In Wisconsin, veterans, active duty service members and their families have access to a variety of tools and resources to meet virtually any career aspiration.

Members from the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber

Members from the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce listen at a Corporate Roundtable event at G4S Secure Solutions in Madison. The event was held March 28, and the panel included Ben Klenke, Curtis Schmitt, Greg Fischer and Garan Chivenski

From dozens of benefits and services offered through state agencies like the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) to countless community-based nonprofit organizations working to guide veterans in the right direction, veterans receive unmatched support in the Badger State.

One key initiative the WDVA has promoted in recent years is veteran entrepreneurship. When veterans who start their own businesses flourish, everyone benefits, which is why WDVA offers entrepreneurship grants, applications for which are open through July 31.

The WDVA is accepting applications from registered 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations that provide entrepreneurship training, or technical, business or other assistance to veteran entrepreneurs to improve employment outcomes. It did the same in 2018, when it announced grant recipients to receive $400,000 combined in grant assistance.

The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce was one of the six organizations to be awarded a portion of the grant funds last fall.

“Grant funds were used to provide educational assistance to veteran business owners, one-on-one coaching and mentorship to veteran entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, networking programming to veteran business owners and professionals, and promotional programming to advertise veteran-owned businesses to consumers across the state,” Chamber Director of Communications Erin Gagnon said of the $100,000 the organization was awarded last fall.

Gagnon said that as a result of the support offered in Wisconsin, the Chamber expanded its programming across the southeastern Wisconsin area, enabling it to increase the frequency and reach of events.

“The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce increased membership by 25 percent in 2018,” Gagnon said. “The grant funds also supported three new programs, and 12 events reaching 764 veterans and family members in southeastern, south central, and western Wisconsin.”

Fox Valley Technical College Foundation, Inc. was also a recipient of grant funds last year. The school was awarded nearly $95,000 to enhance its “Innovation Accelerator” for veterans programs. The funds directly provided veterans entrepreneurial training and technical support.

“(The Innovation Accelerator) helps provide the knowledge, the network and the resources for veterans to be able to validate their ideas,” said Fox Valley Technical College Venture Center Director Amy Pietsch. “They can understand, develop and design business models that have the best chance for success and move forward and develop a business plan.”

Pietsch said offering programming to veterans looking to start their own business was an easy decision for Fox Valley Technical College to make.

“When you look at the overall number of veterans in Wisconsin and start doing the calculations, you realize there is a really big pool of innovation and opportunity within the veteran community,” she said.

To learn more about the WDVA’s grant program, veteran entrepreneurship, and to apply, click here.