Lakeland University plans to open a new hub for experiential learning and entrepreneurship at the Jake’s Café building in downtown Sheboygan.
The university recently acquired the advertising agency turned co-working space at 529 Ontario Ave., with funds donated by Herbert Kohler, Jr. on behalf of Kohler Co. and Richard and Kristin Bemis of Sheboygan Falls-based Bemis Manufacturing Co.
An announcement from Lakeland describes the new campus, which will be named Jake’s, A Lakeland Community, as a “communiversity” that combines its co-op education program with opportunities for students to put their learning into practice. Lakeland’s five-year-old co-op program places students in jobs with area companies to gain professional work experience, while also earning college credit and wages to defray their tuition cost.
The new center will also include Launch, a program that allows students to develop and run their own businesses, and Develop U, which hosts workshops and training programs for area employers.
“Jake’s, a Lakeland Community, will attract new students who are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and create new ways for Lakeland to serve as a broader resource to help elevate our community. Whether a student wants to run a small business or has the next big idea, Jake’s will provide a unique laboratory for learning,” said Lakeland president Beth Borgen.
“Our students will play key roles in developing the strategic business plan for Jake’s, while earning credit and invaluable experience,” Borgen added. “Current and prospective students can come to us with an idea, and then hone that idea and their knowledge with mentoring from Lakeland faculty, successful alumni and local entrepreneurs. They will ultimately graduate with a business plan and receive start-up financing.”
Jake’s is named after Jacobson Advertising founder Frank “Jake” Jacobson, who moved the business to the Ontario Avenue location in 1962. Jacobson’s son, Tryg, joined the family business, and in 1983 joined coworker Jon Rost to form Jacobson Rost. The agency acquired adjacent buildings and expanded into the existing 20,000-square-foot-campus. When Tryg and his wife, Ann Marie, sold the business, they retained the Sheboygan property and founded Jake’s Café in honor of his parents.
“Jake’s, a Lakeland Community, combines my father’s creative spirit, natural curiosity to explore and his genuine desire to help others achieve their dreams with the region’s only cooperative education university and Lakeland’s 160-year history of innovation,” said Tryg Jacobson, who also serves on the Lakeland board of trustees. “This is a perfect match, and I am excited to watch us inspire this region’s future entrepreneurs and innovators while continuing the mission of Jake’s.”
Under Lakeland’s ownership, Jake’s will remain the home office of its existing roster of entrepreneurs and business owners. Borgen said Lakeland is considering ways to use the building’s full commercial kitchen and café space.
Proceeds generated from the operations of Jake’s will support the expansion of the co-op education program, Launch, and student scholarships.
“The mindset for a growing number of incoming students is focused on entrepreneurship,” said Britanni Meinnert, associate vice president of Lakeland’s Cooperative Education program. “Between our co-op program, this new location and the roles that our students will play in its development, Lakeland has developed unique ways to engage students and help them become tomorrow’s leaders.”
Jake’s will also be available for students and faculty to study and work. Lakeland’s shuttle will provide free transportation for students on the main campus.
Funds donated by Kohler will also be used to create the Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. Chair for Business & Entrepreneurship at Lakeland. The person in the new role will be located at Jake’s and work directly with students and local business leaders to develop a long-term plan for the space that includes experiential learning at all levels, while integrating broader community planning and innovation, Lakeland said.
“This new chair and the tenants of Jake’s will become integrated in the mentorship and development of our young talent,” said Paul Pickhardt, dean of Lakeland’s Schilcutt School of Business, Science & Technology. “This approach benefits our students but also local businesses and the overall development of Sheboygan.”