from Michigan, California, South Dakota and even Canada. While at the SBDC, Julie also started a new company to invent products to solve everyday problems in easy ways. She has invented one product for women and is now in development of a more mass appeal solution with the help of her two sons (ages 17 and 21).
Julie is a national presenter on entrepreneurship and training
In addition to directing the Youth Entrepreneur Camp at UW-Madison SBDC, Julie shares her passion for youth entrepreneurship as a classroom volunteer for Junior Achievement. She has been a frequent guest instructor of the business simulation for middle school and high school aged groups and has trained Wisconsin teachers on how to teach entrepreneurship and use the business simulation in their classrooms. She is also a member of UW-Madison’s Pre-College council which works on pre-college programs and processes for the campus.
Julie has presented on entrepreneurship education, business operations, productivity and technology at local,
regional and national conferences. She has been hired to teach business camps for kids ages 9-15 and has trained numerous teachers in basic entrepreneurship and the Biz Ops Game.
She is a volunteer for the Boys Scouts of America and has served as a den leader, cubmaster, camp leader, committee chair, troop treasurer and merit badge counselor for entrepreneurship and inventing. She also shares her talents as a choreographer and performer for a local community theater group and serves on the board as treasurer.
Julie strongly believes that entrepreneurship is key in empowering kids to believe in their selves, in realizing their potential and that they can make a difference in the world by solving problems and making the world better. She also believes in giving back and 10% of sales go to youth entrepreneurship. In 2016 two youth entrepreneurship scholarships were provided.