March 13, 2014
From jsonline.com: “Electric trike entrepreneurs set off on an Odyssey” — A high school project that began with scrap steel and parts from a machine used to groom ski hills has morphed into an electric trike and a business.
The latest iteration of the three-wheel vehicle from Odyssey Trikes of Slinger has a top speed of 50 mph and a range of about 50 miles before it has to be recharged.
Odyssey Trikes is a fledgling business started by Dustin Herte, a Milwaukee School of Engineering graduate, and Ryan Bass, a Milwaukee Area Technical College student.
Herte and Bass were in high school when they built their first electric trike in 2009. It has since gone through many design changes to become a prototype that’s nearly ready for the marketplace.
Odyssey Trikes has launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign meant to raise $25,000 by the end of the month. With Kickstarter, businesses seek money from the public to get projects underway.
Herte said the trike has the power and speed of an electric motorcycle, with the added benefit of a third wheel for more stability.
The trike has pedals so that legally it’s classified as a bicycle. In stock form, it has a top speed of about 20 mph, but the motor can be tweaked for faster speeds.
The trike will sell for about $6,000. Still in the development stage, Odyssey has landed only one sale through Kickstarter but is gearing up for additional business, including sales to police departments that could use the trikes for patrol work.
Herte says he and Bass will use their website to sell trikes.
“I am not worried as long as we get the foundation of the business established,” Herte said of taking the prototype trike to a product in the electric bike marketplace.
“I realize there’s a lot more that needs to be done that will cost a lot of money … but we are trying for no debt. We haven’t needed outside money yet,” he added.
“If we have all the parts lined up, we can generally assemble one trike per day. We know where to get the parts we can’t make, but we want more options — and we want to be able to produce even more of these parts ourselves,” Odyssey says on its website.
Power-assisted bicycles have been around for more than a century, but recent lithium battery-powered motors have increased running times and speeds. The electric bikes allow people who are not necessarily in good physical condition to commute to work, school or run errands in town. They’re cheap to operate and easy to ride.
Some of the three-wheel versions are capable of carrying hundreds of pounds of cargo in addition to the driver. In Europe, United Parcel Service is testing electric trikes for package deliveries. In Milwaukee, at least one restaurant is using them for food deliveries.
Some electric trikes, where the rider sits only inches from the ground, are capable of going from zero to 30 mph in a few seconds.
“They can be somewhat dangerous, since automobile drivers don’t quite know how to react,” said Craig Peterson, an electric bike enthusiast and the founder of Buffalo Water Beer Co. “They don’t know how to anticipate how fast these things go.”
Under Wisconsin law, electric bikes are limited to a top speed of 20 mph when operated with motor-only power. They are allowed to go faster when the rider pedals and the motor assists. They’re allowed on bike paths and city streets.
“As long as you are riding respectfully, like everything else in life, there shouldn’t be an issue,” said Henry Blum, an electric bike salesman at Len’s Electric Bikes, in Madison.
Trek Bicycles, based in Waterloo, has made electric bikes, including models with different operating modes that vary the motor assistance. As the rider pedals, the motor will adjust to achieve the most efficient electric assistance. The bike also has a manual throttle to get maximum motor speed.
One of Trek’s bikes uses regenerative braking to capture some of the energy lost during braking and put it back into the battery. On a long downhill ride, the pedal power will charge the battery even more, extending the bike’s range.
Electric trike manufacturer Outrider USA recently introduced a full-suspension trike aimed at people with physical disabilities, including limited muscular function. The trike can be configured many different ways, depending on the rider’s needs, and is built for all-terrain use.
“Nothing compares with being outside and getting some good miles behind you,” said Jesse Lee, a partner in Outrider, based in Fletcher, N.C.
February 19, 2014
From thenorthwestern.com: “FVTC E-Seed entrepreneurship program gains national attention” – Fox Valley Technical College’s Venture Center has taken a bit of its own advice when it comes to helping entrepreneurs get started.
The Venture Center’s E-Seed course has helped entrepreneurs like Josh Beck get the business training and support they needed to turn their ideas into viable, growing enterprises.
Beck, who founded his 3-D printing business Beck Prototypes in May, said E-Seed’s 12-week entrepreneurship course has already helped him plan for slow, measured growth and careful planning as he gets started.
“I’m starting nice and slow, I’m getting some customers now and I’m going through the motions. Now, it’s about time to start some marketing and start trying to generate more revenue,” Beck said. “I wouldn’t have done this without E-Seed. E-Seed gives you the tools and shows you the door, but you have to learn from what they show you and walk through those doors when the opportunity arises.”
In the 13-plus years since it was founded, the Venture Center’s entrepreneur-education programs like E-Seed and, its bigger sister, the Pro-Seed business-model development program for established businesses, have helped entrepreneurs start 320 businesses that presently employ between 1,500 and 2,000 people throughout Northeast Wisconsin.
The success of courses like E-Seed and Pro-Seed have also earned the Venture Center one of seven $20,000 grants from Sam’s Club and the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship to help small, Main Street businesses reach the next level of sales.
Now, E-Seed itself has become the brand with an opportunity to grow and the Venture Center is the entrepreneur.
Amy Pietsch, the center’s director, said it has started to license the E-Seed curriculum and program to other community colleges, technical colleges and economic development agencies around the country as a way to foster more entrepreneurship and generate revenue for the center, which does not receive taxpayer dollars from FVTC.
Organizations can buy a license to offer the 12-week course to local business owners and entrepreneurs, but Pietsch said those groups are encouraged to share any improvements and innovations they make so as to improve the product.
“The one thing we knew about the entrepreneurship environment was we would be the little player in a big space. We had to be open to a lot of people coming back to us with ideas to make it better,” Pietsch said. “We do apply what we learn and teach here. We’re not making it up.”
The early response has been good. To date, FVTC spokesman Chris Jossart said, three community colleges in the Midwest and one entrepreneurial hub have already bought licenses to use E-Seed.
“It’s developed into such a proven product that’s simple yet personal,” Jossart said. “It’s always fresh, it’s always real and it makes very complex issues very simple.”
In addition, FVTC has reduced the cost of E-Seed by almost 50 percent, to $750, to make it more affordable for entrepreneurs to enroll.
Tina Schuelke said E-Seed has remained a key component in her small-business support network since she founded Change Management Communications Center last year. The training she got through E-Seed and the support of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Small Business Development Center recently helped her win a $5,000 prize in the Northeast Wisconsin Business Plan Competition.
“Once I got started with E-Seed, I realized all my attempts at business plans — and I thought I had a good one going into it — were weak. This gave me a really strong start,” Schuelke said. “This is my first business launch. Now that I have those courses as a foundation, I’m already thinking about other businesses I want to start or become a part of.”
August 19, 2013
From ashlandwi.com: “Innovative business ideas reward at tech conference” – The recent 2013 Lake Superior Business and Technology Conference – Growing Superior Ideas in the North held at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Ashland, provided an opportunity for the area’s budding entrepreneurs and want-to-be entrepreneurs to share their business ideas. Several creative and innovative business ideas were pitched. These included: a musical production light system, financial information app for investors, modular product design service, superior artesian water business, passive house certified windows and doors, process to reduce paper drying energy use, multifunctional observation tower and a veteran’s radio news brief.
Molly Lahr, Director of the Wisconsin Innovation Network of the Wisconsin Technology Council based in Madison, moderated the presentations. A panel of seven judges with expertise in business and economic development listened to the timed, two-minute business idea presentations from the contestants and then provided their critiques.
