Has someone told you your homemade tomato sauce needs to be on store shelves? Perhaps you are a stay at home mom who wants to revive her graphic design career, but only during nap time. Speaking of kids, maybe you have designed the perfect baby toy and want to see it on Amazon.
You’ve got the product or service. Now how do you get it out there?
I am a serial entrepreneur. (Not a cereal entrepreneur, though that sounds like a lot of fun, too!) I’ve started a few concepts here in Milwaukee and think I’ve finally found the one that will be successful and feed my passion. So lesson one — don’t get discouraged if things don’t go as planned at the start!
Anyway, starting a business can seem like a daunting task (or a million daunting tasks), but there are many organizations in southeastern Wisconsin to help you support your dream.
Waukesha County Technical College Small Business Center
The WCTC Small Business Center is a great place to start if you need to learn the basics of running a business. For a nominal fee, you can take workshops on any number of entrepreneurial topics — marketing, finance, business planning, etc. Additionally, they have a series of women in business luncheons that are great for networking and education.
Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Business Corporation
Along those same lines is the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Business Corporation (AKA WWBIC). I consider this to be a perfect place to go if your business idea is a medium-sized concept like a bakery or mass produced product since in addition to education and networking, they connect business owners to financial support.
FaB Wisconsin and Food Enterprise Development Network
If your idea includes food, check out Food Enterprise Development Network (FEDN) and FaB Wisconsin. This industry is a tricky one as it is highly regulated in Wisconsin. At the very least, you’ll need to find a commercial kitchen which cannot be in your home. At it’s worst, you’ll need to spend upwards of $1000 just to sell your tamales part-time. These two industry-specific organizations will help you navigate all the necessary licenses and permits to run your food business in our area. I’d start with FEDN and move to FaB Wisconsin once you’re sure the business will be a success. Additionally, FaB Wisconsin does a lot of formal and informal mentor work with big wigs in our area. That’s worth the price of admission alone.
Local First Milwaukee
If you are promoting a product or service that is locally focused (i.e. accounting services, gift shop, café, etc.) then this is a great membership organization for you! Local First Milwaukee hosts a directory on their website, member promotions on their social media, and several in-person events where member companies can be face-to-face with potential customers. Additionally, they have behind the scenes networking events where you can meet like-minded individuals. A good number of members have tiny staffs (think 1 – 5 people), so you are definitely talking with folks in your exact place.
If your business idea is of the tech variety, then get thee to Startup Milwaukee ASAP! Their website collects all the best resources and events in this space, including co-hosted work environments for when you just can’t take the playroom/office combination a minute longer. Check out their inaugural Startup Week November 1-6 this year.
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) is a great place for businesses looking to go big time. If you’re hoping to some day hire bunches of folks or sell the business for millions, then this is the place for you! These are blazer-wearing big shots who have money to invest and services to outsource. Check them out if you are in the business-to-business market for sure.
If the idea of trying to get out of the house for a night of networking is enough to make you freeze, there are plenty of resources online that could help. If you’re looking for mom-centric, “make your dreams come true” virtual life coaches, I am partial to Leonie Dawson, Emily Ley, and Lara Casey. Also, check out Diana Kerr. She’s a local gal with great encouragement for Christian women. This site with Women’s Business Resources can also be a great place to start if you are at Square One and wondering how to tkae that first step.
If you’ve got a dream that just won’t quit, I have faith you can make it happen! If you have other resources we should know about it, I’d love to see them in the comments. If you need a personal cheerleader to get you started, well, put that below, too. I love to see folks make their plans come alive and would be happy to help however I can!