MADISON, WI. Sept. 12, 2016 – The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is accepting applications for a new grant program designed to advance the climate for entrepreneurship throughout the state.

The Entrepreneurship Support program is open to nonprofit organizations and communities for activities and projects that promote entrepreneurship and deliver key services and resources to Wisconsin entrepreneurs.

While WEDC has a variety of programs to support the formation, development, growth and financing of technology-based and growth-oriented startup and early-stage businesses, the new initiative provides funding to organizations and communities whose efforts may not meet the eligibility criteria for existing programs.

“There are numerous organizations across the state that support the overall mission of identifying, educating, servicing and funding Wisconsin entrepreneurs,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for WEDC. “These grants will help leverage those assets and further increase the availability of high-impact resources supporting new, innovative approaches to serving the entrepreneurial community.”

To achieve that goal, the new pilot program will provide grants of between $10,000 and $100,000 for activities such as the promotion of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial education, mentorship and training, and business development and financial services.

“The successful launch of new business ventures is vitally important to our economic future,” explained Tricia Braun, deputy secretary and chief operating officer of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “The Entrepreneurship Support grant will assist local and regional efforts to inspire, engage and support aspiring and active entrepreneurs.

“We believe this program will result in creative approaches to helping entrepreneurs,” Braun added. “Some of the best new ideas originate from local organizations because they are the ones who truly understand the unique needs of their communities.”

Hagar said the program is expected to help fill a gap that may exist in rural and midsize communities throughout the state and that it should foster more collaboration between organizations with similar goals.

“The program is intended to bring new services to regions where there are still gaps, and to increase the impact of services where they are available,” Hagar said. “One common theme across research on this topic is that the strongest entrepreneurial communities are the ones that maximize connectivity among both entrepreneurs and service providers. We’re looking for projects that reflect that spirit of collaboration.”

Bon Wikenheiser, state director of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, part of the UW Extension, said she expects the program to result in the development of innovative plans that will bolster the many services already provided to entrepreneurs.

“No small business succeeds alone, and no one program can provide everything necessary for entrepreneurs to thrive,” Wikenheiser said. “This new program encourages public and private organizations to focus on specific needs identified in the projects, and to execute solutions together.”

The program is the latest addition to WEDC’s suite of entrepreneurship resources, which includes support for startup accelerators, seed capital funds, investment tax credits and technology loans. In addition, WEDC supports and engages an existing statewide network of partners that offers business training, mentorship and financing to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Wisconsin rates high nationally in the survival rate of new businesses in part because of the state’s strong support system for young companies,” Hagar said. “This program will support strategic efforts by organizations to encourage entrepreneurship, encourage those thinking about starting a new business to take that step, and offer the support needed to help them succeed.”

The $500,000 competitive program will provide grants that must be matched by the applicant. Funding can be used for personnel, professional services and materials directly related to the project, and may not be used for land, facility costs or equipment. Projects supported by the program must take place in 2017.

Applications are due by Oct. 31, and will be evaluated on criteria including applicant capability, project alignment and feasibility, project and financial need, collaboration and potential impact. Application details and additional program information can be found at



About the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive economy. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Visit or follow WEDC on Twitter @_InWisconsin to learn more.