Following their critiques, the judges rated each business idea presentation on a scale from one to five. Eight business idea contest finalists were competing for $5,500 in prize money to be used to help advance their business idea. The first place prize was $2,500, second place prize was $1,500 and third place received $1,000.
In addition, a $250 prize was available to the business idea judged to be the “greenest” by a representative of the local Alliance for Sustainability. The conference attendees also had a chance to vote for their favorite business idea, with the top vote getter receiving a $250 prize.
The conference and business idea contest were sponsored and planned by the Lake Superior Region Wisconsin Innovation Network Chapter. The chapter’s goal was to help foster and encourage the development of entrepreneurial activity in an area of the state that has lagged behind economically as compared to many other areas.
The business idea contest and its prize money was intended to serve as a catalyst and incentive for persons to come up with business ideas, and provide some seed money to help them move their ideas forward.
Winning the contest’s first place $2,500 prize was the Passive House Certified Windows and Doors idea presented by Dane Gleeson from H Windows in Ashland. His company hopes to become the first such firm in the United States to manufacture these super energy efficient products. The second place $1,500 prize was awarded for The Veteran’s Radio News Brief that was presented by Mark Snow of Superior. Mark had been one of the finalists in the inaugural 2012 Business Idea Contest.
Due to a tie vote from the judges, the $1,000 third place prize was split $500 each for EKCO LLC Technology’s paper drying energy saving process presented by John Klungness and the Multifunctional Observation Tower idea developed by Mirka Nelson.
The $250 “green” business idea award was presented by Ted May from the Alliance for Sustainability to the first place winner Dane Gleeson for his Passive House Certified Windows and Doors. The audience choice $250 prize winner for the best idea was awarded to Bruce Bowers for his Musical Production Light System.
Dave Vedder, President of the Lake Superior Region Wisconsin Innovation Network Chapter, thanked the attendees and said he looked forward to next year’s conference and Business Idea Contest.
From jsonline.com: “MATC to expand entrepreneurship center with grant from Helen Bader Foundation” – The Milwaukee Area Technical College Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the Helen Bader Foundation to expand the college’s entrepreneurship center.
The entrepreneurship center opened in April 2012 when MATC launched an entrepreneurship technical diploma. More than 100 students, many of whom are already self-employed, have received mentoring and support from the center, said Armen Hadjinian, the MATC faculty member who is adviser to the center.
The grant will allow the school to expand the center and support scholarships for students who complete a service learning project.
June 26, 2013
From wisbusiness.com: “Original food biz concepts feature natural, Wisconsin ingredients” – Finalists of this year’s Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge have something in common – they all incorporate Wisconsin-made ingredients. This challenge to find Wisconsin’s next great food entrepreneur is sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Reliable Water Services a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners and FaB Milwaukee, an industry network for the food and beverage cluster of SE Wisconsin.
Aspiring chefs and home cooks entered by submitting a short application and photo of their concept. Finalists were selected based on the originality and viability of their concept and appearance based on an initial photo. Three finalists include:
• Andrew Bechaud– Milwaukee, Wis. – Bechaud Elixing Co., a line of handcrafted small batch beverages made with Wisconsin agricultural ingredients. Tempting flavors include Chocolate Chai Veloute and Spring Blossom Cherry Soda. His dream is to start a small production facility and sell to local upscale grocers such as Sendik’s or Whole Foods.
• Pete Cooney –Milwaukee, Wis. – Pete’s Pops – Handcrafted Ice Pops, a frozen treat made with fresh fruits and natural sugars in flavors like Strawberry Basil and Pineapple Jalapeno. Cooney wants to produce through a commercial kitchen, start selling via a push cart at local events and ultimately distribute through area grocers.
• Marcus Thie –Shorewood, Wis. –Sauceformations, a line of gluten-free and Paleo-diet friendly organic sauces for home chefs including Tomato Choka, a recipe from Trinidad packed with flavor and nutrients. He wants to launch StreetBeet, a food truck where he can promote locally grown food and showcase organic recipes featuring his sauce line.
Finalists will compete for the grand prize in a Food Network-style judging event at MATC’s student-run restaurant Cuisine located at 1015 N. 6th St on the MATC campus on Wednesday, July 31th at 3 p.m.
The grand prize winner will receive $2,500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services; a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC; $500 of professional cookware from Boelter Superstore and a two-hour private meeting with food industry executives serving on FaB Milwaukee’s Advisory Council. Judges for the contest include:
• Jan Kelly, owner and chef, Meritage restaurant, Milwaukee
• Angela West, co-founder/publisher, Alcoholmanac Magazine, Milwaukee
• Betsy Gilmore, general manager, Bel Air Cantina/Wauwatosa
• Jack Kaestner, chef instructor for Milwaukee Area Technical College
• Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café
• Eric Olesen, owner and president, O&H Danish Bakery of Racine
• Peter Gottsacker, president of Wixon, a manufacturer of seasonings, flavors, and technologies for the food, beverage, and meat industry.
“We were impressed with the level of creativity and passion of the many entries we received,” said contest judge Eric Olesen, owner and president of O &H Danish Bakery and council co-chair for FaB Milwaukee. “Our three finalists stood out as having concepts that would not only be delicious but also marketable in our community.”
April 16, 2013
From onmilwaukee.com: “The Weekly Nibble: Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge Returns” – Even if you’re paying close attention, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the latest in food news here in Milwaukee. So here’s a taste of what’s new and notable – with news about a contest for food entrepreneurs, news from Pizza Man, an anniversary celebration for Pizzeria Piccola, a cheese dinner and a charcuterie competition.
Got a great food idea? You might be the next Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur
Thanks to the support provided by the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur competition, 2012 winner Bree Schumacher effectively launched her line of healthful family-friendly products, Busy Bree’s kale-based dinner starters, to grocery stores across the Midwest.
This year, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services are joining forces again to launch the second Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, a regional contest to find the next great food entrepreneur.
In addition to the adult category, this year Wisconsin teens ages 14-18 are invited to enter for a chance to kick-start their culinary dream career.
Adult entries are eligible to win $2,500 in seed money, a business consultation package from MATC and FaB Milwaukee and set of professional cookware from Boelter. Teen winners will receive a $1,000 MATC scholarship, $500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services and a set of professional cookware.
Both adult and teen aspiring chefs and home cooks throughout Wisconsin can enter at hotwater247.com by submitting a short application and a photo of their recipe or product concept. Entry deadline is May 17.
April 3, 2013
From wisbusiness.com: “Aspiring entrepreneurs to share ideas at Madison College this weekend” – If you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own company, then Madison College is the place to be this weekend.
Startup Weekend Madison, a 54-hour workshop that brings together entrepreneurial minds from southern Wisconsin to encourage collaboration on innovative projects and form new startup companies, runs April 5-7 at the college’s West campus (302 S. Gammon Rd.) The event is a joint effort of Madison College, UW-Madison, Edgewood College, Capital Entrepreneurs and Sector67.
“This is an intensive, fun and high-energy opportunity to create something new with a team of innovative thinkers,” says Lorin Toepper, executive director of economic and workforce development-southwest region at Madison College and chair of the Startup Weekend Madison committee. “Startup Weekends are risk-free environments where everyone is expected to roll up their sleeves and dive into the exhilarating world of startups.”
Developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts will be gathering to share ideas, form teams, build products, launch startups and compete for prizes. At last year’s inaugural event, more than 100 attendees pitched 60 new startup ideas. So far, nearly 500 Startup Weekends have taken place around the world and 200 more are being planned.
It’s not too late to register for this weekend’s Startup Weekend Madison. Just go to http://madison.startupweekend.org. If you have questions or need more information, call Lorin Toepper at (608) 333-2929.
Startup Weekend Madison is sponsored by Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Google, American Family Insurance, Neider and Boucher, and Gener8tor.
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “NWTC entrepreneur center helps businesses get it right the first time” – The Entrepreneur Resource Center at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College wants to help new business owners fix their problems before they know they have them.
“I call it ‘Start Right the First Time,’ ” said Karen Widmar, an entrepreneur instructor and resource center staff member.
The Entrepreneur Resource Center, on the second floor of the Advance Business & Manufacturing Center, 1701 Larsen Road, relaunched and rebranded last year after a dormant period. Quasan Shaw, who worked with economic development departments in Green Bay and Appleton, is the department coordinator. Also working with the center is Jerry Lintz, hospitality and restaurant management instructor.
“All of us have been business owners. We’ve succeeded in business. We failed in business,” Shaw said. “We understand the ups and downs business owners go through. We also understand business cycles.”
The center is focusing on NWTC students, who can range in age from 18 to 80, using the college’s technical resources to analyze feasibility and advance existing businesses. NWTC has an entrepreneur certification program, and to promote entrepreneurship among students, it will host Entrepreneurship Week on Feb. 18-23.
The Resource Center also is available to the public and provides services throughout NWTC’s district, which includes Brown, Kewaunee, Door, Shawano, Oconto, Marinette and Florence counties.
Consultations are free. Other services have fees, depending on the level of assistance provided. Often the fees will include a specified number of follow-up hours as well.
The school’s technical resources, such as those in the Manufacturing Technology Center, are available to the Entrepreneur Resource Center.
“And we have a financial coach on campus to work with students,” Shaw said.
The center is using interns from departments throughout the school for a range of services, such as marketing, design, communications and the like. Interns will be supervised by faculty members and center staff. Their services will be free, though clients will receive an invoice for the value of those services in the commercial market.
“You can pay what you think the work was worth,” Widmar said.
Widmar said a lot of times when businesses struggle, they don’t know why. Often, it is because entrepreneurs want to control more than they need to. Shaw recalled a business owner who billed $135 an hour for his services, insisting on doing maintenance work he could have had someone else do for $35 an hour. It was not an efficient use of his time.
A tool that Widmar uses is the GrowthWheel, developed by Startup Co. Inc. The wheel allows business owners to grade themselves on 20 factors in four focus areas: Business concept, customer relations, operations and organization.
“Clients map out where they are within segments of the wheel,” Widmar said. “We focus on two or three of their primary weaknesses at any part of the GrowthWheel. We can also use this model for creating business plans.”
Widmar said the basic building blocks for new businesses are the same, regardless of what they do.
“We don’t need to be experts in nano-technology or retail,” she said.
For those more specific experts, the center can turn to the college or get professional from the community.
Shaw said the center has worked with 17 clients since June 2012, providing more than 200 hours of business consultation.
August 28, 2012
From fvtc.edu: “National award for Venture Center Grad” – David Lindenstruth, owner of Appetize, Inc., the largest operator of Mongolian grill restaurants in Wisconsin, was named recipient of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) “Alumni Entrepreneur Award” for 2012.
Lindenstruth currently owns and operates five HuHot Mongolia Grill restaurants located in Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Kenosha, and Madison, in addition to two restaurants in Indiana. He received his business start-up and entrepreneurial growth training through the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College. These experiences consisted of both the Venture Center’s E-Seed and Pro-Seed training sessions.
The recognition is one of four annual award categories of the NACCE that honors individuals for their hard work and commitment to entrepreneurship. Lindenstruth will receive his award at the national NACCE Conference in Chicago on October 9.
From wausaudailyherald.com: “Hundreds of jobs open in Marathon County, central Wisconsin” – People looking for work in central Wisconsin have heard the same refrain over and over: Well-paying jobs abound in the health care and advanced metalworking fields.
But for those who can’t enter one of those professions, the news isn’t great. The manufacturing, medical/education and trade/transportation/utility fields are the dominant employers, representing 66 percent of the total job force in Marathon County in 2011, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce.
The second tier of jobs, based on the number of people employed in central Wisconsin, includes the financial industry and the leisure and hospitality fields, which make up 16 percent of the jobs. The number of jobs in those two fields dropped from 2010 to 2011 in Marathon County, though hundreds of related jobs were open as of this month, according to the Department of Workforce.
The good news is that employers are hiring in those fields and training and education is available in central Wisconsin. Education and skill development can be obtained in as little as a few classes for a certificate, all the way up to a four-year degree.
And jobs are plentiful. Hundreds of jobs, including loan officers, credit counselors, wait staff, desk clerks and maintenance workers in the leisure and hospitality fields, were open for applications as of June 16 in Marathon County, and even more across all of central Wisconsin.
“You can infer from that data that there are opportunities for people to make a transition — dislocated workers or people looking for employment,” said John Westbury, an economist in the Office of Economic Advisors, a division of the DWD.
Back to school
People looking for career changes have options when looking to improve their skills or learn new ones.
Students can take introductory courses at the University of Wisconsin branches in central Wisconsin toward degrees in business administration, finance, as well as hotel, restaurant and tourism management. While many majors require students to transfer to a four-year college, the University of Wisconsin Marathon County and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point allow students to complete the UWSP business administration program at the UWMC campus.
The UWSP partnership is an example of how some Wausau-area residents who work in the business field can continue their education without having to move, said Jim Rosenberg, an adult student recruiter at UWMC.
“Even if a person gets into a job with the minimum qualifications, they look at what can get them ahead in that career field,” Rosenberg said.
For some people, a four-year degree will take too long.
Students at Northcentral Technical College in Wisconsin can improve their skills by simply taking a few courses specializing in computer programs such as Microsoft Excel, bookkeeping, or food and beverage safety.
NTC offers an entrepreneurship program that teaches basic business concepts, such as obtaining financing, buying supplies and managing staff. Brad Gast, a continuing education adviser at NTC, said he recently had a man who wanted to open his own restaurant in northern Wisconsin take the entrepreneurship classes.
“Most of those people develop their skills and go out and start their own (business) and live their dreams,” Gast said of the entrepreneurship students.
From host.madison.com: “Disc golf product Bushwhack Apps wins top prize at Startup Weekend” – Bushwhack Apps, a proposed digital product to help disc golfers navigate poorly marked paths, won the first-place prize at Startup Weekend Madison, an entrepreneurial gathering Friday through Sunday.
PACMapper, a tool that would let nursing homes, home health agencies and hospice services better assess geographic market viability, won second prize.
Seatswapr.com, or sit4sat.com, which would allow airline passengers to pay each other to swap seats, won third prize.
The event, at Madison Area Technical College’s west campus, drew more than 100 people who pitched 61 new business ideas, then worked on developing 15 of them.
It was the first event of its kind in Wisconsin. Startup Weekends have been held around the U.S. and worldwide.
For Startup Weekend Madison, leaders from UW-Madison, Madison Area Technical College, Edgewood College, Capital Entrepreneurs and Sector67 organized the event.
