Susan Wuollett ’11 MBA and her husband Michael Wuollett ’11 MBA came to St. Thomas determined to climb their respective corporate ladders, with no intention of following in the footsteps of their entrepreneurial families. But then they entered the Fowler Business Concept Challenge for a shot at a $10,000 scholarship … and won.
Fast forward to 2018 and Susan and Michael are president and CEO, respectively, of Protégé Biomedical, a medical device company with a unique line of hemostatic products that rapidly stop bleeding in animals and, soon, for humans, as well.
“We owe a lot to St. Thomas,” Susan said. “Getting our MBA here gave us the confidence we needed to know we could do this, and helped us ask the right questions as we were building.”
Beyond their education, St. Thomas also provided the building itself: The company operated in 2014 out of the Schulze Hall Business Development Offices of the university’s Minneapolis campus. Protégé and its leading product, ClotIt, grew into the company’s current offices in Eden Prairie, and the Wuolletts have still found all the support they could ask for through St. Thomas.
“Ninety percent, no joke, of our network of people we work with, have hired, advisers we’ve brought on, have been through St. Thomas, either directly or indirectly. The network is amazing,” Michael said. “Going through the MBA program, the courage it gave us to strike out on our own, I can’t put a value on that. … It’s easy to see how people hesitate and just stay out of the game [of starting your own business]. It makes it a much more comfortable place to be in, knowing you’re fully equipped and knowing how you can bring in more tools.”