Wendy Baumann, president and chief visionary officer of the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., is the recipient of the 2017 BizTimes Woman Executive of the Year Award. She was presented with the award at the Women in Business breakfast at BizExpo on May 24 at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.
Baumann started her career with WWBIC 24 years ago.
Under her leadership, the Milwaukee-based organization has grown from a $200,000 budget and a staff of two to a $5.7 million budget with a staff of 50, four regional offices and three rural satellite offices.
“We’ve really grown our statewide presence,” Baumann said. “We have some presence in almost all 72 Wisconsin counties, and we’ve remained very focused on our mission work.”
Baumann previously served as the director of small business development at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and was familiar with the work WWBIC was doing to help entrepreneurs in the region.
“I had known about WWBIC since its inception, and was excited about the opportunity to become more involved,” she said.
For Baumann it was the “magic” of WWBIC’s business model that drew her in initially.
WWBIC, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs in Wisconsin who want to start or expand a business, but face barriers in accessing traditional financing or resources.
The organization not only provides capital assistance in the form of micro loans, but also provides one-on-one assistance and business education to its clients.
Since its incorporation in 1987, WWBIC has loaned $53.2 million, helped 4,385 entrepreneurs in Wisconsin create and retain 9,884 jobs and assisted 57,405 clients, Baumann said.
The organization still is focused on providing evening and weekend business education components to its members, but also has added an online component that Baumann plans to continue to grow.
WWBIC will finish up its three-year strategic plan, which primarily focused on infrastructure, at the end of 2017. The next strategic plan will be, according to Baumann, more global in nature.
“Our goal is to focus on expanding our services to the bilingual and Spanish-speaking communities, as well as the rural communities, throughout Wisconsin,” she said.
WWBIC has focused on recruitment of more bilingual loan officers and has developed a Spanish version of its website, as well.
“Wendy brings an unmatched energy to her position at WWBIC,” said Michael McDonagh, shareholder at Mallery & Zimmerman S.C. in Milwaukee and board chair of WWBIC. “She is completely devoted to the mission; and so is the team she leads. A lot of organizations don’t have the extra ‘extra’ that WWBIC has, and that is directly attributable to Wendy.”
In addition to her work for WWBIC, Baumann led the team that launched Milwaukee as a Kiva City, was involved in the development of the Milwaukee Public Market, co-founded the national Association of Women’s Business Centers, co-formed the Invest in Wisconsin community development financial institutions partnership, and currently sits on numerous regional and national boards.
She has spoken at national and international forums, including the global Microcredit Summit and the United Nations, with an emphasis on her expertise in women’s entrepreneurship and inclusive microcredit practices.
“This is an amazing honor,” Baumann said. “This organization and this mission means so much. We have an incredible team of people in place here – some who have been here 10, even 15 years. I feel so lucky to be a part of this team and the work we’re doing.”