$432,000 in grants to help local, regional initiatives for startups

MADISON, WI. March 4, 2020 – The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) announced today that nine organizations have been awarded a total of $432,000 in grants this year to help develop or expand innovative programs aimed at advancing the climate for entrepreneurship throughout the state.

The grants are being awarded as part of WEDC’s Entrepreneurship Support Program, which is now in its fourth year. The grants will help fund activities that promote entrepreneurship or deliver education, training and other resources to assist new and aspiring business owners, particularly in underserved communities and rural areas. Nearly 350 entrepreneurs and organizations are expected to receive services through programs funded by the grants.

“These grants will enable organizations throughout the state to provide more resources to support local entrepreneurial communities that may not have access to other, traditional resources,” said Missy Hughes, Secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “Through this program, we are supporting local and regional organizations that understand the unique needs of their communities and can provide key resources to foster a culture that celebrates and encourages entrepreneurs to build successful businesses in every corner of the state.”

Launched in 2016, the grant program has provided a total of almost $1.5 million in grants to 28 organizations statewide to help fund activities such as prototyping assistance, legal services, and outreach to underserved entrepreneurs. This program has worked to strengthen entrepreneurial communities around the state by enabling organizations to provide services to hundreds of entrepreneurs through a wide variety of initiatives.

This year’s grant recipients are:

  • University of Wisconsin Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic ($50,000) to support entrepreneurship with legal services in rural Wisconsin. The program is expected to assist 50 businesses.
  • Couleecap Inc.of Westby ($80,000) to continue program expansion by adding more communities and implementing a new regional business training model. Target counties for these programs include La Crosse, Vernon, Monroe and Crawford. The program is expected to assist 45 businesses.
  • Red Letter Grant of Eau Claire ($45,000) to grow and serve female entrepreneurs in 26 additional counties in rural communities throughout central and northern Wisconsin. The program is expected to assist 45 businesses.
  • New North Economic Development Group of Green Bay ($30,000) to form the NEW Launch Alliance to create a more connected and resourceful entrepreneurial ecosystem to grow entrepreneurial density, identify and secure capital and other resources, highlight innovative practices within existing companies, and lead the implementation of a web based platform called ‘Start In Wisconsin” . The program is expected to initially assist 30 organizations and 250 entrepreneurs.
  • Janesville Innovation Inc. ($36,000) to build and expand the Rock County Entrepreneurial Business Development Program (RCEBD), which provides customized assistance to startups and scaling growth companies in Rock County. The program is expected to assist 40 businesses.
  • Oconto County Economic Development Corporation ($38,000) to continue and expand Oconto County Business Innovation Development Program (OCBID), to promote and assist in new business formation and accelerate business growth in Oconto County. The program is expected to assist 40 businesses.
  • Doyenne Group of Madison ($65,000) to continue to create equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems in Madison and Milwaukee, where women entrepreneurs are recognized for their ventures and economic clout. The program is expected to assist 60 businesses.
  • Indianhead Community Action Agency Inc. ($33,000) to provide technical assistance resources to entrepreneurs in 12 rural northwest Wisconsin counties. The program is expected to assist 22 businesses.
  • BizStarts, Riverworks Development Corporation and the Social Development Commission (SDC) of Milwaukee ($55,000) to inspire and promote entrepreneurship by providing credentialed education, training and coaching that supports the development of small businesses and the entrepreneurial mindset in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods in Milwaukee. The program is expected to serve at least 70 individuals and more than 30 businesses.

The Entrepreneurship Support Program is 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 Program was 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. Projects supported by the new round of grant funding must take place in 2020.