A late night meal made from local ingredients is hard to find in Ashland, or anywhere in small town America, really.
Northland College business senior Jesse DiLillo and junior Matt Hoszko set out to solve this problem at the Wisconsin Innovation Network’s Lake Superior Business and Technology Conference in August. The conference, held at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Ashland, is a symposium for business students and entrepreneurial professionals from across the state.
The conference encourages entrepreneurism and invites professionals to present their best ideas. DiLillo and Hoszko went up against engineers and other professionals when they proposed, “A Taste of the North: Taking Advantage of a Food Distribution Gap in North Wisconsin.”
Their idea won the Green Energy prize, the Sustainability award, and tied for first place overall. They were awarded $2,500 and asked to compete at the state level.
The conference theme, “Shaping Our Future Through Innovation,” encouraged participants to focus on technological breakthroughs and novel approaches to business.
DiLillo and Hoszko’s winning business idea zeroed in on a niche of late night foods made from locally-sourced ingredients from the Chequamegon Bay region and Wisconsin, creating a restaurant business from the ground up.
Hailing from Ontario, Hoszko wanted to bring a bit of Canada to northern Wisconsin with his home country staple of poutine, a dish of french-fried potatoes topped with curd cheese and a tomato-based sauce, or gravy.
“The food service that we will be introducing will be cheap and delicious,” DiLillo and Hoszko wrote in their proposal. “Supporting local farmers and Wisconsin’s staple food, we will be feeding poutine to hungry students, Wisconsinites, and tourists.”
The project not only incorporated local products with the convenience of fast food, but operated entirely on green energy.
DiLillo and Hoszko heard about the conference from Dick Joyal, professor of business administration and economics, during a 2014 May term class, The Legal Environment of Business.
Joyal, who has taught at Northland College for thirty-eight years and has been involved with the conference for twelve or more years, said that this was the first time ever that Northland students have competed.
“And then they won,” he laughed. “Matt is a go-getter and Jesse grinds his way through—the two worked hard and they deserve all the accolades.”
The two share a strong work ethic, working jobs from a young age. They are both double-majoring in business management and sustainable entrepreneurship, play hockey and soccer—and are looking to make green while being green.
“Jesse and I consider ourselves a one-two punch and often try to work together on projects,” Hoszko said.
Though they are both quick to credit the business and the sustainable community development departments for their knowledge and support.
“Entrepreneurship at Northland is expanding to include themes of sustainability and socially responsible business practices,” Hoszko said. “And right now entrepreneurial education at Northland is really starting to take off.”
DiLillo and Hoszko both hope to actualize their dreams of being business owners and are open to the idea of “A Taste of the North” in Ashland.
“Right now,” Hoszko said, “We are just waiting to catch the eye of an investor.”