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Meet the Venture Center Team

Amy Pietsch, Director

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During her career Amy has been an entrepreneur and intrapreneur. Titles of Coordinator, Associate Director, Director of Next Generation Initiatives and Owner have come and gone from her business card. Through it all she has been working with people to launch and grow sustainable enterprises. From part-time, home-based, business owners to traditional small business owners to multi-million dollar entrepreneurial firms, Amy has helped them define their business model, develop strategic, marketing and business plans and access alternative, traditional, angel, VC and peer-to-peer financing.

In 2004 Amy was recruited by Fox Valley Technical College to join them in their pursuit of researching the need for and then developing the vision for the FVTC Venture Center, which launched in September 2005. Since that time Amy has worked to create an entrepreneurship and small business resource center that the College and the communities it serves could be proud of. The FVTC Venture Center and the core entrepreneurship training series, E-seed™ has served thousands of people, helped 300+/- businesses to launch and grow creating more than 1,000+/- jobs in the FVTC service area and throughout Wisconsin.

Along the way, Amy's work to drive economic development via entrepreneurship and small business creation and expansion has been recognized by organizations from around Wisconsin. In 2009 the MIT Club of Wisconsin selected the FVTC Venture Center as the recipient of their annual Innovation Award. Amy received the Woman of Distinction Award from Mid-Day Business and Professional Women in 2007, the Cutting Edge Award from Appleton Rotary in 2006; and, Amy was the recipient of the 2005 Alverno College Young Professional Achievement Award.

Our Team

Mark Burwell, Entrepreneur Outreach

Mark BurwellMark Burwell is an instructor for the E-seed™: Entrepreneurship Training and Pro-Seed™ Business Model Design series as well as other Venture Center seminars. As a successful entrepreneur, mentor, author and small business leader, Mark draws on his 35 years of running various successful businesses and helping with over 2000 business start-ups. Mark received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Public Address while becoming a collegiate All-American in Track. As President and CEO of a Wisconsin-based firm, Mark grew the company to a regional level from Minneapolis to Milwaukee and received national recognition. As President/Owner of Evolutions Business Group, he has studied, lectured and consulted nationally as well as internationally in Ireland, Montreal, Canada and Russia. 

Mark was chosen as Green Bay's Small Business Person of the Year, as well as one of the "Fabulous Fifty" as an evolutionary entrepreneur. He was honored as Wisconsin's "Small Business Advocate of the Year" by the U.S. Small Business Administration for creating a level playing field for small businesses. The University of Wisconsin-Stout awarded him the "Distinguished Alumni Award" of the year for his career, business and civic achievements. 

Mark currently leads as the National Executive Director for the E-Hub, where he has been the architect for the successful model. With wisdom and a strong dose of customer reality, Mark offers innovative ideas. A compelling author and speaker, Mark Burwell informs, challenges, inspires and leaves you with a new and powerful understanding of your business, the market and your customers.

Brian Davis, Instructor

Brian Davis is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for small business and cycling. Three years ago Brian quit a full time corporate job to focus on his own ventures, launching cycling related products. Turning a life long passion into a profession.

Inspired by working smarter and not harder Brian is accomplished at outsourcing and delegating tasks in order to execute on ideas. In the past 3 years Brian completed 3 highly successful Kickstarter campaigns ($45,000, $82,000, $25,000) for 2 different products and is working on a fourth for Q1 2016. Brian shares his experiences with other inventors and start-ups about using outside resources to make a tremendous impact.

Brian combined his passion for cycling and business to launch the Fix It Sticks brand of cycling accessories. The product that Brian invented is a simple bicycle hand tool that works in a fantastically unique way. You can see a video of how the idea started and some of the key features at

In 2015, Brian launched The BackBottle which is a hyper specific water bottle designed specifically for the jersey pockets of endurance athletes.

Brian engages audiences with real life examples and offers concrete, useable information to launch your idea. Brian brings direct experience in marketing, PR, designing, prototyping, packaging, shipping and anything else associated with taking a product from sketch to shelf.

