The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is accepting applications from nonprofit and community-based organizations for a grant program designed to advance the statewide climate for entrepreneurship.
The Entrepreneurship Support Program provides financial assistance of between $10,000 and $100,000 for projects that promote entrepreneurship and provide Wisconsin entrepreneurs with key resources, including training, mentorship, and business development and financial services.
Launched as a pilot program in 2016, the initiative provided nearly $500,000 in grants to 11 projects statewide in its first year to help fund activities such as prototyping assistance, legal services, and outreach to underserved entrepreneurs. Because of the strong interest in the program, WEDC allocated another $500,000 for grants this year.
“Communities throughout Wisconsin recognize the importance of supporting new business ventures that create opportunities in their regions,” said Mark R. Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “These grants help organizations provide direct assistance to new business owners and help develop a culture that encourages and celebrates entrepreneurial endeavors.”
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, this initiative provides funding to organizations and communities whose efforts may not meet the eligibility criteria for existing programs.
“The program has proven to be a catalyst in filling resource gaps, launching new initiatives and building strong community networks,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC’s vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “This year, we are again looking for innovative projects that demonstrate highly collaborative and well-designed plans to offer entrepreneurs the support they need to launch successful businesses.”
The 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 2018.
Applications are due October 20, and will be evaluated on criteria including applicant capability, project alignment and feasibility, project and financial need, collaboration and potential impact.
The program is the part of WEDC’s suite of entrepreneurship resources, which includes 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.