John Stavig (Full Stack Saint Paul Steering Committee member) wasn’t looking for work. But the business journal ad looking for someone to lead and expand entrepreneurship offerings at the Carlson School of Management was intriguing.
He had experience, after all. In just a 15-year career, Stavig had invested in, and led, multiple startups—from a communications network construction firm to what would eventually become apartments.com. In 2000, Verizon paid more than $300 million to acquire OnePoint Communications, a business he helped build, which was an early pioneer of the then-revolutionary Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.
At 38, he retired and moved to Minnesota with his wife to start a family.
It wasn’t unfamiliar territory. Stavig graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Business in 1986 (followed by an MBA at The Wharton School in Philadelphia). He spent time building his family and spending as much time with them as possible, which was fulfilling. “But I got restless pretty quick, and none of my friends were retired, so there was nobody else to really play with.”
So he responded to the ad. He chatted with Roy Wetterstrom and confirmed his hunch: It would be fun to come back to the University for a couple of years and try something different. “Eighteen years later, I’m still here,” he says.
Taking Entrepreneurship to the Next Level
Wetterstrom, ’86 BSB, founder of Revo Brands, was leading what was then known as the Carlson School’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. He knew firsthand what someone like Stavig could do full time.
In the 18 years since, Stavig has been the director of the Carlson School’s Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship—named after a 2007 gift from real estate developer Gary Holmes—which offers numerous courses for students, but also programming open to any entrepreneurial Minnesotan (see sidebar), mentorship opportunities, startup internships, and more. The center is self-sustaining, with more than $25 million in gifts from alums, businesses, and others.
“It’s incredible to see what John has been able to do in terms of really bringing our entrepreneurship program to an entirely new level,” says Wetterstrom. “He’s turned the Holmes Center into a phenomenal organization that is supporting entrepreneurship throughout the University and all over Minnesota.”