EFund receives $8 million in grants to expand small business support in northern Wisconsin

October 28, 2022

From left, David Manion, Entrepreneur Fund Board Chair and owner of VC3; Department of Financial Institutions Deputy Secretary Patty Epstein; Crystal Rohde, EFund Board Member and business specialist at Northwest Regional Planning Commission; Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld; and Andy Donahue, EFund Board Vice Chair and University of Wisconsin Superior Small Business Development Center Director, present an $8 million check to the Entrepreneur Fund to expand its small business support throughout Northwest Wisconsin at the Superior Entrepreneurship Center on Thursday, October 27, in Superior, Wisconsin.

The Entrepreneur Fund is expanding its reach in Wisconsin. On Thursday, October 27, Governor Evers Administration officials celebrated an $8 million investment in northern Wisconsin small businesses alongside local government, community, and business leaders at the Superior Entrepreneurship Center in Superior, Wisconsin.  

Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld and Department of Financial Institutions Deputy Secretary Patti Epstein discussed how the two grants that make up the $8 million investment from Governor Tony Evers’ Badger Bounceback Initiative will help start, grow, and strengthen small businesses in a 13-county region of northern Wisconsin. 

“Governor Tony Evers cares about Northwest Wisconsin and the businesses and communities that make places like Superior, Washburn, Ashland, and Hayward great places to live, work, and play,” said Secretary-designee Blumenfeld. “We’re so proud that the Entrepreneur Fund is a partner in this work and can’t wait to see all that they do with an incredible $8 million investment.” 

The Entrepreneur Fund received a $5 million Diverse Business Investment Grant, which will expand access to face-to-face services and increase access to capital for diverse small businesses. Building on those investments, the Entrepreneur Fund is also receiving $3 million from a Diverse Business Assistance Grant, which will provide technical support, training, and other essential assistance to help small businesses flourish in Northwest Wisconsin. 

“This is a significant investment by Governor Evers in our region’s small businesses and local communities of rural Wisconsin. The investment will enable the Entrepreneur Fund to expand our coverage from one to thirteen counties in northern Wisconsin to support rural small businesses, drive community vibrancy and bring economic growth,” shared Shawn Wellnitz, CEO and President of the Entrepreneur Fund.   

Using a phased approach over the next three years, EFund will expand to12 additional Wisconsin counties and five tribal nations in Wisconsin, which encompasses the communities north of Highway 8. Beginning in 2023, EFund will begin work in seven counties (see map) and open a centralized field office (location TBD) with dedicated staff. In 2024-25, EFund will continue to move further east to the remaining five counties. 

By the year 2025, the Entrepreneur Fund will serve 29 counties and 10 Native nations throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. The green counties on the map are the 17 counties the Entrepreneur Fund currently serves. The dark blue counties are the seven counties EFund will expand to in 2023 and the light blue counties are the five counties EFund will serve in 2024-25.

“The Entrepreneur Fund has a proven track record of putting the communities they serve first, making an impact in areas that need it most, and increasing financial inclusion,” said DFI Deputy Secretary Patti Epstein. “These grant funds will help small business owners overcome disparities, negative economic impacts, and serve as a bridge for future growth and access to mainstream financing. We are excited to see the impact of these funds in northern Wisconsin in the days to come.” 

The Diverse Business Assistance and Diverse Business Investment Grants are part of a more than $1 billion investment allocated by Gov. Evers for economic resilience and support for small businesses and impacted industries. Both grant programs are administered by DOA and funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  

The formal rollout of the expansion will begin in January 2023. More information will be available soon. If you are a small business owner located in our expanded region, please use the contact us form to get connected.  

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