In the Field | Alumni Making Their Mark as Entrepreneurs
Many CALS graduates go on to launch small businesses, patent new products, and found successful companies, among other entrepreneurial endeavors. This special In the Field series tells their stories. Look for more profiles of innovative alumni in the next issue.
Heidi Bailey BS’16
When Heidi Bailey discovered the Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC), she knew it was the perfect fit for her. After graduation, she was able to apply what she learned in LSC at Boulder Brands in Colorado, where she found her passion for an active, outdoor lifestyle. Now Bailey seeks to share her passion with the world through Wander Outdoor LLC, an adventure guide service. As the cofounder and CEO of Wander Outdoor, every aspect of her communication degree was put to the test. “When starting your own business, you have to do it all,” Bailey says. “I have had to design our logo, create a color scheme, write and rewrite several business plans, perform market research, prepare sales plans and goals, execute financial analyses, etc.” But she says it was all worth it. Bailey enjoys inspiring people to get outside and appreciate nature in an increasingly digital world. Her active lifestyle of rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing, and trail running supports her career goals and keeps her in touch with Wander Outdoor’s mission. Bailey credits CALS for giving her a multifaceted skill set and a network of LSC advisors that helped her succeed.
John Burd MS’70, PhD’75
John Burd has dedicated his career to improving diabetes treatment and medical products. “I continue to be interested in developing products for people with diabetes, including several family members,” Burd says. “I love being busy and helping people who are suffering from a terrible disease.” Through the years, he has founded more than 15 health care companies, authored numerous papers, enhanced existing technology, and created his own medical products resulting in 23 separate patents. Burd’s current company, Lysulin, markets a new over-the-counter nutritional supplement for lowering blood sugar and preventing glucose toxicity. Prior to Lysulin, Burd founded DexCom, Inc., a prominent medical company where he developed the first long-term implantable glucose monitoring system. This innovation landed him in the American Association of Clinical Chemistry Hall of Fame. All of this success was the result of years of education, hard work, and personal drive. Burd earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Biochemistry.
Gregory Good BS’79, MS’82
Gregory Good’s interest in forestry began at a young age. In high school, he spent two summers working in the woods of Mels, Switzerland, his father’s hometown. Good’s higher education began in mechanical engineering, but he eventually earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forestry from UW–Madison, where Ray Guries, now a professor emeritus, steered him toward arboriculture. During his graduate studies, Good gained more hands-on experience working for R. Bruce Allison MS’82 at Allison Tree Care, Inc., in Verona, Wisconsin, which gave him a nudge toward commercial arboriculture. “I keep in touch with both Ray and Bruce to this day,” says Good. In 1983, Good opened his own tree care business, Good Tree Care Co., in Hartland, Wisconsin, where he has practiced ever since. In 1997, Good received a particularly difficult isolated tree removal job. To tackle this project, he combined his engineering mind with his forestry experience and invented a new tree rigging device. And it worked well. Good went on to patent the product, now known as the Good Rigging Control System (GRCS). It is used today by arborists worldwide. When Good takes a break from the trees, he enjoys spending time raising sheep with his wife, Barbara, an alumna of UW–Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and helping his nephews keep their race cars on track.
Nino Ridgway MS’83, PhD’86
Nino Ridgway earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in entomology with a focus on pest control in apple orchards. After working a variety of positions alongside farmers, Ridgway took an interest in agriculture. In 1986, Ridgway spent a year working on organic, sustainable, and indigenous farms in New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Germany, and England. After circling the globe, she relocated at Barthel Fruit Farm in Mequon, Wisconsin, where she started her retail nursery, Herbs & Everlastings. She grows and sells a large selection of herbs, perennials, vegetable, plants, and succulents without using chemical pesticides. Ridgway handles sales, management, customer relations, and scouting for pest problems, and she still manages to get her hands dirty in the gardens. “I love watching seeds sprout and cuttings take root,” Ridgway says. “Plant propagation fascinates me.” Although an entomology degree is not a typical pathway to farming, Ridgway incorporates her CALS education in many aspects of her work. “I love to help my customers become better gardeners by educating them about the biology and ecology of gardening,” she says. “We talk about the importance of native species, pollinator plants, insect and disease life cycles, soil health, water conservation, and the ripple effect of changes we make in our yards.”
Christian Schauf BS’03
Christian Schauf graduated with a bachelor’s degree in life sciences communication and agricultural business management — and little idea of where his career was headed. Just 15 years later he seems to have done it all. Schauf’s diverse career path has taken him around the world, working for advertising and marketing agencies, touring as a professional musician, and launching several start-up companies. His latest endeavor, Uncharted Supply Co., is an outdoor safety and survival brand that combines his love for outdoor adventure and passion for making the world a safer place. “I’ve always been most successful when I’ve followed my passions, and Uncharted is simply a culmination of all of my past experiences coming together,” Schauf says. “It’s a very true representation of who I am as a person.” In October 2017, Schauf and his business partner introduced Uncharted Supply Co.’s emergency survival kit, The Seventy2, on the television show Shark Tank, garnering a $200,000 investment from businessman Robert Herjavec. In its first year of operation, the company has sold to more than 100 countries. Schauf points out that Uncharted Supply Co. takes constant focus and commitment; to stay fresh and motivated, he spends his free time climbing, skiing, and cycling around his home in Park City, Utah, and beyond.
Cheri Stoka BS’96
As a former professional soccer player, Cheri Stoka knows a thing or two about exercise and nutrition. Stoka was a scholarship player for the UW–Madison women’s soccer team and logically supported her love for health and fitness with a degree in dietetics. “Food and staying healthy were just part of my life,” Stoka says. As she became more involved in nutrition, she realized the disconnect and confusion that surround weight loss and healthy eating. Weighless MD was her solution. As the founder and president, Stoka has grown Weighless MD into an entity that addresses all aspects of health. “We specialize in weight loss, but we address other chronic and root cause illnesses as well,” she says. Weighless MD offers a variety of services, including personalized meal plans, nutritional supplementation, specialty testing, and nutrition education — all of which stem from Stoka’s passion for health and desire to help others. “I love learning about the science behind nutrition. she says. “Knowing how nutrients affect the body allows us to incorporate strategic ways to be healthier. When we see people transform, it’s pretty amazing.” Stoka works constantly to grow her business but still manages to have a rewarding life outside of the office. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons as well as reading, running, meditating, and, of course, playing soccer.
About In the Field
The CALS graduates highlighted here represent the depth and breadth of alumni accomplishments. Selections are made by Grow staff and are intended to reflect a sample of alumni stories. It is not a ranking or a comprehensive list. Read more about CALS alumni.This article was posted in Economic and Community Development, In the Field, Summer 2018, Working Life and tagged agricultural business management, Alumni, Biochemistry, cheri stoka, christian schauf, dietetics, Entomology, entrepreneurs, Forest and Wildlife Ecology, gregory good, heidi bailey, john burd, life sciences communicaton, nino ridgway, nutritional sciences.