With about 11% of businesses in Wisconsin being owned by veterans, offering support and resources to grow both existing and new veteran-owned businesses has been a key focus of the state in recent years.

More than 65,000 veteran-owned businesses in Wisconsin employ more than 100,000 Wisconsinites, and they account for $20 billion in annual sales, according to a recent study. That’s a big part of the reason why Wisconsin has made an increased effort to boost its support of veteran entrepreneurs.

On Oct. 1, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers traveled to Milwaukee and Appleton with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary-designee Mary Kolar to announce more than $400,000 in grants to five nonprofit organizations offering assistance, resources and support to veteran entrepreneurs.

“When veterans who start their own businesses succeed, everyone benefits,” Governor Evers said in a press conference. “To help veteran entrepreneurs achieve their goals in Wisconsin, we must provide them with the vital tools and resources they need to prosper.”

The five organizations selected to receive grant funding this year are:

  • The Center for Veterans Issues Ltd., Milwaukee, was awarded $100,000 for a storefront retail café. The goal of the café is to create a new approach to vocational training and employment for veterans. The organization will train veterans in all areas of employment with an emphasis in food service. The Center for Veterans Issues will credential veterans for employment and help with job placement.
  • Fox Valley Technical College Foundation, Appleton, was awarded $97,800 to conduct two innovation accelerators for veteran cohorts in fall 2020 and spring 2021. The accelerators will provide veterans with entrepreneurial training and technical support, networking opportunities, one-on-one mentoring and seed funds for startup expenses.
  • The Financial Promise, Milwaukee, was awarded $20,000 to expand its mission of advocating for Wisconsin veterans through job training, financial literacy, business ownership and program outreach.
  • Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Milwaukee, was awarded $100,000 to continue its support of veteran entrepreneurs through educational sessions and events, networking opportunities and promotional programming.
  • Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, Milwaukee, was awarded $100,000 to fund its Boots to Business program and provide unique opportunities for veterans to explore business ownership, network and empower one another.

The five organizations honored with grant funds are just a portion of the support available for veterans looking to start their own businesses in Wisconsin.