Badger alumni share their journeys and insights at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Showcase on September 28

Three exceptional Badger alumni will share their entrepreneurial journeys, leadership insights, and how their UW experience set them on the road to success at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Showcase on September 28. The event offers the chance to hear from UW–Madison founders and CEOs, be inspired by the entrepreneurial mindset, and connect with UW’s innovation ecosystem.

Featured speakers range from a former walk-on and co-captain of the UW basketball team who founded a top independent mortgage lender that leads in workplace culture, to an Emmy award-winning producer and brand strategist who creates high-impact talent partnerships and the co-founder of an innovative educational nonprofit whose recent TED Talk earned more than 1 million views.

The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Showcase takes place on Thursday, September 28, with speaker program from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. and networking reception with appetizers and soft drinks from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m. in Grainger Hall 1310, The Plenary Room, 975 University Ave. on the UW–Madison campus. It is free and open to UW–Madison students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. Pre-registration is requested at

The featured speakers are:
Joel Baraka ‘22, Co-founder, My Home Stars; Project Engineer, CG Schmidt.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Baraka grew up in the Kyangwali refugee camp before moving to the U.S. and earning a bachelor of science in civil and environmental engineering from UW–Madison. Now a Project Engineer for CG Schmidt, Baraka is well-known for co-founding and growing My Home Stars, a non-profit that increases access to quality education for refugee children in Uganda. Baraka and his team applied an innovative mindset and learnings from UW entrepreneurship programs to build an impactful mission-driven organization.

Baraka has been recognized as a Clinton Global Initiative University participant, Bezos Scholar, Queen’s Young Leaders awardee, and TED Fellow, and most recently, the Wisconsin Inno Under 25 “2023 tech leaders to watch,” and his recent TED Talk has earned more than 1 million views. Baraka spoke at the recent New Student Convocation to offer guidance to incoming students, and the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Showcase is a chance to hear him focus on his entrepreneurial journey.

Steve Jacobson ’82, Founder & CEO, Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.
Since founding Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation in 1996, Steve Jacobson has been one of the industry’s most innovative leaders. Fairway has seen continued growth, closing over $72 billion in one year alone. It ranked in the top three lenders in purchase volume for the last three years and employs more than 6,000 with 680 locations nationwide. Headquartered in Madison, Wis. and Carrollton, Texas, Fairway is privately held, and its unique culture stresses employee development, volunteering and philanthropy. Fairway was named #1 Workplace in the USA for the past three years by Energage and for the past eight years has been named One of the Best Companies to Work For by Mortgage Executive magazine.

A Wisconsin native with a bachelor of business administration in management from UW, Jacobson is the former co-captain of the Badger basketball team, where he joined as a walk-on and played for four years while achieving Academic All-Big Ten his graduating year. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship.

Jessie Mash ’07, Managing Partner, SonderCo
Jessie (Kalin) Mash is an Emmy award-winning producer and brand strategist. She recently joined the newly launched SonderCo, an agency connecting next-generation brands with celebrity talent, IP, and other like-minded brands to create high-impact partnerships. SonderCo has worked with former U.S. presidents, Oscar and Grammy award-winning artists, Fortune 500 CEOs, Olympic athletes and Nobel laureates.

A graduate of the UW–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Mash previously headed up partnerships, brand strategy, and celebrity relations at Monica + Andy, developing partnerships into top customer acquisition tools and securing collaborations with Disney, Target, Glossier and Hello Bello. As a producer, Mash also worked with top-tier talent at The Oprah Winfrey Show and launched, produced and was an on-air style and deals expert for ABC Chicago’s Windy City LIVE.

The Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Showcase is presented by the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup Learning Community, and Discovery to Product (D2P), as part of the UW’s weeklong Innovate Week series of entrepreneurship and innovation events.