WWBIC’s Southeast staff includes (from left) Heather Lux, Marilyn Sieger, Kristeen Morgenroth, Amanda Lipke and Genie Webb.
BY KATIE MATTESON
Entrepreneurs looking to start or grow businesses in Racine need only go as far as 245 Main St., Suite 102 in Downtown Racine to get assistance from an organization that’s been “putting dreams to work” for more than 30 years.
And you don’t have to be female to utilize the services of the the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, known as WWBIC. “Services are open to anyone but our focus is women, minorities and people of lower wealth – those most likely to face barriers in accessing financing or educational support,” according to its program guide.
The Racine office is one of WWBIC’s four statewide locations. Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha are served by the Milwaukee office, South Central is based in Madison and Southeast operates two offices, one in Kenosha and one in Racine.
During president and chief visioning officer’s Wendy K. Baumann’s 24-year leadership, WWBIC has grown from a $200,000 annual budget with a staff of two to a $5.7 million organization with 50 staff.
The organization was established in 1987 as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit corporation. WWBIC is also a U.S. Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center, U.S. Department of Treasury Community Development Financial Institution, Micro Loan Program Intermediary and Community Advantage Program Lender.
According to data provided by WWBIC, in 2017 the organization provided 25,010 counseling and training hours assisting 4,642 clients and closed over $6,300,000 (117) small business loans. Its clients started, strengthened or expanded 1,175 businesses creating and retaining 3,525 jobs.
Heather Lux, regional project director for the Southeast, is quick to point out that clients benefit from the strength of the statewide economic development corporation.
Yet, in the local offices, clients are nurtured with individual attention to access WWBIC’s Small Business Loan, Small Business Consulting and Business Education programs.
Local staffers include Lux, regional office coordinator Amanda Lipke, outreach specialist Genie Webb, loan officer Kristeen Morgenroth and intern Marilyn Sieger. The Southeast team also includes a Small Business Consultant. However, that position is currently open.
Lux credits local volunteers and community partners for their help with projects, classes and coaching.
“It truly does take a village,” Lux said. “We couldn’t do the work we do without help from all the great collaborators in our community.”
Small business loans range in size from $1,000 to $250,000 and funds can be used for start-up capital, inventory and equipment, business expansion, working capital and business support. WWBIC also offers small and micro business loans as well as lines of credit to women and men.
Throughout the term of the loan, WWBIC provides:
- Annual site visits and one-on-one coaching
- Numerous promotional and networking opportunities
- Resource referral network
- 24/7 access to WWBIC’s Initiate Portal, an online business resource with over 100 tools, videos and guides
- Access to additional resources and tools to foster business success
Online and in-person a variety of classes geared to entrepreneurs are offered at the local WWBIC offices and at other venues in the area. Upcoming offerings coming up in April and May include:
- Be Your Own Boss, 12-1 p.m., April 17, Online, No Fee
- Be Appy, 6-8:30 p.m., 6-8:30 p.m., April 17, WWBIC-Racine, No Fee
- The Power of QuickBooks Online Level 1, 6-8 p.m. May 3, WWBIC-Racine or May 10, WWBIC-Kenosha, $50 or $85 with Level 2. Ask about grant assistance.
- The Power of QuickBooks Online Level 2, 6-8 p.m. May 17, WWBIC-Racine, $50 or $85 with Level 1. Ask about grant assistance.
- Resources for Your Small Business, 4:30-6 p.m., May 31, Golden Rondelle, No Fee
Other classes to help individual with personal financial health are offered regularly, including How to Increase Your Credit Score, Payday Loans & Predatory Lending, Family Budgeting and No Credit, No Problem: Understanding & Building Credit.
For more information or to register for these and other courses offered by WWBIC, call (262) 898-5000 or visit wwbic.com/classes.
The office is open from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday and by appointment on evenings and weekends.