Last updated on December 6th, 2021 at 02:09 pm
It’s no secret that the city of Milwaukee still has several challenges to overcome, but despite a sometimes less than hospitable environment, a growing group of entrepreneurs are finding success.
“Milwaukee is ranked as the fourth poorest city in the nation. That’s not a pretty statistic,” said Dan Steininger, president and founder of BizStarts. “In 40, 50 years, the needle on poverty has not moved. We have people who are well-intentioned throwing money at education, throwing money at everything on the planet, but we can’t move the needle on our status as a poor city. Probably the number one reason is we’re not creating enough wealth in low-income neighborhoods.”
That’s where BizStarts comes into play. The organization works with up-and-coming small businesses, as well as established businesses, to help them find traction and success.
“We’re focused on how do you grow more businesses owned by people, started by people who live in those neighborhoods, in those distressed zip codes, and we’re having great success,” Steininger said.
All of that success was on display last month during BizStarts’ event “Dancing with the Startups.” Six Hall of Fame honorees were inducted and seven inspirational entrepreneurs were also recognized during the Nov. 16 ceremony.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include:
- Lou and Louie Gentine of Sargento Foods Inc.
- Tom and John Florsheim of Weyco Group
- Wayne Oldenburg of Oldenburg Group
- Pastor Robert Pyles of McPyles
- Paul Woelbing of Carma Labs
- David Hatch of Hatco
Steininger explained that to qualify as a Hall of Fame inductee, a business must be based in Wisconsin and must have generated more than $20 million in annual revenue. These companies have also created hundreds, sometimes thousands, of jobs.
The inspirational entrepreneurs are smaller companies that have worked with BizStarts and experienced smaller-scale success. This year’s awardees include:
- T’Keyah Bennett of Melanin Girls Heal Inc.
- CaBeatrice Hart of Mystic Phoenix Art
- Shiquita Mann of Blossom Candles
- Monica Hubbard of Wingtique
- Latia Ference of Love is Patient
- Pierre Epalle of EcoClean
Steininger said the Hall of Fame inductees serve as role models for the up-and-coming entrepreneurs, who may not have had access to chat with higher-profile business people if it weren’t for the event. Regardless of what stage of success a business is in, Steininger said BizStarts is just trying to recognize the hard work that goes into being an entrepreneur.
That’s why the hall of fame initiative was started.
“You’ve got a (hall of fame) for baseball, you’ve got a hall of fame for football, you have them for music, but there’s really not a lot for entrepreneurs,” Steininger said.
The honorees for 2021, and all past years, will eventually be housed online at bizstarts.com.