The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) plans to award a total of roughly $200,000 in matching grants to groups working to increase entrepreneurship opportunities for communities of color, women, veterans and LGBTQ individuals.
The competitive awards are the second phase of WEDC’s 2021 Entrepreneurship Support Grants. They are the first awards of this type designed specifically for groups helping to create and grow diversely owned businesses in Wisconsin.
“We know the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on communities of color and that women in particular were forced out of the workforce by this crisis,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “These grants are targeting the programs that can help people of color, women, veterans and LGBTQ community members move forward in the economy as entrepreneurs.”
WEDC will announce the winners of the first round of 2021 Entrepreneurship Support Grants soon. The agency expects to award more than $500,000 to organizations serving more than 800 entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.
Applications for the second round of grants will be accepted through March 8. Only programs focused on developing and supporting diverse entrepreneurship opportunities for minorities, women, veterans and LGBTQ individuals are eligible. These grants are limited to programs and groups, and are not awarded to individual entrepreneurs.
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.
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.
While WEDC already had a variety of programs to support the formation, development, growth and financing of technology-based and growth-oriented startup and early-stage businesses, the Entrepreneurship Support Grants were added to provide funds for organizations and communities whose efforts may not meet the eligibility criteria for the other programs. Entrepreneurship Support Grants are awarded on a competitive basis, and grant funds must be matched by the applicant.