Jeff Ebel, Instructor

Jeff is an instructor for the E-seed™:  Entrepreneurship Training series and the Venture Center's business and entrepreneurship program. He is the founder and past president of Ebel Woodworking, Inc., an architectural woodworking company located in Scandinavia, Wisconsin. He has been in the woodworking and furniture industry for over 35 years and started Ebel Woodworking in 1989. After selling Ebel Woodworking in May of 2007, he took an eleven month sabbatical, working part time as a consultant and volunteering for a variety of non-profit organizations. He currently works as a Sales and Marketing Representative for SAINTS Health Services for Business, a Central Wisconsin occupational health services provider.

As a volunteer, Jeff is active in the AWI, Architectural Woodwork Institute, serving a second two year term as a member of the development council, assists the Chapter Development Committee with leadership training, and recently completed a two year term as President of the Wisconsin Chapter of the AWI. He is also a volunteer counselor for and Chapter Chair of the Central Wisconsin Chapter of SCORE, volunteers providing free counseling to small businesses. He is on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Stevens Point and serves as an ambassador for the Portage County Business Council. His association with the many organizations provides myriad opportunities to utilize his skills as a presenter and leader.

Ellen Krabbe, Instructor

Ellen KrabbeEllen received her bachelor’s degree in medical technology & biology, from UW-Oshkosh. As a scientist and researcher, she enjoyed working in France as a technical coach and translator.       

She founded FRESCO in 1998 to integrate a small team of professionals. Clients included the CEA, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, and Uhlmann Pac-Systeme.

In 2010, Ellen returned to Wisconsin and became an avid patent searcher and intellectual property liaison for multiple Bemis divisions: Healthcare, Advanced Technologies, Latin America, and Europe.    

FRESCO Services promotes dynamic innovation that leverages patent research and intellectual property management. 

David Lindenstruth, Instructor

David is an instructor for the E-seed™: Entrepreneurship Training series. He moved to the Fox Valley in 1999 to use his electronics engineering degree to support product design, rapid prototyping, and global manufacturing.  While working full-time as a Project Manager, he started a side-venture, Appetize. That business opened Wisconsin's first HuHot Mongolian Grill restaurant in 2006 and within five years, it grew to operating seven restaurants in two states.  Appetize garnered local and national recognition, while employing a staff of over 400, servicing over one million guest visits per year, and donating in excess of $125,000 annually.  After selling the restaurants, David discovered his next business opportunity in 2016, deciding to purchase Van Zeeland Nursery & Landscape.  David and the talented team there immediately went to work, growing and reinvigorating the eighty-four-year-old business.  A graduate of Fox Valley Technical College's E-Seed™ and Pro-Seed™ programs, David aspires to help other business owners to realize their visions.

Tapiwa Nyamhondoro, Instructor

Tapiwa NyamhondoroLIFE Leadership

Accomplished leadership entrepreneur and engineer with significant experience in leadership training, welding, packaging, automotive and off road equipment industries. Tapiwa is an entrepreneur and LIFE Leadership member where individuals and corporations are helped with professional, financial and personal development. At LIFE Leadership, the teaching is that:

  • Training Is Temporary. Development Is Permanent
  • Based on the New York Times bestselling book Launching a Leadership Revolution (LLR), the LLR Corporate education program is designed not to train employees but to develop leaders. Leadership development is arguably the single most important investment any company can make. The leader creates the culture; the culture delivers the results

  • For the large percentage of people who struggle with debt and credit problems, people are offered debt freedom through LIFE’s Financial Fitness products and services.

  • For those who desire high achievement and lifestyle, a shot at financial freedom through a sales compensation plan is offered.

  • And for those who are underprivileged, disenfranchised, or victims of disaster, a functional freedom through Life on Life Initiative and charitable outreaches is offered

Additional Information

  • Education: Tapiwa achieved his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering technology and business administration training from Milwaukee School of Engineering

  • Work Experience: Leadership trainer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mechanical Engineer, College Math Instructor

  • Charitable Focus: All Grace Outreach, a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization, which focuses on spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world and helping abused, abandoned, and distressed women and children.

  • Hobbies and Interests: Tapiwa enjoys playing soccer, rugby, boating, reading, and traveling


Annilee Pietsch Helbing, Instructor

Annilee blends academic training in business administration and liberal arts with extensive sales and small business experience. She is an instructor for the Venture Center's business and entrepreneurship program. 

In 1999, Annilee worked with a local, nonprofit organization, CAP Services, Inc., to start and expand their housing program in Outagamie County. CAP Services’ First Time Home Buyer program offers education, financial counseling, and provides down payment, closing fees, and rehabilitation grants and loans to first time buyers to help them achieve the dream of homeownership.

