For entrepreneurs who have a new business idea or for existing companies that are looking for a fresh innovation boost, the possibilities in the New North are abundant.
Throughout the region, innovation stations, incubators and programs are helping startups, inventors and entrepreneurs. The key is getting people connected with the right resources and growing a network of assistance that can help get a new idea off the ground.
There’s no question TitletownTech, a partnership between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft, has shined a light on innovation in the region. The NEW Launch Alliance also is in place to keep entrepreneurs informed about incubators and services, creating endless networking possibilities and plenty of places to look for assistance.
“I’m 20 years of being bullish on Northeast Wisconsin being the best place to launch and grow a business,” says Amy Pietsch, director of Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center, which she’s led since 2004. “All these years later, I’m seeing the evolution of that ecosystem and the attention and the focus now of entrepreneurship throughout the entire region.”
Across the board, innovation incubators and programs like the Venture Center work with clients first by discussing their idea and then connecting them with networks of resources, assistance, loans or investors.
“If you want to launch or grow a business, no matter what kind, if there’s an opportunity to build structure around your idea, build a company and be able to generate revenue and profit — this is the place for you to be able to do it,” Pietsch says.
As a college-based program, FVTC’s Venture Center can help an entrepreneur build any needed skill sets to move their idea forward, understand the action steps required and find the right people to consult.
During the two decades FVTC has been working with entrepreneurs, it has developed a network of hundreds of professionals across numerous industries, Pietsch says. It all starts with an idea.
“Once you’re ready to take it, run with it, scale with it, guess what? There are all these other people that are here and will be excited to work with you,” she says.
FVTC has helped launch more than 550 businesses through its E-seed program and its Venture Center during the past 20 years or so, Pietsch says.
The Venture Center also collaborates with other community entrepreneurial programs like gener8tor’s gBeta program and the Innovation Accelerator program for veterans. In addition, it partners with the AARP Foundation and its Work for Yourself at 50+ program, which allows the Venture Center to reach entrepreneurs beyond the region and even outside of Wisconsin.
Getting new businesses off the ground benefits the entire region by creating jobs and wealth for founders and investors that didn’t exist before.
“Our sweet spot at the Venture Center has always been the solo, micro and more traditional small businesses and people who have the vision to operate those types of businesses,” Pietsch says.