Nestled in the heart of Marquette’s entrepreneurial ecosystem are two economic development organizations, Invent@NMU and Innovate Marquette SmartZone.
These two programs have developed quite the synergy over the years, with each organization leaning into one another with the purpose of amplifying their impact on business owners, entrepreneurs, and job creation in the greater Marquette community.
Invent@NMU is a student-powered program with the mission to develop mutually beneficial relationships between Northern Michigan University students and local innovators and entrepreneurs producing products and businesses. For years, this relationship has provided students with unparalleled work experience and passionate entrepreneurs with low-cost services.
Innovate Marquette SmartZone is composed of business professionals who mentor and oversee the entire Invent@NMU program. This includes student mentorship, client work, community programs and partnerships while managing a base of high-tech clients of their own. As the partnership between Invent@NMU and Innovate Marquette matures and grows, seeds planted in years past have begun to sprout and poke through fertile soil.
Innovate Marquette is pleased to welcome former Invent@NMU project manager and Northern Michigan University alumna, Taylor Warren, to the team as Entrepreneurial Outreach and Services Coordinator.
The following story showcases one of the greatest impacts this one-of-a-kind partnership produces: passionate young professionals with a hunger to generate economic growth in our community.
WHO IS TAYLOR WARREN?
Born and raised in the small town of St. Clair, MI, Taylor grew up just a quarter-mile away from Canada.
Directly after graduating high school, Taylor studied marketing at St. Clair County Community College. After receiving her associate’s degree from St. Clair County Community College, Taylor visited a close friend attended Michigan Tech at the time. It was on this trip that Taylor realized that living in the Upper Peninsula would be one of her next steps in life.
In the Upper Peninsula, Taylor felt more connected than ever to her adventure-filled youth. Taylor remarked, “I loved being outdoors in the woods as a kid. As I grew up, I had more responsibilities. Being able to go outside to play, relax and have fun was not as easy or readily available anymore. When I first visited the U.P. a flood of childhood memories and feelings came rushing back and I knew if I lived in the U.P. I would be able to be adventurous again and be able to do things I used to do as a kid, like hiking or riding ATVs.”
As Taylor felt her heart pulled North, the path to do so became clearer than daylight. Excitedly, Taylor expressed, “It just happened to work out perfectly. I returned home from my trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a recruiter was going to be at my school the following week. I went and talked to her and I loved everything that she said, it was just perfect. I actually applied to Northern before even coming to campus. And by Christmas, I was accepted. The following spring I paid a visit to campus and it confirmed that I was making the right choice.”
MAKING HER MARK IN MARQUETTE
Taylor first made her introduction to the Marquette community when she transferred to Northern Michigan University in the fall of 2019 in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Marketing.
Like many of us, the small town and tight-knit vibe of Marquette hooked her instantly. While reflecting on this transitional period of life, Taylor told me, “St. Clair is a really small version of Marquette. When I first moved to Marquette, I said to myself, ‘Man, this place is quite a bit similar to my hometown.’ This is one of the reasons why I picked to go to school in Marquette.”
Two people at NMU who made a big impact on Taylor are Professor Corrine Bodeman and Northern alum Curt Tucker. During a class project in Bodeman’s class, Taylor had an opportunity to write a marketing plan for an innovative product that Tucker was bringing to market. This unique experience further extended Taylor’s applicable real-world business experience before entering the post-graduate world.
MAKING THE MOST IMPACT
Taylor is no stranger to Marquette’s economic development scene. Over the past year and a half, Taylor has built strong relationships with countless local inventors, innovators and small business owners through her work as project manager of the Invent@NMU program.
Project managers are expert relationship builders, and are responsible for guiding clients through the entrepreneurship process. In her work with the Invent@NMU program, Taylor has helped walk with clients in ideation, research & design and go-to-market phases of product and business development.
When reflecting on her period of work with Invent@NMU, Taylor discussed how Invent@NMU gave her valuable real world client experience during her undergraduate studies. She stated, “You get to take some of the professional skills that teachers talk about in the classroom and apply them right away. Not everyone gets to do that. In just a classroom setting, students might not be able to apply that skill or knowledge that they learned. But I did at Invent@NMU.”
Taylor’s story excellently depicts the impact Invent@NMU makes on its student team members careers, with 99% of program alumni finding a job within their career field within six months after graduation.
One of the greatest rewards of being a team member of Invent@NMU is getting to work with clients that manifest an awe-inspiring drive for success.
It takes grit, belief and determination to be a successful entrepreneur. At most times, the Invent@NMU team is actively working with anywhere 20-30+ innovative clients. I’m sure that all team members would agree that the positive energy that entrepreneurs bring into our office rubs off on us all.
Helping see ideas through is what Invent@NMU is all about. Oftentimes, these ideas we help see through positively impact the lives of Marquette community members.
Speaking on current Invent@NMU client projects, Taylor affirmed, “There are ideas that come through the Invent@NMU program that are going to make some really big impacts on our community. I just get really excited about them, and can’t wait for them to launch because I know they’re going to make a difference. These entrepreneurs have a lot of drive behind them. They believe in their ideas and we believe in it with them. We both know it’s going to make a difference.”
This summer, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Northern Michigan University, Taylor accepted the position of Entrepreneurial Outreach and Services Coordinator on the Innovate Marquette team.
When describing her new role, Taylor stated, “As a manager, I now oversee the project management team. I guide and mentor them and their work with our clients. I also get to work with management to help really hone in our company and processes so we are better able to serve the community.”
Who better fit for this position than a former Invent@NMU team member who has walked miles in the project manager’s shoes?
Taylor elaborated, “I wasn’t only project manager, but I was also a student at Northern, so I can not only mentor them in their role as a project manager, but I can give them advice regarding being a student.”
A big proponent for work-life balance, Taylor knows first-hand that the balance between work and studies can be challenging. Taylor, along with the rest of the Innovate Marquette management team, supports our students in their academic studies through offering a flexible work schedule and prioritizing a work, life and study balance. Through bi-weekly Therapeutic Thursday activities ranging from hikes to picnics in the park, our team aims to foster a positive work environment that supports and encourages our team to thrive in all aspects of life.
Our team also draws inspiration from our incredible clients. Recently, the Invent@NMU student team connected with local entrepreneurs and community leaders to learn how they develop and implement habits to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Click here to hear their stories in our Work-Life Balance in the 906 series.
In addition to making an immediate impact in the lives of students and entrepreneurs, Taylor looks forward to seeing continued impact being made years into the future. To get to the heart of her passion for the work she does, I asked Taylor what she hopes to see in Marquette five years from now. She replied, “If I were to look five years into the future, I hope to see some of the products that our student team is currently working on launched, active in the community and making a difference. I also hope that the student team finds great post graduate success.”
I couldn’t agree more.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Taylor is a welcomed addition to our Innovate Marquette team.
Transitioning from student project manager at Invent@NMU to her new role at Innovate Marquette, Taylor is the epitome of a lead-by-example teammate. Taylor’s strong organizational skills paired with her get-it-done, down-to-earth attitude add immense value to our team dynamic. Her calming aura and innovative spirit allow our organization to continue generating a positive impact in Marquette’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and providing our clients with the highest quality services possible.
To meet the rest of our team, visit our About page.