Lakeland University has hired one of Wisconsin’s top new entrepreneurs as the inaugural Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. Chair for Business & Entrepreneurship to lead Jake’s, A Lakeland Community.
Stephanie Hoskins, a Kohler, Wis., native and the co-founder of cloud-based software company Debtle, will lead the development of Lakeland’s latest acquisition, located at 529 Ontario Ave., in downtown Sheboygan.
She will work directly with Lakeland students as a mentor and teacher and lead the creation of a long-term plan for Jake’s that includes experiential learning at all levels, while integrating broader community planning and innovation.
“This role provides an incredible opportunity to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sheboygan County and Wisconsin,” Hoskins said. “It’s the perfect blend of my background, given my experience as a founder and in academia. Being able to teach and mentor students, while also cultivating a broader community to support small businesses and entrepreneurship, is a dream come true.”
Lakeland President Beth Borgen said Hoskins is an ideal fit for this new role.
“She brings the knowledge of a successful entrepreneur and the experience of a teacher at the college level,” Borgen said. “She has a wealth of connections that will help us immediately position Jake’s as a center for innovation for this region.”
Lakeland acquired Jake’s, A Lakeland Community, earlier this spring to provide more access to its award-winning Cooperative Education program, recruit the next generation of entrepreneurially minded students and position the institution as a significant resource and partner for the region.
Funding for the transition and creation of the Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. Chair for Business & Entrepreneurship was donated by Herb Kohler on behalf of Kohler Co. and by Richard and Kristin (Jacobson) Bemis.
Hoskins said her mission for Jake’s is to break down the barriers to entrepreneurship for both the Lakeland community and greater Sheboygan County by creating an inclusive and open environment where community members can seek support and connect with resources to make their entrepreneurial journey easier.
“I’m looking forward to meeting more area entrepreneurs and people who are curious about entrepreneurship and looking to explore the next step,” Hoskins said. “I encourage everyone to reach out to me at Jake’s. I would love feedback from the community as we start to develop more programming, resources and events.
“I’ve also established a pretty wide-reaching network of founders, advisors, investors and resources that I’m excited to share.”
Hoskins will utilize Jake’s to connect Lakeland students with more opportunities.
“The location is great for introducing students to Sheboygan,” she said.
In 2019, Hoskins and her husband, Houston, launched Debtle, a software company that has tackled the consumer debt crisis by helping small and midsize healthcare organizations quickly resolve unpaid invoices by automating and simplifying the negotiation and settlement of bad debt accounts.
The idea for Debtle came when Hoskins was working in health care finance and strategy, and she saw the desperation and miscommunications that often resulted when patients called to negotiate paying their bills only to arrive at no solution.
The couple, who lives in Kohler, won both The Surge and the NEW Launch Alliance pitch competitions and Debtle landed on WisconsinInno’s 2021 list of startups to watch. Stephanie was named to Forbes’ The Next 1000 in 2021, a list that spotlights ambitious sole proprietors, self-funded shops and pre-revenue startups across the United States that are redefining what it means to build and run a business.
Along with her experience as an entrepreneur, Hoskins brings to Lakeland a diverse background that includes working in finance management roles in pharmacy and healthcare, serving in marketing and ticketing roles in college athletics and teaching as part of her graduate studies.
She has extensive community involvement as part of her experience.
While working for Ochsner, she founded the King Cake Festival, a family-friendly Mardi Gras event that benefited pediatrics at Ochsner by providing locals and visitors a celebration of the culture, history and traditions of New Orleans.
She was a founding board member of the Tulane Banks Neighborhood Association, which focuses on neighborhood projects to improve the quality of life for all residents, economic development and crime reduction. She was a founding board member for the Red Shoe Society of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater New Orleans.
Hoskins received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance from Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business. She has an MBA with a finance concentration from LSU, where she is working toward a Doctor of Philosophy in Finance.
History of Jake’s
Jake’s is named for Frank “Jake” Jacobson, who founded Jacobson Advertising and 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 renowned agency acquired adjacent buildings and expanded into the existing 20,000 sq. ft. campus.
When Tryg and his wife, Ann Marie, sold the business, they retained the Sheboygan property. In honor of his parents, Jake and Elizabeth “Betty” Jacobson, they founded Jake’s Cafe, a place designed to attract and nurture a community of creative people from all walks of life.
As this introduction comes to a close, we are grateful that Frank “Jake” Jacobson and his son, Tryg, most successfully have achieved their mission, which began as a simple dream. The staff of Lakeland University and the citizens of Sheboygan County appreciate their unvarnished commitment to planting the seeds and building a foundation that will continue to grow.
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