Tricia Braun is chief operating officer for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. She has more than 15 years of economic development leadership experience in three states, including Wisconsin, California and Minnesota.
Successful businesses are the foundation of a healthy economy. Finding ways to provide the assistance and funding necessary to ensure early-stage and small businesses succeed relies on collaboration between organizations and stakeholders throughout Wisconsin.
Economic development groups around the state make up a strategic network of resources that support business growth and success for a diverse range of businesses—a feat that would be difficult for any group to do alone. One of these groups providing valuable resources to new businesses in the state is the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC).
With offices in four locations, including Milwaukee/West Allis, Madison, Kenosha and Racine, WWBIC focuses on providing loans and business assistance to individuals who face barriers in accessing traditional financing or resources. WWBIC loans range from $1,000 to $100,000, and can reach up to $250,000 with the help of federal Small Business Administration (SBA) Community Advantage Guarantee loans. In addition to financial assistance, WWBIC also organizes and hosts business education classes to help entrepreneurs learn how to succeed in their specific industries.
While the group started as a response to the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, which aimed to increase the number of female business owners, WWBIC has since expanded its scope to aid minorities, low-income individuals, people with disabilities and more. Since its inception in 1987, WWBIC has assisted more than 55,000 individuals, loaned more than $46 million and helped businesses create and retain nearly 9,000 jobs.
WWBIC assistance has helped pave the way for thousands of businesses to reach their full potential. One such business is Armstrong General Contracting (AGC). The company, based in Milwaukee, is a Hispanic, woman-owned general contracting firm that services everything from residential home repairs to construction of multi-story learning centers. With the help of her husband, Loriana Armstrong launched the company in 2014. Since then AGC has experienced rapid growth, bringing in more than $1 million in annual revenue—a number that is on track to double in 2016. WWBIC has assisted the Armstrongs since day one, providing them guidance on decision-making and business operations planning, as well as a loan for up to $100,000 to help their company grow even further.
“Loriana’s tenacity for growth coupled with her diligence to build infrastructure to manage growth is setting a strong foundation for AGC,” said Wendy Baumann, WWBIC president and chief visionary officer. “AGC’s motto is ‘where knowledge meets passion,’ and these words reflect in Loriana’s leadership, employees, success of the businesses’ projects and its satisfied customers, and through the impact she is making in our community.”
WWBIC also provides more than just business assistance. The group’s Financial Capability initiative has helped 152 people to become first-time homeowners, and nearly 100 people to begin a path toward secondary education. These important milestones provide a more prosperous future for these individuals and their families, and ultimately benefit the state’s overall economy.
In its nearly 30 years of existence, WWBIC has become deeply ingrained in Wisconsin’s business climate. In doing so, the group also became established as a leader in the state’s economic development infrastructure. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is proud to partner with WWBIC, helping fund its rural business assistance program and other entrepreneurial resources. WWBIC has also collaborated with numerous other groups including Milwaukee 7, the Veterans Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce, among others. This dedication to advancing the state’s business climate creates an ideal atmosphere for companies to grow.
Wisconsin has many organizations like WWBIC that embody this spirit of collaboration. In the coming weeks, we’ll highlight more of these groups that are committed to helping people and companies thrive and make great things happen in Wisconsin.
For more information on WWBIC’s programs and services, please visit: www.wwbic.com.