The co-working program will be held at Ward4 near downtown Milwaukee and dedicated to veteran-owned startups. The Command Post will provide resources, education and support to launch and scale a business via on-site support from business leaders and mentors, coaching and educational programming, and one year of Ward4 membership, all free of charge. The chamber will run the program.
Applicants must be active members of the military or military veterans. The program is currently seeking applicants on a rolling basis, and will begin its first cohort in May. Up to 10 veteran entrepreneurs will complete the program simultaneously. Applicants are asked to submit a business plan and commit to attending and completing all coaching and workshop sessions during the program.
Applications are available on the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber site.
Ward4 is providing the office space at a reduced cost, and the Veterans Chamber is covering the rent for its entrepreneurs, said Saul Newton, executive director of the chamber. The chamber will also open a new on-site office at Ward4 to assist veteran entrepreneurs, where Newton will be based.
“We’ve actually gotten about half of the slots filled that we have available for the program,” Newton said. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from folks in this program.”
Milwaukee previously had a veteran startup assistance program, VETransfer, and a startup accelerator dedicated to military veterans, Victory Spark, but they went dormant in 2015.
Wisconsin also has an office of Bunker Labs, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps early-stage startups led by veterans. Its Madison location serves veteran entrepreneurs throughout the state.
Newton said Command Post will work in cooperation with existing resources like Bunker Labs and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Veteran Entrepreneurship program. Command Post is meant to serve veterans that are at the point of launching a business.
“(Command Post) is needed, specifically because just statistically, veterans are more entrepreneurial and more likely to start a business, but they’re more likely to fail over a 10-year window,” Newton said. “The folks that will be working out of Ward4, this will be early stage companies and the goal is to get them to be sustainable. Being part of this program also gets them access to what the veteran community as a whole, through the Veterans Chamber, can bring to the table.”