Getting downtown back in business
WWBIC could fill hole left by BID; plans to host contest for entrepreneurs

By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff

Feb. 19, 2015

The winner of the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation business plan competition could receive free rent somewhere in downtown Waukesha.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff  

WAUKESHA - Lots of people have ideas for businesses - from grandma’s cookie recipe that everyone says you should sell to that gin bar you really feel would draw the crowds - but how often do those business ideas translate into reality?

And then how can they stay in business, particularly in downtown Waukesha where shops and restaurants open and close like a revolving door?

Enter the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation.

Formerly mainly a Milwaukee entity, the group has plans to expand westward into Waukesha, where Regional Project Director Amber Miller believes entrepreneurs have great potential to grow.

“We help both men and women, and our main goal is to help people figure out how to start and grow their business,” Miller said. The group has had success all over the state in cities like Milwaukee and Madison with helping everyone from startups to established businesses through group classes, small business loans, one-on-one strategic planning and more.

In the coming weeks and months, WWBIC will begin to offer more classes in Waukesha, such as “Smart Style Business Planning” and “Exploring Entrepreneurship: Do You Have What It Takes?”

“We’ll walk you through the process of being a small business owner. Can you work 60 hours a week and not see your family - can you not get paid for six months?” Miller said. “People have this unrealistic notion that they’ll make a million dollars and work one hour a week.”

So how does this help downtown?

Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin said city staff hopes WWBIC can fulfill some needs that have gone unmet since the Business Improvement District was dissolved.

“Sometimes a new business will come in and decide to just open up and see what happens,” Fortin said. “Right now, they don’t have anywhere to turn. But WWBIC will work with you to set up a business plan, see if it will be successful and then check up on you every quarter.”

Although WWBIC will be available to help current and future business owners citywide, Fortin said startups are often drawn to downtowns and thus that will likely be where a large part of the group’s focus is.

WWBIC applied for and received a $55,000 Community Development Block Grant to put toward the challenge.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension also has a seat at the table and will use part of the grant money to do a marketing research project to see what the needs are in downtown Waukesha, Miller said.

In addition, WWBIC is partnering with Berg Management to offer a business plan contest, the winner of which will receive a few months of free rent as well as assistance from both WWBIC and the UW-Extension, Miller said.

Details are still being finalized, but Miller said it’s a great opportunity for anyone with a unique idea for a business to make that dream a reality.

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