Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:29 pm
The entrepreneurial training grant program, sponsored by the state Department of Commerce and Wisconsin’s network of 13 small business development centers (SBDC), helps aspiring entrepreneurs gain the skills and attitudes needed for starting their own businesses.
"Everybody knows small businesses are the engine that drive the economy," said Lucy Holifield, director of the SBDC at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education. "This program is designed to help entrepreneurs build their skills so they can run successful businesses."
Holifield and Kenosha SBDC manager David Shachtner said beginning entrepreneurs often have stars in their eyes.
"If it is just in your head, it’s not real," Holifield said. "You need to take those ideas and put them on paper and that takes a whole lot more."
Entrepreneurs may excel at a specific skill, but sometimes they do not have enough knowledge about marketing, pricing, the competitive environment, or hiring to run a business.
Program participants are encouraged to construct a first draft of their business plan through worksheets and exercises.
"If you don’t understand cash-flow management, basic accounting principles, the business starts to run you rather than you running the business," Holifield said.
The program forces people to write down their ideas, come up with a business plan, and decide if their concept can make it in the marketplace. With help from coaches who work one-on-one with program participants, 75 percent of the people who enter the program come out with a plan, Holifield said.
"The program is meant to be inclusive rather than exclusive," Shachtner said. Other than rare cases of bankruptcy or illegal activities, the criteria for receiving a grant is flexible.
"In order to get the grant you must write the plan," Holifield said. The grant covers 75 percent of the cost of the program with $250 left to be paid by the participant.
In addition to entrepreneurs looking to start up their own company, Holifield estimated that 30 percent of
program participants are business owners looking to expand their business.
Kendall Deroo is one such person. Deroo had taken full responsibility for the business she and her husband had run for 12 years, when she signed up for the program last year.
Though hesitant to take the class, she said it ended up being a terrific experience.
"You learn where to find the answers, you learn it’s okay to be good at certain things but not good at other things, you learn you are not alone," she said.
She said the program helped her develop a network of resources.
"A lot of the time, people running their own business feel isolated," Deroo said. "This helps you expand your circle of acquaintances."
Without any educational business background, the program filled in some gaps for Deroo, even after 12 years of running a business.
"It demystified business for me," she said.
"The program forces you to think through a lot of things," said George E. Kippenhan, a certified public accountant who went through Kenosha’s program last year.
Kippenhan, who prepares tax returns, said the program helped him better consider issues such as cash flow.
"My business drops off at certain times, I can’t really control when someone is going to pay me," Kippenhan said.
Two workshops Aug. 2 and Aug. 23, led by Holifield, will be held at UWM to help applicants understand the training program and assess their business aptitude. The workshops are free. However, interested entrepreneurs must register to participate.
In Kenosha County the "Small Biz Business Plan Writing Series", will be held on consecutive Thursdays, beginning July 15 through Oct. 28. The bilingual and Washington County classes will begin Sep. 7. Milwaukee’s class starts on Sep. 15, and Ozaukee County’s program begins on Sep. 23.
Entrepreneurs interested in applying for the grant should contact their local SBDC for more information.
Kenosha County (262) 697-4525
Racine County (262)638-1713
July 23, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI