Supporting both innovative and established ways to aid Wisconsin entrepreneurs is key to building a vibrant economy, and a new $2 million grant program is encouraging programs that help emerging businesses thrive.
WEDC is accepting applications for the competitive Entrepreneurship Partner Grants until Oct. 29. Organizations working on pilot programs and new ways to encourage entrepreneurs are eligible for grants of up to $50,000 each.
“We know that starting a business is a challenge,” says Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “We also know that investing in a culture of innovation and support for entrepreneurs—particularly people of color, women, LGBT individuals and those in rural areas who have not been served by other programs—pays off in new opportunities for all.”
The grants have two tracks: one to assist organizations in implementing new approaches and a another (administered on a rolling, always-open basis) to underwrite programs with proven track records. This new program replaces WEDC’s popular and competitive Entrepreneurship Support Grants, as well as the Seed Accelerator Program.
“What we were finding is that so many mature and wonderful programs for entrepreneurs were applying for these grants that it was very difficult for the awards committee to pass over these programs in order to fund some innovative but unproven programs that were just getting started,” Hughes says.
The new grant program helps boost those innovative efforts, while continuing to support tested initiatives that promote the success of Wisconsin entrepreneurs.
Established efforts such as seed accelerators and previously funded programs with a successful record may apply for grant funding at any time, subject to availability of funds, and do not need to submit their applications during the competitive application window. The maximum grant amount in that category is generally $200,000.
Applicants for the competitive grants will be judged on how their programs create entrepreneurial growth in Wisconsin and their impact on underserved communities by using education, technical assistance and a variety of other approaches. Grants will generally range from $10,000 to $50,000.