In 2005, Annilee joined The Pietsch Team with Coldwell Banker TREG, Inc. and was instrumental in launching and creating brand awareness for a family owned real estate business venture.

In 2008, The Pietsch Team was recruited by Wisconsin’s leading real estate brokerage, First Weber Group. As President of The Pietsch Team at First Weber Group from 2008 to 2013, Annilee utilized her expertise in finance, marketing, operations, strategy, risk analysis, and planning to grow the business. Along with the strength and agility of a talented family team, sales and revenue were increased year over year in a depressed real estate economy. The Pietsch Team’s knowledge of the real estate industry, strength in negotiations and problem solving, ability to work within a team environment have been critical to their success in assisting in 1000 +/- transactions related to the purchase, sale, rental or trade of real estate. From 2005-2013, The Pietsch Team has received top annual awards for being market leaders in their industry.

Additionally, Annilee is active in her community and volunteers as a board member for the following organizations: Wautoma Public Library, Wautoma Historical Board, and Thrivent Financial.

Mick Walsh, Visual Recorder

Mick Walsh is a visual recorder for the Pro-Seed™: Business Model Design session and Small Business Design, Plan and Grow series. Mick has spent over 35 years in the advertising, marketing, and creative arts industry. Mick has a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from Northern Illinois University where he graduated with honors. He also completed graduate level courses in design, and photography from Northern Illinois University and educational marketing from the University of Phoenix. He has been a featured speaker and panelist at national and regional industry conferences and workshops presenting creative best practices. Mick has previously owned and operated his own design studio and advertising agency in Denver, Colorado. He was also Vice President of Creative for GEM, a global design agency with offices in 11 cities worldwide. He has created campaigns and projects for American Express, Boeing, 3M, Sears and Best Buy.

Mick has formed a creative services company called SketchBIZ, which provides clients with Visual Recordings, Whiteboard Videos and Storyboard Illustrations.

Eric Wulterkens, Instructor

Eric Wulterkens is an instructor for Venture Center seminars. Eric is the owner and founder of Kings Ridge Media, a seller of media and books on as well as multiple other internet based outlets.

Shortly after leaving the Navy in 2004, Eric began selling items on as a side hustle to gain a little extra money while he worked a full time sales position for Cisco Systems. In 2006 this hobby had turned from a side hustle to a real business and it was incorporated in that year.

By 2009 the business had grown large enough that it no longer made sense for him to continue on his Cisco career path and at the end of the year left this position to pursue his business full time.

After 10 years of running a successful online selling platform, Eric decided it was time to launch a wholesale division of his company that would assist other Amazon sellers with finding profitable inventory that they could purchase to help grow their business. The wholesale division was launched in October 2019 and has shown steady growth since the launch.

​Eric brings a deep understanding of the platform, and how to source and find profitable inventory, and has a strong understanding of the challenges and risks someone will face when selling through the Amazon ecosystem and best practices to mitigate those risks.

About the Venture Center 

Only now are we realizing the full impact of our transitioning economy. In the 1990s, we experienced corporate downsizing, manufacturing layoffs and business migration leaving skilled people without jobs. The dot-com boom encouraged more professionals to leave corporate positions for new start-ups, leading to an uptick in entrepreneurial ventures. It was in this environment that e-seed was created to provide practical instruction to help people start their own businesses. Developed by Fox Valley Technical College, e-seed™ is the signature entrepreneur training series offered through the college’s Venture Center. This hub of entrepreneurial activity has launched more than 300 businesses and has been at the forefront of innovating economic development throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

The Venture Center and e-seed have been recognized by business organizations for launching successful businesses. Several program graduates have received awards from regional chambers of commerce and industry associations for their accomplishments.

The e-seed Pedigree:

  • The Venture Center and FVTC are members of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE).

  • FVTC President, Dr. Susan May, serves on the NACCE board of directors.

  • David Lindenstruth, a graduate of e-seed was named the 2012 Alumni Entrepreneur.  David is the former CEO of Appetize, Inc.


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Fox Valley Technical College
Venture Center
5 Systems Drive
P.O. Box 2277
Appleton, WI 54912-2277

P: 920-996-2949 

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