2023 Wisconsin Rural Equity Grant Program Impact 

February 5, 2024

In our ongoing commitment to the growth and success of northern Wisconsin businesses, the Entrepreneur Fund (EFund) proudly launched the Wisconsin Rural Equity Grant Program in 2023 with funding supported by the Wisconsin DOA. This program was a piece of a full expansion across northern Wisconsin to provide lending, services and programming aimed at assisting small businesses, particularly those underbanked and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Specifically, EFund set out to award 10-20 grants of up to $10,000 each through 2023 to the northwestern counties of our expansion including Bayfield, Ashland, Iron, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Price, and Douglas counties. As intended, the program made significant strides, allocating $170,000 across these eight counties. This funding provided crucial support to a diverse array of businesses, enhancing their resilience and capacity for growth. A committee of internal and external stakeholders met over four meetings in October and November to review and score 121 applications for the program and finally selecting 18 awardees to match the intent of the program and ensure geographic, demographic and industry representation. Below is a breakdown of how the grants were awarded. 

  • Total Grants: 18 
  • Total Funding: $170,000 
  • Distribution by County: 
    • Douglas: 1 grant ($10,000) 
    • Bayfield: 7 grants ($66,600) 
    • Ashland: 2 grants ($20,000) 
    • Iron: 1 grant ($8,300) 
    • Burnett: 2 grants ($20,000) 
    • Washburn: 1 grant ($10,000) 
    • Sawyer: 3 grants ($25,100) 
    • Price: 1 grant ($10,000) 
  • Impact on Women-Owned Businesses: 84% (15 out of 18) of the grants were awarded to women-owned businesses. 
  • Impact on BIPOC-Owned Businesses: 44% (8 out of 18) of the grants were awarded to BIPOC-owned businesses.  
  • Diverse Industries: Grants were awarded to diverse set of industries across these communities including: 
    • Retail – 5 
    • Hospitality – 4 
    • Childcare – 3 
    • Repair Services – 2 
    • Health & Fitness – 2   
    • Construction – 1 
    • Agriculture – 1 

Looking Ahead to 2024

As we move forward, the Wisconsin Rural Equity Grant Program is set to continue making an impact. With expanded outreach to all Native nations within the EFund service region and new counties, we’re excited to see the growth and innovation that 2024 will bring. We will specifically be expanding into Vilas, Oneida, Florence, Forest, and Marinette counties in 2024 and will be awarding 10-20 grants through a similar process. All Tribal Nations in the EFund Wisconsin region will also be eligible to apply for these grants. More information will be shared in 2024. Subscribe to our online newsletter to get updates on the program and grant announcements at efund.org/Wisconsin