Filling the gaps for Wisconsin’s entrepreneurs
To help fill resource gaps, launch new initiatives and build stronger community networks for entrepreneurs in Wisconsin, WEDC created the Entrepreneurship Support Program. Specifically for nonprofit and community-based organizations, this grant program is designed to advance the statewide climate for entrepreneurship. As a pilot program in 2016, the program provided nearly $500,000 to 11 projects, funding entrepreneur-supporting activities such as prototyping assistance, legal services and outreach to entrepreneurs in underserved communities. Thanks to the strong interest and need for the support offered by the program, WEDC has moved the Entrepreneurship Support Program beyond a pilot to become a mainstay of its program offerings.
Awards quickly benefit Wisconsin entrepreneurs
It was not long after the initial round of grants that recipients started reporting the positive impact of the new program. One recipient that has experienced great success because of the program is Indianhead Community Action Agency (ICAA), which is based in Ladysmith and serves northwest Wisconsin. With the grant, ICAA offered business seminars in collaboration with local economic development agencies and developed a Small Business Academy, a five-week course that covers key topics related to starting a business. The agency also increased its technical assistance and was able to provide small loans to businesses, resulting in the launch of more than 15 businesses in the region.
In northeastern Wisconsin, the UW-Stout Discovery Center used its grant funding to provide a valuable service that wasn’t available in the market: prototyping and product development services to help innovators conceptualize and refine their ideas. Through the first three quarters of the grant year, more than 40 people in northern and western Wisconsin received assistance, and the Discovery Center plans to expand this service statewide to assist even more entrepreneurs.
PHOTO: Ken Pearson, business development director of the Indianhead Community Action Agency, leads a training session in Sawyer County as part of the group's Business Development Program, which will be able to expand its services thanks to a new WEDC grant. Photo by CandanceGiwojna, ICAA public relations