The U.S. Small Business Administration selected two Wisconsin-based business accelerators out of 50 winners of its first ever Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. Gateway Technical College’s Launch Box Accelerator Program and VETransfer’s Victory Spark, a veterans’ business accelerator, were selected among the 800 applicants to receive a cash prize of $50,000 from the SBA.


Launch Box is a 12-week mentoring program that helps participants grow their businesses by establishing revenue models, customer surveys and prototypes, and working to make sure their business is profitable. Kristin Niemiec, Launch Box manager, believes the grant will help them provide a necessary, hands-on service to local entrepreneurs.

“It will help those entrepreneurs, who – as their business grows – will be the job creators, the tax base creators. This is something we have hoped to provide all along,” said Niemiec.

VETransfer runs Victory Spark, a 12-week accelerator program for military veteran entrepreneurs. The program currently is between state grants, but co-founders Nick Wichert and Greg Meier explained that with the SBA funding, VETransfer can cover the operational costs needed to move forward with its next program.


The SBA accelerator fund winners were selected by a panel of seven judges who are experts in entrepreneurship, investing and business plans. In addition to providing funds to Wisconsin growth accelerators, the SBA also recently provided a $500,000 innovation cluster grant to The Water Council in Milwaukee.

The Water Council is one of four new Regional Innovation Cluster awardees across the nation that will focus on the most effective approaches to linking small businesses to regional networks of leading research, commercialization tools and financing. With the grant, The Water Council will create a Center of Excellence for Freshwater Innovation and Small Business Development to promote the growth and development of small businesses operating in the water technology sector.