Startup Weekend is part of Capital Entrepreneurs Week in Madison.
A program similar to Startup Weekend, 3 Day Startup Madison, will be held this coming weekend, May 4-6, and is aimed at commercializing technology by UW-Madison students.
April 26, 2012
From onmilwaukee.com: “Local caramel company signs deal with Williams-Sonoma” – Beginning this fall, high-end gourmet giant Williams-Sonoma will feature a local company’s wares in its catalog and online offerings.
Salted gingerbread and cinnamon apple crisp are just two of the caramel flavors that will be included in a series of seasonal collections and variety boxes, all bearing the name of Pewaukee’s Becky’s Blissful Bakery.
The journey began when Rebecca Scarberry, owner of Becky’s and recipient of the Business Journal’s 2012 Forty Under 40 Award, Googled Williams-Sonoma and found the name of the buyer she needed to contact. Once she obtained that information, she sent him a spec sheet, along with samples of all of her caramels. The rest, as they say, is history.
“It was almost 7 o’clock at night when I got the phone call from their buyer,” Scarberry recalls. “He opened the conversation by telling me that they were the best caramels he’d ever tried in his life. He also told me they were the cleanest product he’d ever seen – no extracts, no emulsifiers and no preservatives. And then he asked me how I knew Todd.”
As it turns out, the buyer from Williams-Sonoma was a college roommate of Todd Wickstrom, co-owner of Rishi Tea and one of Becky’s Blissful Bakery’s local vendors.
Partnering with local companies has always been a large part of Scarberry’s business model. With an emphasis on high-quality, organic products, her caramels incorporate offerings from Lakefront Brewery, Rishi Tea and Stone Creek Coffee, in addition to Clover Meadow Winery, the only certified organic winery in the state of Wisconsin.
“When I first started my business I always said, ‘If I get into Sendik’s Fine Foods, then I’ve made it.’ Then it was, ‘If I can make it into Whole Foods, I’ve made it.’ And after that, ‘If I can just make it into Williams-Sonoma …’ so I don’t know where else I’m going at this point, but I really like it.”
But, lest you get the idea that Scarberry’s business has always traveled a fairytale path, it’s useful to take a look back at her humble beginnings.
Rebecca Scarberry was seven months pregnant when she moved to Wisconsin with her now-ex-husband, after spending 10 years living in Arizona. During her first winter in the state, she spent the bulk of her time baking.
“I grew up in the kitchen with my grandma. I felt comfort in the making and baking. I don’t cook much, but I love to make anything with sugar. Cookies, cakes, bars, candy, you name it. When I was pregnant with my son I shifted over to making everything with organic products.”
In 2007, the manager at Good Harvest Market in Pewaukee offered to sell her organic caramels in the store. Subsequently, she met a woman at church who had just purchased a candy shop in Waukesha, and they allowed her to rent their kitchen by the hour.
Her hobby business continued through December of 2008, when Scarberry hit bottom. In the same week that her divorce was finalized, she lost her job as an executive assistant for an Elm Grove architecture firm. Her world was turned on end.
But, rather than sitting home over the holidays feeling sorry for herself, she turned to her kitchen stove and cooked up a caramel business.
As a first step, she rented a kiosk at Southridge Mall and sold caramels during the weekend before Christmas. The next season, she started selling at the Fox Point farmer’s market. That’s where she met Deb Deacon, and subsequently journalist Karen Herzog. Herzog was impressed with Becky’s story, and ran a piece featuring her business over Thanksgiving weekend.
The publicity threw Scarberry’s business into full swing. But then, as luck would have it, she was offered a full-time job. As a single mom, it seemed like a no-brainer to simply take the job, so she did.
But, after three months of work, Scarberry realized that she would regret it for the rest of her life if she didn’t move forward with her caramel business.
Scarberry attended a quick-start business workshop at the Waukesha County Technical College Small Business Center. She employed a WCTC student, Brianna Dederich, to design her brochures and labels. And then she began ramping up production.
When circumstances required that she move out of her current commercial kitchen, Scarberry realized that she had to make some serious decisions about her business. She had just used up all of her capital purchasing a $9,000 cooker, and didn’t know how or where she could afford to move. Fortunately, she met Pewaukee resident-turned-developer Bob Zimmerman, who had just put his money into rehabilitating the village well house at 214 Oakton Ave. in Pewaukee.
With a new roof and other repairs, Zimmerman gave the 1929 “Water Works” building a new life. He also threw Scarberry a life-line when he helped her acquire the building to house her business.
Although she had a new space, Scarberry still needed to ensure that her new digs were up to code for food production. Since banks still weren’t handing out loans, let alone to a recent divorcee with a small business, she sold her minivan to pay for the $15,000 build-out for her new kitchen space.
After moving into the well house, Scarberry hit another bump in the road. Her caramels began crystallizing, creating production issues. Some were too soft. Some were too hard. She didn’t know what to do. So, she hired a consultant from the American Association of Candy Technologists, who assisted her in making changes to her recipe and cooking processes to solve the crystallization issues and give her product a nine-month shelf life to boot.
“Hiring the consultant saved me,” Scarberry reflects. “It cost me a lot of money, but it saved me. I wouldn’t be in business had I not taken that step.”
Becky’s Blissful Bakery currently offers 10 flavors of caramels, including original caramels, original with sea salt, dark chocolate with sea salt, cashew, espresso dark chocolate, chai tea, salted beer and pretzel, margarita and sangria. They also produce jarred caramel sauce, and are working on a champagne caramel to push out into the market later this year. Scarberry also hopes to create a new layered marshmallow caramel using organic marshmallows.
With current production exceeding 1,750 four-ounce boxes of caramels per week, Scarberry now employs three full-time staff as well as several part-timers who help out with events. In addition to wholesale and limited retail distribution, she also continues to sell her product at three area farmer’s markets.
“People ask why I still sell product at the farmer’s market,” remarks Scarberry. “I get real-time, true feedback, and I get to stay connected to the community, which is huge. For a small business, once you pull that plug, it changes everything.”
With regard to her recent success, Scarberry attributes it to the support she’s gotten from her partners and individuals in the community, in addition to good old fashioned hard work and good timing.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she says. “The fact that I made it through 2011 is just amazing. Had I reached out to Williams-Sonoma before now, it would definitely have been a ‘no.’ Everything literally happened as it should.”
April 25, 2012
From host.madison.com: “Entrepreneurs heading to Madison for Startup Weekend” – Have an idea for a software program that will make life easier or an online business you’ve dreamed of?
Tech types and their supporters will gather on Friday for Startup Weekend Madison, a marathon, 54-hour collaboration aimed at turning digital ideas into reality.
The first event of its kind in Wisconsin, Startup Weekend brings together people with different skills and sets them up in teams to create a software projects that are solid enough to form the basis for startup companies.
“We want to foster and encourage people who are doing startup companies and get more people involved,” said Forrest Woolworth, one of the organizers of the event and brand director at Per Blue, a Madison mobile and social gaming software company. “We want to continue to make Madison known as an awesome place to start a company.”
Startup Weekends have been held around the U.S. and worldwide. This weekend, for example, technology buffs in such places at Iceland, Poland, Turkey, Uganda and Australia will stage Startup Weekends.
Nearly 500 Startup Weekends have occurred over the past few years with about 45,000 participants, according to the website for the Seattle-based organization, startupweekend.org. A grant from the Kauffman Foundation helps support the events.
