Five organizations with fresh ideas on how to strengthen entrepreneurship and support new business ventures have won a total of $170,850 in a new grant program administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
The Entrepreneurship Partner Grants, awarded on a competitive basis, aim to promote entrepreneurial growth across the state and impact underserved communities by funding new programs.
Community organizations in Wausau, Beloit, Milwaukee and Rhinelander were chosen to receive funding.
“These grants allow organizations to test new ideas in an effort to stimulate entrepreneurship,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “The recipients showed both creativity and the promise of bringing these new ideas to life to establish a culture of entrepreneurship across a variety of communities.”
The grants, which require a minimum one-to-one match by the organizations, were judged on their feasibility, goals, track record, need, potential outcomes and evidence that the projects would have an impact.
The recipients and their projects are:
The Hmong American Center’s Npau Suav (Dream) program: This Wausau group won a $50,000 grant to provide resources to start up new ventures and support existing businesses. It will offer services including technical assistance, mentoring, marketing, training and office space. It will also focus on the needs of businesses shifting because of the pandemic.
The Center for Teaching Entrepreneurship: The center, based in Milwaukee, will use its $21,000 grant in its Aspire+Create+Grow program to help meet the needs and interests of youth in Milwaukee. The program provides entrepreneurship education, mentoring and technical support to participants ages 9-24.
The Greater Milwaukee Committee: Teaming with Starting Block and Work Around, the committee is working to create a shared platform for Milwaukee and Madison entrepreneurial ecosystems. Its $40,000 grant will help develop the platform, allowing the communities to share resources, provide networking opportunities and event promotion.
Nicolet College: This Rhinelander institution won a $35,000 grant to create an interactive map to display regional resources for entrepreneurs. The “Innovation Illumination” map will expand on the Start In Wisconsin Resource Navigator to easily identify innovation spaces, connect innovators and show event opportunities.
Rising Queens: This Beloit organization aims to increase Black-owned small businesses in the area through workshops and one-on-one coaching. The $24,850 grant will help provide participants with the knowledge of the basics of starting a business and access to a network to help support their efforts.
Aaron Hagar, WEDC vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation, said the grants will help address gaps in entrepreneurship throughout the state and broaden opportunity for up-and-coming businesses.
“The awardees have well-thought-out plans to address the needs of their communities,” he said. “Most of the awards have a focus on communities of color and/or rural communities to expand the resources for entrepreneurs. We hope these programs reach entrepreneurs throughout the state and become sustainable programs moving forward.”
The Entrepreneurship Partner Grants have two tracks—this competitive phase to test new ideas and another round for established and proven programs, such as seed accelerators. The second track allows organizations to apply throughout the year, subject to availability of funding.