Every day, we have the privilege of partnering with entrepreneurs to create thriving and inclusive communities across our region. These entrepreneurs are the unsung heroes, the visionaries whose dedication drives economic diversity, growth, and innovation. At the Entrepreneur Fund, we are deeply committed to supporting these remarkable individuals in every way possible, and we are thrilled to share the extraordinary journey we have embarked on together.
As we reflect on the achievements thus far in 2023, we are filled with gratitude and excitement for the work to come. Our impact is not merely measured in numbers, but in the transformative changes we have witnessed in the lives of entrepreneurs, their businesses, employees, and the communities they serve. We believe that our work can be a compass, guiding us toward positive impact every day.
Key achievements thus far in 2023:
- We’ve worked with 822 local businesses, a 2% increase from this same time in 2022.
- Disbursed 222 loans totaling $14.8M with an average loan size of $66,000.
- Completed nearly 200 impact projects to expand, improve or start new local businesses.
- 70% of our work has been to established businesses looking to improve or grow.
- Over 25% of our lending has fueled economic pillars in the region with $1M+ in annual revenue.
- 62% of our lending has been to female majority-owned businesses.
- 15% of our lending has gone to BIPOC-owned businesses in a region with <10% BIPOC-owned businesses.
- Nearly 75% of our lending has gone to rural-based businesses across our region.
- Our clients in 2023 have created or sustained over 4,000 jobs across our region.
We’ve also achieved significant milestones:
- Geographic Expansion: We’ve extended our reach into (12) new counties in northern Wisconsin.
- Recognition: Our WBA Central office won the SBA Minnesota District Office’s Women’s Business Center of the Year award.
- Team Expansion: Our team has grown to 40, adding a COO and a Director of Strategic Partnerships.
- Successful Programs: We concluded the Stride program for BIPOC entrepreneurs and a pilot program for enhancing job quality in small businesses, which we will share more about later in the year.
- Capital Award: We were awarded $6.5 million in capital from US Treasury to expand access to capital to those who need it most across our region.
Collaboration for Impact
We are committed to entrepreneurs and businesses whose ambitious visions light the way for our mission. Their dreams, goals and ideas are the lifeblood of our work, driving us forward and shaping our strategies and objectives. In an introspective review of our work this year, we attempted to go beyond the mere metrics, diving deep into the essence of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and its profound impact. As we navigate through the rich, qualitative contours of this work, certain key themes and needs consistently emerge, illuminating the transformative change we seek to make within the entrepreneurial landscape and our communities.
- Job Creation: Through our efforts, EFund clients have played a significant role in sustaining 4,640 full-time jobs across the region in 2023. These employment opportunities have not only provided financial stability to individuals but have also contributed to the overall job market in the communities we serve.
- Nurturing Business Sustainability and Resilience: Our dedicated team of advisors has worked closely with businesses to improve their operational efficiency, enhance financial management practices, and navigate the challenges of the market. By fostering sustainable practices, we have helped businesses build resilience and position themselves for long-term success.
- Driving Economic Growth: By providing support and resources, we have empowered businesses to expand their operations, introduce new services, and boost their revenue. This, in turn, has had a profound impact on the region’s economic growth, creating a thriving business ecosystem.
- Building an Inclusive Business Landscape: A core focus of our work has been to support women, BIPOC, and rural entrepreneurs. This deliberate approach has been instrumental in addressing gender and racial disparities and overcoming the unique challenges faced by businesses in rural areas. We are proud to contribute to creating an inclusive business environment where diverse entrepreneurs can thrive.
- Addressing Market Gaps: Our clients have responded to pressing community needs by expanding their businesses to fill crucial market gaps. Whether it is ensuring access to essential services or fostering safer and more sustainable communities, our collective efforts have made a tangible difference in meeting these demands.
- Fostering Entrepreneurship and Innovation: By providing the necessary support, resources, and guidance, we have cultivated a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our work has not only encouraged individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams but has also fostered innovation, paving the way for groundbreaking ventures that will shape the future of our communities.
- Strengthening Community Vibrancy – Entrepreneurs are the true heroes of their communities. They possess the commitment, vision, and drive to create positive change. We continue to support them in turning their dreams into reality. By providing financial resources, business guidance, and strategic support, we empower entrepreneurs to make a lasting impact on their communities. Together, we celebrate their unwavering dedication and amplify their efforts to revitalize and invest in the places they call home.
- Facilitating Key Partnerships for Collaborative Success: Our work has been greatly enhanced through strategic partnerships with key stakeholders in the region. We have forged strong alliances with local Economic Development Authorities (EDAs), commercial bankers, Economic Development Corporations (EDCs), local elected officials, and funders. These partnerships have been instrumental in leveraging resources, expertise, and networks to drive our collective mission forward. By working hand in hand with our primary partners, we have been able to maximize our impact, foster greater economic resilience, and create a more vibrant and inclusive business ecosystem. Together, we are making a lasting difference in the region’s economic growth and community development.
Together, these impactful contributions have transformed the region and empowered businesses to achieve their goals. As we continue on our mission, we remain dedicated to driving economic growth, creating sustainable businesses, promoting inclusivity, and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. Through these collective efforts, we are building a prosperous future for our communities.
Looking Ahead: Steering the Future
As we anticipate the rest of 2023, we recognize the importance of understanding our region’s unique needs. Our mission to partner with entrepreneurs to create growing businesses, vibrant communities and a diverse regional economy continues to be relevant and essential in our ever-changing economic landscape.
As work on our current strategic plan wraps up, we look forward to kicking off our strategic planning process in late summer. This will map out our future plans and demonstrate our commitment to economic diversity, resilience, and justice led by entrepreneurs.
In a rapidly changing economic environment, we remain committed to fostering an inclusive and vibrant economy. Our aim is to make a difference, empower entrepreneurs, and build stronger communities. Together, we can sculpt a future of shared economic prosperity across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.