For Startup Weekend Madison, leaders from UW-Madison, Madison Area Technical College, Edgewood College, Capital Entrepreneurs and Sector67 organized the event, which will run from Friday night through Sunday night at the Madison College-West campus, 302 S. Gammon Road.
“This is a fun, high-energy opportunity to create something new with a team of innovative thinkers, and we’re proud to be bringing it to Wisconsin,” said Lorin Toepper, executive director of Economic and Workforce Development — Southwest Region at Madison College.
Between 100 and 150 people are expected, and about 15 mentors will be there, including lawyers, business development and marketing professionals, Woolworth said.
“The support we got from the community was overwhelming,” he said.
Mayor Paul Soglin said the city’s information technology department has been working with organizers. “Younger startups are now growing to become a cornerstone of the Madison economy,” Soglin said.
Startup Weekend is part of Capital Entrepreneurs Week in Madison, which starts Wednesday and features events such as an entrepreneurs’ boot camp and speakers, including Craig Culver, co-founder and chief executive of the Culver’s restaurant chain.
A program similar to Startup Weekend, 3 Day Startup Madison, will be held the following weekend of May 4-6, and is aimed at commercializing technology by UW-Madison students.
April 18, 2012
From wausaudailyherald.com: “Romey Wagner column: Boot camps start local businesses” – “I’m an entrepreneur” can be a scary statement to make.
Maybe I really want to start my own business but I don’t know how. What should I do? Can anyone help me? Excitement at the possibility turns to anxiety, which turns to fear.
Here’s where you should turn: The Entrepreneurial Boot Camp, right here in Wausau. The Wausau Daily Herald and other news outlets have reported on the success of these trainings and their students. Thanks to the many individuals and local businesses that volunteer their expertise to educate these entrepreneurs and encourage their success, we have made a difference with 22 of the 24 individuals who have taken our intense course.
But another true success is the community support shown for these people. I would like to acknowledge those businesses and some individuals who have held out their hands and said to the students, “I can help you.”
The Boot Camp is a collaborative effort between Northcentral Technical College, the Community Development Department of the city of Wausau, the economic development committee of Marathon County, the SCORE service for entrepreneurs and the Entrepreneurial and Education Center.
This group deserves many thanks for the vision and action to pull this program together to help new businesses succeed.
The course is 28 hours of intense learning, covering all aspects of being in business and it all is taught by instructors from local businesses or individuals who give their time.
I would like to thank them as well: Associated Bank, Ruder Ware, Sweet Lola’s Cupcakery, Schenck, Frontier Communications, Advantage Insurance, Kinzie Green, the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Virtual Vision, SCORE, McAuley Consulting, Adrenalign, Howard Manske, John Small, Mary Sue Kuss, Rick Gering and Art Juedes. These businesses not only offered their time to fill in their education in areas they required more help, but many donated toward the awards presented to students at the end of the course.
The list grows for future camps as businesses continue to call asking to be involved!
In central Wisconsin, “I’m an entrepreneur” doesn’t have to be such a scary statement anymore.
April 18, 2012
From riverfallsjournal.com: “Executive says: Defining, realizing success is up to you” – Recalling his grandfather whose “values did not include prohibition,” a prison inmate, and a boss who took credit for his subordinates’ work, S. Mark Tyler advised students to set their own standards for success.
Tyler, president of OEM Fabricators and this year’s executive in residence at UW-River Falls, addressed a packed ballroom of students, faculty and community members April 3.
His grandfather was a talented but illiterate tinsmith, who was successful enough to own his own home and a lake home and hold the mortgages on his kids’ houses, said Tyler.
But when Prohibition hit, the old man faced a disconnect between his integrity and the reality of commerce.
“Grandpa’s values did not include Prohibition,” said Tyler.
So when federal agents questioned him about the copper tank he was making for the production of a corn liquor moonshine called “Minnesota 13,” the man had a moral dilemma. He could lie or he could end up in jail.
His grandfather said he was making the tank for the church, said Tyler. When the church priest was questioned, he equivocated and grandpa stayed free.
“Networks are incredibly important,” summarized Tyler.
A different take on success
Tyler told of visiting two friends in prison — veterinarians who made the mistake of selling a drug they could legally make but not legally market.
While in the crowded visiting room at “Club Fed” near Duluth, Minn., Tyler overheard another inmate.
“I’m getting out in a few week, and I really have to figure out what I have to do to get back in,” Tyler recalled the man saying as he considered ways to make his way back to the minimum-security prison.
“His definition of success was completely different than ours,” said Tyler.
But Tyler admitted that his own definition of success is often different than that of others.
As a baby, a child and an adult, said Tyler, he was always “short and round.”
In fourth-grade gym class he endured the agony of being among the last chosen for teams and an easy target for the other team in dodge ball.
Then one day his teacher punished him for not doing his math homework by making him skip gym and sit in the hall.
“This was like a gift,” said Tyler.
By high school, he came to enjoy drafting classes and later studied machine and tool design at a technical college.
Upon graduation, he landed a plum job at American Hoist and Derrick Company.
At the time the firm was the pinnacle of high-end manufacturing companies, said Tyler, who bought into the definition of success as climbing the corporate ladder and making lots of money.
As a data analyst, he collected information from documents and packaged it for managers. But he soon realized they were ignoring some of his reports and didn’t notice when he stopped producing them.
So he used the time to volunteer for other work, thinking that he’d be so successful that he’d be noticed and promoted.
“It never dawned on me I’d get a jerk for a boss,” said Tyler. The other man’s attitude was, “I’m responsible for what you do, so I get the credit.”
The man further alienated his subordinates by refusing to take responsibility for their mistakes.
“Success was his. Failure was ours,” said Tyler.
Still the boss’s attitude fostered a spirit of camaraderie among the three guys who worked beneath him. By the time he retired, they were working as a team, getting more done, sharing the success, taking on more responsibility and building a network, said Tyler.
After six years on the corporate ladder, Tyler had gotten seven promotions and was making four times as much as when he started, but he didn’t feel successful.
Figuring it out
He said it took him a few more years to figure out that what was important to the company wasn’t important to him.
His values included more time with his family, teamwork, shared recognition and integrity.
At the company where he worked, there were times when managers shipped faulty parts to customers, knowing the product was poor but knowing also that they had to make their numbers.
In the end, said Tyler, American Hoist went bankrupt. The company closed in 1985.
“There’s a good reason they went away,” said Tyler. “They deserved to go away.”
In 1986 Tyler established OEM Fabricators in Woodville. Today, with 500 employees and $100 million in annual revenue, it is one of the largest contract manufacturers in the United States.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, OEM — like most other U.S. companies — saw sales drop, but workers stuck with the company and it saw growth of about 80% last year, said Tyler.
“Even if you do everything right, you will have tough times,” he warned.
Competing against manufacturers in countries such as China isn’t the obstacle it was once thought to be, said Tyler, responding to a question from a young woman.
“People have learned that unit price isn’t the only thing that matters,” said Tyler.
He said the cost of transportation and the delay in getting a product built and delivered must also be considered.
Also, said Tyler, rising wages in China are leveling the playing field.
“Competition is more than price,” he said, “and yet often times we win on price.”
These days, Tyler, who earned his master’s in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas last year, spends half his time focusing on workforce development.
He serves on the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents and is president of the Wisconsin Technical College System.
