Starting or Expanding a Business? These Local Resources Can Help
BY: Tara L. Grays
Starting or expanding a business can feel overwhelming. The following standard items (and sometimes more) are often recommended or needed to start a business or obtain financing:
- Business plan
- Financial projections (for at least three years)
- In-order personal finances, including a personal financial statement
- Entity documents
You may look at this list and wonder what goes into putting together a business plan or financial projections, and find yourself intimidated to take the next step.
Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone – there are myriad local resources and experts ready and waiting to help guide you through the process. Following are some in Dane County, geared solely to helping you and your operation achieve success.
The SBDC is part of the University of Wisconsin system, and its services are free to use. Not only does it provide consulting at no cost to entrepreneurs and small businesses, but it staffs a number of experts who have experience running their businesses. SBDC provides assistance in the following key areas:
- Business planning
- Financial planning for capital access
- Marketing & sales growth
- Business management
The Center also offers startup classes to help entrepreneurs launch a business, and they can assist in exploring and refining your business idea. Throughout the year, it provides several other specific classes to help entrepreneurs, such as leadership courses, delegation management, communication skills, and more.
WWBIC focuses on working with women and minorities, but will help all entrepreneurs. It works chiefly to provide financing, as well as resources and expert advice to go with it. WWBIC does not offer the lowest rate in the market – it is intended for riskier business ventures and those seeking a "second chance." This organization offers:
- Financial planning, education & coaching to build ‘money skills’
- Micro loans up to $250,000
WWBIC does an excellent job of providing services centered on strategic marketing planning, meeting employee needs, and building overall financial acumen, as well as offering networking opportunities and education in areas of interest like Quickbooks, branding, and HR services, just to name a few.
WWBIC is also a supporter of Kiva in Madison and Milwaukee. This is a community-based lending program for entrepreneurs who are not ready for traditional financing. Kiva Greater Madison provides 0% interest and no-fee capital to local small businesses through crowd-funded micro loans of between $500 and $10,000. You can work with WWBIC to determine if a Kiva loan, a WWBIC loan, or a combination of each works best for your business.
WEDC offers Wisconsin businesses access to tools and resources to support their growth and development. Areas of expertise include:
- Business plan development
- Location expansion
- Job creation
- Strategy development
- Access to expertise
- Export assistance
WEDC has several programs and grants available that can help strengthen your business and give you support from seed to growth stages.
StartingBlock Madison is known as THE entrepreneurial hub in Madison – it's "by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs." Members have access to other entrepreneurs and resources for managing and growing their operations – all at a low monthly cost. StartingBlock Madison provides help for entrepreneurs in overcoming barriers like:
- Unaffordable rent expenses
- Lack of access to experts or advice
- Absence of medical and other benefits
- Lack of a conference room or quality high-speed internet
In addition to its own offerings, StartingBlock Madison has cultivated amazing partner organizations – like gener8or, Doyenne, Bunker Labs, Capital Entrepreneurs, and Wisconsin Games Alliance – that also provide their own programs and resources to entrepreneurs.
Other mentorship programs in the Madison area worth mentioning include SCORE and Merlin Mentors, both of which provide several mentorship training programs for small businesses and help get them ‘bank-ready’ for capital requests.
Your Bank Can Help, Too!
I love helping business owners realize their dreams and goals as their financial partner. Sometimes that means introducing them to some of these other organizations first, to help them succeed. As a community banker, I've always prided myself in getting involved with these organizations, knowing their teams, and understanding what they do for entrepreneurs.
We're so lucky to have all of these organizations and their programs in our area, and I want all business owners – current and future – to know what options and resources they have available to make their operations as successful as possible.