Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

Some lucky southeastern Wisconsin business that just needs an extra boost to take it to the next level will soon get just that. Anna Baxter Kirk, president of Whitefish Bay-based Launchpad MCPR Inc., has created an initiative called L’entrepreneur to provide a new business with the professional products, services and contacts it needs to get ahead in the marketplace. Kirk, her five-member advisory board and 13 participating local companies are looking to help grow local businesses in southeastern Wisconsin by offering entrepreneurs a chance to get a jumpstart with a package of free products and services, Kirk said. The package is worth about $15,000.

L’entrepreneur is putting out a call for nominations of companies that are just getting on the plane, struggling to get off the ground or looking to rise in altitude. One will be selected to receive the package of assistance from the companies participating in the L’entrepeneur program. Participants on the program’s advisory committee are: Wendy Baumann, president of Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. (WWBIC); Dan Meyer, publisher of Small Business Times; Henry James, counselor for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Small Business Development Center (SBDC); Carey Vollmers, global human resources manager for GE Healthcare; and Bridget Eland, owner of Briessentials.

"It is pulling together a whole cadre of quality business resources," Baumann said. "It might bring a significant amount of job creation, it might bring a handful, but it is all good for Milwaukee." Kirk said she is looking for an entrepreneur who matches the personality of the group, is striving for success and can offer something to the Milwaukee economy. "Overall I would love to be able to find a company whose idea will be developed and will benefit the southeastern Wisconsin community," Kirk said. "The criteria was left somewhat open so that it does not exclude any company and it encourages all kinds of businesses."

Kirk and the L’entrepreneur initiative are accepting nominations from any type of budding business located in southeastern Wisconsin through Jan. 12.  The selected entrepreneur will receive a variety of products and services from established companies in the area. As a package, those products and services are intended to create a buzz in the community about the company and raise it to the next rung on the ladder of successful businesses, Kirk said. The products and services in the L’entrepreneur assistance package include: free advertising; discounts or gift certificates to educational programs; memberships to chambers of commerce; business cards; financial advice; legal counsel; small business consulting; logo design; and marketing advice.

"The focus is to launch a business effectively with the package of products and services and to find that right company that really needs this," Kirk said. Kirk is donating 40 hours of marketing communications and public relations counsel to the selected entrepreneur to develop a launch plan. Once the launch plan is developed, she will help the entrepreneur execute a maximum of three tactics from the launch plan. "When you first start a business, people may know you as a person but not as a company," Kirk said. "The goal is to bring people in and get to the point that when someone needs what you provide, you are the first one they call."

To get to that point, business owners need promotional materials, including a logo and a brand name, and they need to network and make sure they are in front of their target audience, Kirk said. "The truth is, when you start a business and are putting the idea out there, there are a lot of opportunities to build a business, but dollars are a key concern," she said. "To be able to provide services to put a company on the map free of charge is exciting." Once the deadline for applications has passed, Kirk and her advisory committee will choose the top three candidates and conduct face-to-face interviews before choosing a winner, she said.

Nominations will not be discarded if they are already utilizing some of the services or products that will be provided to a finalist, Kirk said. "All of the companies that have signed on as sponsors understand that (the finalist) may not need their product or service, but the idea is to find a company that would need or use most or all of them," Kirk said. Park Bank will sponsor a year’s membership to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) for the selected entrepreneur. Park Bank became a sponsor for L’entrepreneur because the company supports entrepreneurship,  according to Beth Borst, vice president of marketing for Park Bank.

"It is a small contribution for a larger impact," she said. "L’entrepreneur is not here to give money or recognition and move on, but we are helping someone grow even more, which has multiple benefits." Kirk came up with the idea for the L’entrepreneur initiative more than a year ago when she started her own small business. She left a corporate marketing position to create Launchpad MCPR, a marketing and public relations company geared toward launching new business products, initiatives and ideas into the marketplace. With her marketing and public relations background, Kirk said she knew the people and organizations that would help her get Launchpad MCPR on the Milwaukee area business radar screen.

Kirk sought the advice of WWBIC and business counselors at the UW-Milwaukee SBDC, in addition to networking and creating her own promotional tools. L’entrepreneur sprouted when Kirk realized that many business owners aren’t aware of these local resources and they don’t have the budget to receive professional advice or the know-how to network with the right people. "One thing that I have learned in the process of starting and growing my business is that as much as it is a one-man show for me, it is a partnership with other companies," Kirk said. "It takes a collaborative effort to get a business moving forward, to do it right and to do it well."

While discussing the idea of the initiative with her business partners and clients, Kirk said other individuals and companies wanted to get on board.  "I think a private sector individual like Anna, who is willing to foster and come to the table with a collaboration of public and private supporters to help one or more entrepreneurs to open businesses, is to be applauded," Baumann said.  Dan Meyer, publisher of Small Business Times, said he became involved in the L’entrepreneur program because he remembered needing many of those basic business services when the publication debuted 10 years ago. SBT will provide $3,000 in free advertising to the winner of the program.

"It’s a great idea to give a budding company the tools it needs to take that next step," Meyer said. "The program fits right in with the mission of our company, which is to facilitate commerce." Baumann and WWBIC have offered to provide the finalist of L’entrepreneur a free pass to a 16-week session of a Start Smart class that helps budding entrepreneurs start and grow a sound business, Baumann said. The classes meet in the evening, and WWBIC frequently hosts experts in law, marketing, accounting and other disciplines to offer their advice to business owners, Baumann said. WWBIC also trains small business owners and fits them with other programs offered by the organization.

WWBIC currently participates in awards programs that grant funding or recognition to entrepreneurs and small businesses, but L’entrepreneur is a unique program in the market, Baumann said.  "We are looking for that great idea, and the exciting part is that we don’t know what that great idea is," Kirk said. "Hopefully this initiative will bring a lot of those ideas to light." For more information about how to apply for the L’entrepreneur program, visit: www.launchpadmcpr.com/entrepreneur.

In-flight Services

The winner of the L’entrepreneur program will receive products and services from the following Milwaukee-area companies:

  • Launchpad MCPR Inc., will provide 40 hours of marketing communications and public relations counsel to jointly develop a launch plan for the company and execute a maximum of three tactics from that plan.
  • Small Business Times will offer $3,000 in advertising.
  • Reinhart Boerner van Deuren, S.C. will provide up to five hours of general counsel and entity formation assistance.
  • Sondra Safer CPA will provide introductory tax and accounting consultation, "once a month" consultations for six months, Small Business Tax Workshop registration and participation and first year income tax preparation.
  • Park Bank will offer the sponsorship of a one-year membership to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).
  • Succeedia Inc. will provide seven hours of executive success coaching.
  • Special Editions will provide paper and printing of 1,000 sheets of letterhead, 1,000 business cards, 1,000 No. 10 envelopes and 1,000 four-color brochures.
  • Anonymous small business proponent will provide sponsorship of a one-year membership to the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce.
  • Diversified Management Services Inc. will provide 10 hours of bookkeeping and QuickBooks training and one copy of QuickBooks Basic Accounting Software.
  • WI Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. will provide one 16-week session of its Start Smart class, including one course book.
  • Weiss Design Studio, in conjunction with Launchpad MCPR, will provide a logo design or re-design and collateral material design services. 
  • UWM-Small Business Development Center will offer $150 toward any UWM-SBDC class or program.
  • Ed McGuire/Principal Financial Group will provide an executive benefit and retirement plan consultation. 
  • Briessentials will provide one 50-minute stress-relieving aroma massage therapy session.

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