News & Media

UW-Milwaukee's Mitchelle Lyle has an idea to improve remote work for entrepreneurs

In April, UW-Milwaukee’s Mitchelle Lyle won WiSys’ statewide entrepreneurship competition, the WiSys Big Idea Tournament. 

Lyle, a student studying French, took home over $2,500 in prize money for pitching International Travel Advisor (ITA), an organization that supports remote workers, creatives and entrepreneurs who would like to live abroad by simplifying international travel logistics and helping them secure sustainability to make it work. 

The Big Idea Tournament was established to extend the Wisconsin entrepreneurial ecosystem to University of Wisconsin students with the goal to help students think critically about their business ideas and implement lean business methodologies.

Lyle will also present her idea at the WiSys SPARK Symposium, WiSys’ premiere annual event which brings together researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs from across the UW System, on Aug. 6-8. 

WiSys sat down with Lyle to learn more about her idea and her experience in the competition. 

Your pitch centered around providing support for workers and entrepreneurs who would like to live abroad. Why do you feel this issue needs to be addressed?

I have lived in four countries myself. It was a great experience for me, not just to travel, but as a personal growth opportunity. You really have the opportunity to learn about other countries and have more empathy for their culture as well. If more people take advantage of these opportunities, I think we as a people can have more empathy and understanding for the plight of others.

Can you speak to how this issue has grown since the pandemic and the overall increase in working remotely that followed?

A lot of mental health awareness was brought to the forefront during and post-COVID. Isolation highlighted things like anxiety and depression where people were digging into what really drives them and makes them happy. A lot of the things I saw in my interviews were that people would like to travel and learn about other people, cultures and countries, but they feel as though they can't because they have to work and are tied to multiple responsibilities that require income. 

I think there was a lot of trust that was built between employers and their employees during the pandemic. I remember pre-COVID, I had a token that allowed me to work remotely if I was traveling to a different facility or site for whatever reason, but it just wasn’t the norm. I think with COVID we really started utilizing technical expertise and doing it in a sense of ‘This is every day,’ not just for the week while someone visits another facility. It's gone on for weeks, months and years; and now a few companies have decided to remain virtual as opposed to going back to the office. 

I think it definitely comes from the trust of the employer to know that employees are still invested in the success of their organizations regardless of whether they're coming into the office or not. It also increased work-life balance. You have more time with your family if you don't have to spend it on a commute. 

How has preparing for and competing in the WiSys Big Idea Tournament helped you with the way you present your ideas from an entrepreneurial standpoint?

I mentioned my interviews before. I had a totally different idea to start and (the competition) was a pretty big pivot point in my presentation where I made the assumption that people weren't taking these living abroad experiences because they didn't know how. The interviews helped me see that it was really an economic hindrance they were facing. Being able to communicate that in my presentation was helpful. From revising my value proposition to understanding what channels I needed to test, there was a lot of revision leading up to the competition. Going through the pitch on campus to qualify for the competition also really helped me put my thoughts in order. 

What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?

Fail as quickly as you can. I had heard that before, but it never hit home until now. Going through the process and doing those interviews kind of blew my hypothesis out of the water. It helped me realize it doesn’t have to be the right thing, I’m going to discover what the right thing is. I think that would be a great piece of advice for another young entrepreneur. Just throw something out there. Don’t try to figure out what the right idea is, the customers you want will tell you what that is. 

Where do you see your business idea heading in the near future? What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m going to start testing more interests concerning how the value proposition has changed in terms of connecting people to sources of sustainability. The MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is going to be around gathering followers and email addresses so that when I do continue to develop the website, I will be able to connect back to the people who have already expressed interest. That goes back to the notion of failing fast, because if no one is clicking on any of my posts after a month, I may need to change my communication.


Through the WiSys VentureHome® program, WiSys works with local community and university partners to bolster entrepreneurship across the state in UW System-connected communities. Since 2020, WiSys VentureHomes® have been established in Eau Claire, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Platteville and Superior.

The program offers local entrepreneurs “everything your startup needs under one roof™,” including concierge service, entrepreneurial resources and a supportive mentoring program.

For more information about WiSys VentureHome®, visit For more information about the WiSys Big Idea Tournament, visit

WiSys is a nonprofit organization that works with faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the UW System to facilitate cutting-edge research programs, develop and commercialize discoveries and foster a spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking across the state.