- Define success for yourself
- Build a network and make sure it’s diverse
- Share success but not failure
- Build your integrity
- Ask others for help; offer your assistance to them
- Eliminate waste
- Make decisions based on your definition of success
- Never stop learning
- And don’t forget to fall in love.
April 12, 2012
From greenbaypressgazette.com: “SBA administrator adjusts lending system” – When Karen Mills, administrator of the Small Business Administration visited Green Bay last week, her mission was twofold.
Not only did she highlight the effectiveness of SBA loan programs with a tour of DeLeers Millwork, but she also took time to meet with the SBA partners and encourage them to continue to work together to help small businesses. SCORE is one of those groups.
At the Business and Manufacturing Center at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, Mills met with representatives and emphasized the different roles that each group plays in the process. In defining the role of the Small Business Development Center, she called it the SBA’s ground game.
SCORE, with 12,000 volunteers nationwide, was referred to as the bone structure.
“It’s about all of our partners becoming more connected to provide a seamless experience for small businesses,” Mills said. “The president wants us to be a virtual one-stop shop.”
In addition to SCORE volunteers, Mills leads a team of 3,000 employees whose mission is to help entrepreneurs by providing greater access to capital, counseling, federal contracting opportunities, and disaster assistance. She reported that 2011 was a banner year with small businesses receiving $30 billion in SBA-backed loans.
Mills said her mission is the three C’s: providing capital, assisting with government contracting opportunities and enhancing collaboration among partners.
In her role, she is attempting to streamline systems. The SBA is compiling a list of all of the various organizations that provide grants, loans and other business assistance on the new site, www .business.use.gov. The site has a search menu that allows small business owners to search for programs by geography.
She also is trying to make it easier to apply for programs by developing a data locker.
The locker would allow businesses to enter data once and upload information that can be automatically used in future applications.
“We are thinking differently than we did in the past. It’s about making systems better to help businesses know what programs they’re eligible for,” Mills said. “We need to be nimble and flexible.”
In addition, Mills has focused on going after fraud, waste and abuse, so funds are appropriately used. This is extremely important in order to serve the increasing number of entrepreneurs that are seeking assistance.
Among the partners, many noted that their groups set records in 2011 for the number of clients served, and this year has continued at the same brisk pace. Mills said that this shows the tremendous need for groups to work together so that everyone who needs assistance is able to get it.
Since she serves in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, she works closely with him.
Mills said that he is committed to the SBA’s mission to attract and support small businesses.
“The president’s push is for all agencies to put their programs out there. More work means more turf covered,” Mills said.
April 12, 2012
From gazettextra.com: “Incubator to hatch young businesses” – JANESVILLE — City and community leaders turned ceremonial shovels of dirt Tuesday on a four-acre parcel that later this year will be home to the Janesville Innovation Center.
They hope the business incubator will hatch companies that might someday fill 225 acres of city-owned land a few hundred yards away.
In 2010, the federal Economic Development Administration awarded the city $1.2 million for the 22,000-square-foot project on Venture Drive.
The city is kicking in $850,000 for the facility that will offer a combination of manufacturing and office space for lease to new and growing businesses.
When it’s finished in November, the innovation center will feature nine office suites and four production areas that range from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet. Movable walls will separate the production areas.
“Flexibility with those production areas is the name of the game,” said Vic Grassman, the city’s economic development director.
Grassman said a flexible building and environment will support local businesses and lead to the creation of new companies and jobs in Janesville.
Tenants, he said, will have access to technical expertise offered through the UW-Whitewater Innovation Center, Blackhawk Technical College’s proposed Advanced Manufacturing Center and other business and economic development resources.
When it comes to startup companies, Grassman said Janesville has a need for space that combines affordable, short-term leases with business support services.
The center will give young companies an address, a professional business image and help tapping area resources and expertise.
Room also will be available for more established businesses that need space for business growth, research and development or expanded production.
When a tenant reaches a set of predetermined benchmarks, it will be expected to move out of the facility and into more conventional commercial real estate, Grassman said.
Grassman said companies that start in incubator facilities typically grow and expand within close proximity to their original business location.
Janesville has a history of nurturing businesses, said John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville, the city’s private economic development organization.
“They started in a very small setting and grew to something quite significant,” he said, offering Grainger and Hufcor as two examples. “If we even have one of those types of companies come out of this center, it will have paid for itself over and over.”
In addition to her responsibilities in the Wisconsin Assembly, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, has mentored entrepreneurs through the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board’s E-Hub training program.
She said the Janesville Innovation Center will offer peer-to-peer networking that’s critical to entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurs often feel isolated,” she said, noting that she, too, has started a couple of businesses. “This is the type of facility that will help turn their dreams into reality.”
She said Wisconsin is running about 12 percent ahead of last year in new business startups.
“This is real,” she said. “This is job creation.”
To learn about space for lease in the Janesville Innovation Center at 2949 Venture Drive, contact Vic Grassman at (608) 755-3181 or grassmanv@ci.Janesville.wi.us.
April 10, 2012
From matcmadison.com: “Global entrepreneurship event comes to Madison College” – Wisconsin’s first “Startup Weekend Madison” is coming to Madison College’s West campus on April 27-29. A joint effort of Madison College, UW-Madison, Edgewood College, Capital Entrepreneurs, and Sector67, the goal of Startup Weekend Madison is to bring together entrepreneurial minds from Southern Wisconsin to encourage collaboration on innovative projects and form new startup companies.
The weekend-long, hands-on experience affords an opportunity for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to learn if their startup ideas are viable. Nearly 500 Startup Weekends have taken place around the globe and 200 more are being planned. Developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, launch startups and compete for prizes during the 54-hour workshop. Though all entrepreneurs are welcome to participate, the experience is especially useful to entrepreneurs who are interested in receiving feedback on an idea, seek a co-founder, or wish to learn new skills.
Lorin Toepper is the Executive Director of Economic and Workforce Development-Southwest Region at Madison College and chairs the Startup Weekend Madison Committee. “Startup Weekends are risk-free environments where everyone is expected to roll up their sleeves and dive into the exhilarating world of startups,” says Toepper. “This is an intensive, fun and high-energy opportunity to create something new with a team of innovative thinkers. We’re proud to be bringing it to Wisconsin.”
Registration for the event, which covers the cost of instruction, mentorship, seven locally prepared meals, and a Startup Weekend Madison T-shirt and water bottle, is now being accepted. Participants who register by April 13 will receive an early bird discount and student discounts are also available. The cost ranges from $49-$99 for the full weekend.
Startup Weekend Madison is sponsored by Google, Earth Information Technologies, Gener8tor, and Neider and Boucher.
April 9, 2012
From jsonline.com: “MATC to offer degree program in entrepreneurship” – Milwaukee Area Technical College will begin offering a diploma program in entrepreneurship this summer.
The program will prepare would-be business owners in the trades and arts to work with a viable business model, the school said in a description. Students will take 30 credits in areas such as new product development, business law and finance.
Students in the program will be encouraged to work collaboratively with a variety of departments in the college, and will have access to the school’s entrepreneurship center on the downtown Milwaukee campus.
To celebrate the launch of the diploma program, MATC and Reliable Water Services are sponsoring the”Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge,” a contest to find the region’s next great food entrepreneur. The winner of the contest will receive $2,500 from Reliable to use to start their own business, a consultation package from MATC and a gift certificate for professional cookware from the Boelter Cos.
