A global peer-to-peer network called Entrepreneurs’ Organization plans to launch a Milwaukee chapter.
Established in 1987, EO has 179 chapters in 57 countries, with 13,000 total members. Business owners share advice and best practices on their entrepreneurship journeys. The organization also has smaller peer groups of seven to 10, annual global events, chapter learning events, executive education, mentorship, leadership training, an accelerator program and student entrepreneur awards.
Entrepreneurs apply for membership to the organization. Members must be an owner, founder or majority stakeholder of a business with $1 million or more in annual revenue. Venture-backed startups must have raised at least $2 million in private funds or $5 million in public funds, and have at least 10 employees.
Ajay Goel is leading the charge in Milwaukee, and there’s a team of about 20 EO employees worldwide helping him find members and launch and market the chapter, he said.
“They identified Wisconsin as a hotbed of business activity where there wasn’t already an EO presence,” Goel said.
The plan is to launch the organization as a Wisconsin nonprofit in the next six to eight weeks. Goel just helped hire an executive director for EO in Milwaukee, Laura Nelson, who was previously executive director at the Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
EO plans to grow to 100 members in the Milwaukee market by July 2019, Goel said. It expects to host its first event in Milwaukee in October, with an educational component and a networking portion for prospective members.
The closest EO chapter to Milwaukee is in Chicago, and some area residents travel down to Chicago for that group’s meetings. They will form the core of the Milwaukee chapter and help recruit members, Goel said. There are about 20 members committed to EO Milwaukee so far.
“EO Chicago for now is supporting the launch and seeding our chapter until EO Wisconsin is an official nonprofit entity, and the paperwork for that is being handled now,” Goel said.
While there are other entrepreneur groups with a presence in Milwaukee, Goel said EO is differentiated by its philosophy and culture.
“In EO, one of the guiding principles is that an EO member is never allowed to give advice to another member,” he said.
The groups emphasize learning from each other’s experiences, and chapter leaders screen members based on the diversity of their life and business experiences to assure they would be a valuable member of the group. There’s also a non-solicitation rule.
“You have to fit into a certain culture and personality to be a good fit,” Goel said. “You have to be growth-oriented, willing to share intimately about your life, business and personal. You have to be willing to be vulnerable.”