A Speaker that Speaks to “Her“

Bascom Ventures sat down with Wayne Ludlum about his Wisconsin-rooted business, entrepreneurship, and creating a speaker that caters to women.

Bascom Ventures caught up with Wayne Ludlum, one half of Stellé’s leadership team, a company that’s speaking to the women audiophiles out there in a dude-dominated space.

In an audio world “dominated by the dudely,” Stellé is looking to change that by combining personal style, sound quality, and femininity into their elegant line of speakers. The idea was started by husband-and-wife duo, Wayne Ludlum and Anna Perelman, when Wayne’s audio guru skills mixed with Anna’s passion for fashion.

With Stellé’s newest smart pillar collection now shipping, we thought that it’d be a great time to catch up with UW grad Wayne. Wayne’s the Co-founder and President at Stellé. We talked about his Wisconsin roots, how the company came about, and what motivated him to become an entrepreneur.

Where in Wisconsin did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Beloit and grew up as a huge Badger fan. I spent a lot of time in Madison — even more so when I started attending UW in 1985. I was amazed at how quickly I fell in love with the culture and campus.

Did you stay in Wisconsin after graduation?

Sadly, no. After UW, my life took me to Southern California where work and family became my priority. Fortunately, being 1 of over 45 cousins, I’ve always maintained my Wisconsin connection.

Where did the Stellé idea originate from?

My wife and I were disagreeing about the speakers I wanted to bring into our house. She basically told me to design something that not only sounded good, but looked like it belonged in our home. So we started with our first speaker, the Stellé Audio Pillar. It’s a speaker that looks like a beautiful vase for your home that happens to be a speaker.

What does your role at Stellé entail?

As the Co-founder and President, I oversee all the design and development of our products and engineering, including managing our Far East Team and OEM manufacturers overseas. The ever-changing technology in this space always keeps me on my toes, especially with my design-conscious wife by my side.

Can you describe the design and development process for you?

It all starts with an idea. I take that idea and we look at what’s happening in the marketplace around that idea or product concept and how we can differentiate ourselves. We take it all the way from industrial design to engineering to prototyping and then to final manufacturing. At that point, I work closely with my team of industrial designers, acoustic, mechanical, firmware/hardware engineers, and project managers to have the product ready to hit the market.

This year, we were excited to integrate Amazon Alexa voice command, multi-room networking, and proactive energy detection into our product.

Since starting Stellé, have you reconnected with the UW community?

I feel more of a connection to Madison today than I have ever felt, largely to the amazing group of people that I now call my friends, mentors, and business colleagues. Since starting the company, I have had the privilege of reconnecting with UW, and received some help from my childhood friend and official UW Athletic photographer Dave Stluka, along with many other extraordinary people in the area.

What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

Growing up, I saw my dad and so many of his friends and family members lose their jobs and livelihoods because factories closed down or moved. It left them feeling helpless and at a loss for what to do next. I knew, then and there that I wanted to be in control of my own destiny.

When did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

It started fairly soon after I left UW with my first business, DW Sports. We were one of the largest team dealers on the West Coast in the mid 90’s. DW allowed me to combine my thirst for entrepreneurship with my love for sports. Today, on my fourth business, my wife calls me a serial entrepreneur who wouldn’t know how to survive in the corporate world.

What do you enjoy about being an entrepreneur?

It’s addicting. It’s about passion, resilience, and perseverance. No day is the same, and the continuous learning and the satisfaction of somewhat being in control of my destiny is what keeps me in it.

Stellé has extended a great offer to our Bascom community. Go to www.stelleaudio.com and use discount code: BascomBadgers30 for 30% off your entire purchase.

Bascom Ventures is a network of Wisconsin alumni investing in UW businesses. If you would like to learn more about investing alongside UW alumni, click here.

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