April 2, 2012
From wiscnews.com: “Local business expanding beyond its bounds” – A Wonewoc-Center High School graduate is moving up in the world with his business soon moving to a new, permanent location.
Josh Baker, 30, hopes to be move Affordable Heating and Electric from makeshift locations in his and his father’s homes into a spacious building in Union Center.
“Dad and I started the building [construction] last summer and we hope to open it this summer,” Baker said. “For now, we have been doing the sheet metal shop work at Dad’s and storing the rest of the equipment in my garage. I also work out of my truck and a job trailer.”
What began as a part-time job for a 17-year-old has become a thriving business.
“I worked with my dad when I was in high school and then attended Western Technical College in La Crosse in heating and air conditioning,” Baker said. “I also had my electric apprenticeship in La Crosse. Dad and I are both master electricians. Dad had his own business for a short time many years ago. I learned a lot from him and decided to try it starting small, and then it snowballed.”
In a role reversal, Josh Baker’s father Steve Baker now works for his son. The company, which handles residential, commercial, industrial and farm heating, air conditioning and electrical installation throughout Wisconsin, has two additional full-time employees.
March 30, 2012
From onmilwaukee.com: “Kickstart your culinary dream: The hottest kitchen entrepreneur challenge” – Have you ever dreamed of owning your own food-related business?
If so, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services, a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners, would like to give you a head start on your planning. On April 2, they will launch the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, a regional contest to find the next great food entrepreneur.
Armen Hadjinian, program coordinator for MATC’s new Entrepreneurship Center, says he has seen an increase in the number of individuals who want to break free from the corporate grind and start their own businesses. He attributes what he sees to a number of factors including underemployment, resume building, a shift in attitudes toward self-reliance and independence, and entrepreneurship, innovative thinking and creativity, which lends itself to the competitive corporate climate.
He also sees passion as a key motivator for entrepreneurs, sometimes even more so than the lure of a large income.
“Money may have limited appeal,” he suggests, “Yet entrepreneurship can bring power and control over one’s career and family. It’s sensible to start small, to test, learn and attempt.”
And that’s what a variety of local food entrepreneurs are doing.
Back in 2008, after being downsized from a corporate job, Byron Jackson turned a 30-year love affair with fiery foods into a full-time gourmet hot sauce business. Man’s Best Friend Sauces markets products to a niche market of chile lovers who crave imaginative “purebred” hot sauces, each of which is identified with its own unique dog breed.
According to Jackson, MBF’s growth is as much linked to the dogs on the bottles as the products’ inventive flavor profiles. But, Jackson’s success didn’t come without growing pains.
“Prior to 2008, MBF Sauces was more of a glorified hobby. At that time, expenses didn’t matter to me because I always had a good job to subsidize them. These days I remain a passionate hot sauce artisan, but I’m also very prudent and much more aware of my actual expenses.”
Jackson also has advice for anyone thinking about starting his or her own business.
“Before you get started, ask the question ‘Why do I need to share this with the world?’” Jackson says. “If it takes more than few seconds to answer, you may want to reconsider your idea as a hobby instead of a full-time business.”
Amber Atlee, along with two colleagues from Waukesha County Technical College, answered that question after finding that there was a demand for a service that provided fresh, upscale options for independent seniors and others who wanted heat-and-eat meals delivered to their homes once weekly.
In July of 2011, they started a personal chef and catering company called Culinary Twists, and began offering an ever-changing menu of main dishes and sides made with fresh ingredients.
Like many small businesses, the partners from Culinary Twists needed to meet a number of logistical challenges before launching their business.
First, they needed to conduct research to determine whether there was a need for their particular niche business and to determine how they would compete with current competitors in the market. Next, they needed to find a commercial kitchen that would allow them to rent space for a limited amount of time each week. Finally, they needed to ensure that they had the appropriate licenses from the state, as well as each county in which they wanted to conduct their business.
“Just because you have a good idea and really like to cook doesn’t mean that you will make a great business owner,” Atlee says. “We’re fortunate to have three partners who each bring something different to the table – one of us is great at sales, one is great at the finances, the other keeps our kitchen running smoothly.”
Do you think you have what it takes? Beginning April 2, aspiring chefs and home cooks throughout Wisconsin are invited to enter The Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge at hotwater247.com by submitting a short application and a photo of their recipe or product concept.
All entries must be submitted by midnight on Friday, May 18. Full contest rules and details are available right on the website.
“We know there are passionate cooks who have the beginnings of a food business idea and others who may have taken the first steps but could use some encouragement and advice,” says Hadjinian.
The grand prize winner will receive $2,500 in seed money from Reliable to start their business, a comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC and a gift certificate for professional cookware from The Boelter Companies.
Finalists will be selected in mid-June to participate in a final judging event at Cuisine, the student-operated restaurant for MATC’s culinary arts program in late summer.
Judges for the contest will include:
- Justin Aprahamian, chef de cuisine for Sanford Restaurant and James Beard semi-finalist
- Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café
- Andrea Marquez-Paquin and Andrew Paquin, owners of La Luna, a local company which provides fresh, authentic Mexican food products sold in select grocers’ freezers
- George Flees, general manager of Parkside 23, a restaurant in Brookfield featuring American food made with fresh, local ingredients
“We are so excited to help a local entrepreneur who has an innovative food business idea but needs resources to get started,” said Lynne Robinson, president of Reliable Water Services. “It’s very gratifying to know we can help kick-start someone’s culinary dream.”
February 15, 2012
From jsonline.com: “Milwaukee needs manufacturing renaissance” — By Reggie Newson
Recently, I joined Milwaukee Gear and our local workforce development partners in congratulating 15 graduates of an advanced manufacturing training program in Milwaukee.
The graduates completed 10 weeks of training as CNC machinists through a program developed in collaboration with the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/Big Step, Waukesha County Technical College and Milwaukee Gear, where they soon will begin their new careers.
Twelve of the 15 graduates are black males, which is heartening given the recent study by Marc Levine of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that indicates only 44.7% of metro Milwaukee’s working-age black men were employed in 2010. The study reaffirms the seriousness of a longstanding problem in metro Milwaukee that we must work together to overcome.
Make no mistake: Our state’s economy overall is moving in the right direction. We added thousands of private-sector jobs over the past year. Our unemployment rate remains below the national average and is at its lowest point since 2008. Yet we are still climbing our way out of the worst national recession since the Great Depression.
Our manufacturing sector was hit especially hard, and that directly affected Milwaukee’s economy. This has exacerbated the issue of high unemployment among black Milwaukeeans, particularly men.
For decades, many black men have faced barriers to employment. Those who have been unable to find work are sometimes regarded by employers as lacking the education or technical skills to do the job, the soft skills so vital to keeping a job and basic necessities, such as transportation to and from jobs in neighboring communities.
As Department of Workforce Development secretary and a member of Gov. Scott Walker’s cabinet, I know this administration is committed to doing everything possible to leverage resources in support of advancing economic growth in Milwaukee and getting local residents – including unemployed black males – into good-paying jobs.
One possible area is entrepreneurship. If you’re interested in starting a small business, there are local resources available to help you move in the right direction. For example, SCORE SE Wisconsin offers free counseling and mentoring in the region. The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. provides a variety of assistance to entrepreneurs, women and men.
