WisBusiness: Kohl’s exec touts Milwaukee innovation program

By Maggie Schleicher

For WisBusiness.com

MILWAUKEE — Telvin Jeffries made the case to Milwaukee Rotary Club today that Milwaukee is a hotbed for innovation and described how one program is connecting business, educators and entrepreneurs for economic development.

The MiKE program, otherwise known as Innovation in Milwaukee, was launched by the Greater Milwaukee Committee in September. Jeffries, the executive VP of human resources for Kohl’s Corp., explained MiKE as a “Milwaukee movement rooted in economic development and new approaches to innovation.”

MiKE is co-chaired by Jeffries and Todd Teske, CEO and president of Briggs & Stratton.

”We exist so we can address the issues of finding the brightest innovative talent, connect companies to fresh ideas” and create an environment that fosters entrepreneurship, Jeffries said.

One of MiKE’s most recent success stories is Streamfit, which Jeffries referred to as the “Netflix of fitness.”

Streamfit allows users to connect to specialists and an online database of fitness videos which cater to the user’s location.

As an example, Jeffries told the audience about being in a hotel, connecting to Streamfit and being given access to full workouts that required the user to only use a towel.

Streamfit is now working with New Balance’s corporate fitness program in Boston and is connecting with the Kohl’s corporate wellness program.

Steve Glynn, a project consultant for MiKE, explained how MiKE connects start-ups with business leaders: “It probably would have taken BJ [Streamfit’s founder and CEO] months and months of knocking on doors to get the meeting with Kohls, instead it took a couple of days.”

Glynn said MiKE is attracting other creative businesses to relocate to Milwaukee.

“We moved our offices into the Grand Avenue Mall, which was deserted, and since then 10 other organizations have moved in,” Glynn said.

Jeffries said MiKE stops start-ups from leaving Milwaukee, “and taking the jobs with them” by connecting start-ups with the creative talent they need.