More than $500,000 awarded to groups helping startups thrive
Young companies and entrepreneurs chasing dreams need a lot of support—marketing, accounting, legal advice, business planning, mentoring and more. In Wisconsin, a number of organizations are rising to the challenge of building a creative, prosperous business community where people have support for turning the best ideas into businesses.
Thirteen of these groups have been awarded grants totaling $529,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
Since their creation in 2016, WEDC’s Entrepreneurship Support Grants have invested more than $2.4 million in groups statewide working to improve and increase access to entrepreneurship resources. More than 800 entrepreneurs are expected to be served by the programs funded this year.
“These grants are really about creating an environment across Wisconsin that allows entrepreneurs to take their best ideas and turn them into successful businesses,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “What’s so exciting about this year’s grants is that these groups are bringing entrepreneurship resources into rural areas where some services are harder to access and into communities of color to inspire new business leaders.”
This year’s grant recipients include:
- Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (Milwaukee): $60,000 to expand professional accounting, marketing and legal support services for women- and minority-owned businesses on Milwaukee’s northwest side; the group is specifically targeting child care businesses for assistance
- Bizstarts (Milwaukee): $60,000 for its institute, which works with entrepreneurs to help build wealth in low- to moderate-income Milwaukee neighborhoods through education and long-term coaching
- SCORE Wisconsin (Milwaukee): $50,500 to expand its services to all Wisconsin counties; SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) offers free business mentoring, education and farm planning resources
- Nicolet Area Technical College (Rhinelander): $50,000 to continue and expand its GRID program; GRID, which stands for Guiding Rural Innovation and Development and is based on the college’s Rhinelander campus, is designed to strengthen the entrepreneurship community and inspire innovation in northern Wisconsin
- Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County (Fitchburg): $45,000 to create a training program for Latino business owners to learn and improve skills needed to strategically expand their businesses to maximize sustainable growth
- Western Dairyland Business Center (Independence): $40,000 to provide peer mentorship by experienced business development staff; the center works in primarily rural western Wisconsin counties including Eau Claire, Chippewa, Pepin, Dunn, Buffalo, Trempealeau, Jackson, Barron, Pierce, St. Croix, Polk, Richland, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Green.
- University of Wisconsin-Platteville: $40,000 to create Pioneer Innovation and Prototyping Services, which will support budding entrepreneurs throughout Wisconsin, including faculty at UW-Platteville; the project will give rural entrepreneurs access to concept-to-prototype services through a virtual platform
- BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation (Milwaukee): $40,000 for its HATCH program, a high-energy, social networking pitch contest; HATCH events are held outside of Wisconsin’s major metro areas, and the winners of preliminary events get the chance to compete at a regional final for a grand prize
- Couleecap Inc. (Westby): $40,000 for a collaborative project called Recovery through Entrepreneurship and Opportunity that supports displaced workers in western Wisconsin who want to become self-employed; the program, aimed at aiding recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, offers business planning, connections to funding sources, business incubation and more
- Marquette University Law School’s Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic (Milwaukee): $35,000 to provide free legal advice to microentrepreneurs, build an online platform with information and basic legal forms, and develop a referral service to connect low- and moderate-income microentrepreneurs with volunteer business attorneys
- CAP Services (Stevens Point): $30,000 to provide assistance to businesses adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, offer training and create access to capital with flexibility in repayment; CAP Services works with low-income individuals with offices in Marquette, Waushara, Portage, Waupaca and Outagamie counties
- MCDEVCO (Wausau): $30,000 to expand its entrepreneurial education programs and accelerate development of new sustainability-focused programming in Marathon and adjoining counties
- Financial Promise Foundation (Milwaukee): $3,500 for its financial and business education programs targeted to low-income, minority individuals and veterans in Milwaukee County
A second round of Entrepreneurship Support Grants, focusing on supporting business growth and development of women, minority, veteran and LGBTQ entrepreneurs in Wisconsin, is currently underway.
The Entrepreneurship Support Grants are part of WEDC’s suite of entrepreneurship resources, which also include support for startup accelerators, seed capital funds, investment tax credits and technology development loans. In addition, WEDC supports and engages an existing statewide network of partners that offers business training, mentorship and financing to aspiring entrepreneurs.
WEDC created the Entrepreneurship Support Grants to provide funds for organizations and communities whose efforts may not meet the eligibility criteria for other programs that support the formation, development, growth and financing of technology-based and growth-oriented startups and early-stage businesses. Entrepreneurship Support Grants are awarded on a competitive basis, and grant funds must be matched by the applicant. Projects supported by the new round of grant funding must take place in calendar year 2021.