Lakeland University Blog

Muskies flex entrepreneurial muscle at Accelerate Sheboygan event

Muskies flex entrepreneurial muscle at Accelerate Sheboygan event


Muskies flex entrepreneurial muscle at Accelerate Sheboygan event

A Lakeland University graduate and a current Lakeland student flexed their entrepreneurial muscle recently as they were the top two winners in Accelerate Sheboygan County’s 2023 Business Challenge.

Deanne Herber, co-founder of Kids in Combat Boots, won first place in a field of eight business ideas on November 14 at Jake’s, A Lakeland Community in downtown Sheboygan. Her daughter, Vanessa, is also a co-founder and is a graduate student at Lakeland.

Herber, who received her master of business administration degree from Lakeland, won a $6,000 prize from Accelerate Sheboygan County and an additional $1,000 from WBD.

Second place went to Lakeland sophomore and Sheboygan native Michaela Heling, founder of Protean Footwear, who received $2,500 from AccelSC and $500 from WBD.

Herber and Heling will advance to the NEW Launch Alliance Pitch Event on November 30 at Titletown Tech in Green Bay. Regional winners will be invited to give an update at the New North Summit in June 2024 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Kids in Combat Boots is a labor of love for a military family that is creating a “hometown” through a website and program which anyone can join to share their stories, build camaraderie and get recognized for their service. Children of military families who experience regular displacement and struggle with their identity can share those experiences with people who understand and have access to resources which make these experiences a little easier.

Herber served active duty as a reservist, and then as a military and foreign service spouse while parenting four children. Her daughters, Vanessa and Paige, were raised as military children before embarking on their own military careers. Their commitment to this community is unwavering and they have the experience, credibility and sensitivity to further the KICB mission of caring for and recognizing military children.

Protean Footwear combines the advantages of three different pairs of shoes into one pair, making athletic bags lighter and allowing athletes to put more necessary equipment they need in their bags so they can perform their best. Founded by Heling, a longtime softball player, Protean uses its patent pending technology of having interchangeable soles to allow athletes to change out the soles of their shoes to adapt to various field conditions.

The annual Accelerate Sheboygan County Business Challenge program which assists entrepreneurs and innovators in taking their ideas and businesses to the next level.

Professionals review each submission and provide free guidance from either the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation or the Small Business Development Center at UW-Green Bay. It culminates with the pitch competition.

"It was a great showcase of some of the talented entrepreneurs in Sheboygan County," stated Ray York, business counselor for the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation and SBDC at UWGB.

None of this would have been possible without the support of our sponsor, Wells Fargo, along with WBD, who provided funding for these pitchers to continue their ideas. We'd also like to thank Lakeland University, Jakes, SCEDC, and New North for their Partnership. Lastly, we'd like to extend our sincere gratitude to all the applicants and sponsors who contributed to Sheboygan County’s expanded economic potential and growth.

Building upon the success of this year's challenge, Accelerate Sheboygan County said applications for the 2024 Business Challenge are now open. Entrepreneurs and innovators are encouraged to apply today at

Accelerate Sheboygan County is a public-private partnership focused on providing outreach and engagement solutions to attract, retain, encourage business resiliency, and foster a more diverse and inclusive community - all key ingredients for success.

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