In addition to supporting entrepreneurship in southeastern Wisconsin, one thing we can do at the state level is to support a manufacturing “renaissance” of sorts in central Milwaukee, in part by developing a local pool of skilled workers not unlike the graduates I recently met. We know job creators tend to locate where they can find the skilled workers they need to do business.
We also know that manufacturing is the backbone of Wisconsin’s economy, and we need to do more to encourage manufacturers that have taken jobs to other countries to bring them back to the United States, to Wisconsin and to Milwaukee.
By focusing training resources on key areas of the central city, including the areas highlighted by Levine’s study, and by training more welders, CNC machinists, tool-and-die makers and other workers that today’s manufacturers need, we will encourage businesses to locate in the city, bringing with them job opportunities.
This truly is a call to action for units of government, community-based organizations and other stakeholders to come together and collaborate on a workforce strategy that invests in manufacturing-based training programs that we know are successful based on data-driven, evidence-based outcomes.
A 2008 Public Policy Forum study identified almost $340 million in federal and state funding to be spent in one fiscal year on 36 different workforce development programs in Wisconsin.
Just think of what we could accomplish collectively by joining forces to prioritize this funding on programs that we know yield the best results, ahead of programs that either duplicate services unnecessarily or fund services that don’t demonstrate evidence-based outcomes, no matter how well-intentioned these programs may be.
The governor has directed DWD and the Council on Workforce Investment to recommend funding priorities for our state based on evidence-based outcomes. This includes priorities for growing and strengthening Milwaukee’s workforce. I stand behind the governor’s vision, and I urge all workforce partners serving the Milwaukee area to stand with us.
It is through this shared commitment that we will train workers with marketable skills, bring manufacturing companies back to Milwaukee and grow the economy for the benefit of our entire state
I share this commitment to the community as an appointee of Walker and as a lifelong resident of Milwaukee who is proud to make a home for my family in this community and loves our city through and through.
Reggie Newson is secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
February 10, 2012
From leadertelegram.com: “CVTC plan for NanoRite Center aimed at increasing tenant numbers” – Changes proposed to attract more tenants to Chippewa Valley Technical College’s high-tech business incubation center include broadening its focus, a $1.35 million remodeling project and potentially even a new name.
CVTC President Bruce Barker and the college’s vice president of operations, Tom Huffcutt, presented a plan Thursday night to the CVTC board for changes to The NanoRite Innovation Center.
“We weren’t ready as a board to walk away from incubation, but then we wanted to broaden the focus of the center,” Barker said.
Beginning last summer at its annual retreat, the board sought ideas on how to improve the center’s tenancy, which had waned since mid-2010. The CVTC board will meet next week to take action on the changes proposed Thursday night.
Ups and downs
Since opening in July 2007, NanoRite was on a “success trajectory” in its first two to three years, similar to other incubation centers, Huffcutt said. But the poor economy, loss of tenants, increasing competition and growing scarcity of funds available to startup companies contributed to the center’s decline in occupancy by mid-2010.
“We went from a clear path of success to something that is a little bit concerning,” he said. “The facility was being underutilized.”
Occupancy has fluctuated since the center’s opening, but reached a high-point of 61 percent in early 2010, according to a tenant history provided by CVTC.
For less than half the time NanoRite has been open, the center has exceeded the 50 percent mark for occupancy.
During the past year and a half, occupancy has been about a third to 44 percent of capacity. The college’s strategic plan for fiscal year 2012 has a goal of 70 percent.
Options discussed during fall were changing rent prices, increasing marketing or even ending the college’s operation of the center as a business incubator.
“We entertained that idea,” Barker said of the latter, “but we weren’t real wild about that idea.”
Instead Barker and Huffcutt described their proposal as a “middle ground” to the options.
In addition to trying to attract a wider scope of startup businesses, their plan includes a $1.35 million project to turn a seldom-used part of the center into a massive computer server room and offices.
CVTC already has financial commitments of $200,000 from UW-Eau Claire and $500,000 from educational Internet service provider WiscNet to help pay for the data center.
The remaining $650,000 would be paid by CVTC, but it also means the college no longer will be paying $100,000 annually to pay for renting off-campus computer server space.
The new data center also could be rented by UW System schools, public schools and other government entities as a backup site for their computer systems, Huffcutt said.
“This becomes a more reliable, stable revenue source,” he said.
Ironically, even as the college contemplates changing its strategy for NanoRite, two new tenants were announced that could put the center at its highest-ever occupancy.
“It really represents a new high-water point in terms of occupancy,” Huffcutt said.
Fiberstar Bio, a River Falls-based business that creates a natural food additive from dehydrated orange juice, signed a one-year lease for about 1,000 square feet in the center.
Super Vitamin D will be renting a lab, office and warehouse space, at first occupying 2,200 square feet but swelling to 5,000 within 17 months. The company originates in Minnesota and does work on dermal patches to release vitamins into the body for people who cannot orally ingest them.
But the new tenants working in the biotechnology and high-tech science fields also illustrate a potential problem CVTC has with the NanoRite name – that it doesn’t accurately describe the center.
By any other name
When it first began, the center attracted tenants such as OEM Micro that worked on small machines, but not quite at the tiny scale implied by the prefix “nano.”
“The majority of theses are not at the nano level, they are at the micro level,” Barker said.
The center’s name comes from the term “nanotechnology,” which is the ability to build very small devices from single atoms and molecules. However, even when it was first created, biotechnology and microfabrication uses were seen as part of the center’s purpose.
“Many tenants, we learned, were not nano companies, they were high-tech companies,” Huffcutt said.
He and Barker raised the idea of getting a marketing study to see if the name needs changing.
“I have strong objections against changing the name,” board member Gwen Southard-Schuppel said. While it can be clarified with more words indicating its broader scope of advanced technology, she said the NanoRite name is well-known.
Board member Colleen Bates argued that the “nano” part is a misnomer because it leads people to believe that tenants work on that scale.
“We have to be careful not to say something that’s not there,” she said.
The final part of Thursday night’s proposal included broadening the amount of CVTC equipment that startup companies can rent for creating a prototype or research and development.
The $4.9 million NanoRite Innovation Center was built primarily through government money, with the biggest contributors being CVTC itself and the Wisconsin Economic Development Administration. The technical college put $1.4 million into the construction of the center and handles its operation. The state economic agency put up $1.5 million, while $500,000 came from a combination of the Eau Claire city and county governments and Gateway Park Development Corp. Other contributions came from the Department of Commerce, federal government, Casper Foundation, 3M, OEM Fabricators, the CVTC Foundation and Xcel Energy.
February 6, 2012
From beloitdailynews.com: “Man keying into new career” —
“If you want to change your life then do it, but you have to realize it’s hard work.”
That’s what Gerald Terrones, owner of TurtleCreek Computers, said about his odyssey following a manufacturing layoff at age 59. Terrones graduated with honors from Blackhawk Technical College 10 years ago, earning his certificate to be a computer service technician, and recently started his own business.
The lifelong Beloiter, now 69 years old, has seven grandkids and a great grandchild waiting to be born. The student of life shared the story behind his business while dispensing sage therapy for those suffering from unemployment or the workplace blues.
In Terrones’ earlier years, he worked at various manufacturing plants as a machine operator and occasionally a foreman. However, he watched most of the plants he worked for slam their doors shut, including Beloit Corporation, and manufacturers in Sharon and Rockford. The final blow was when Terrones was laid off from yet-another employer at age 59.
He suspects it may have stemmed from an impending hip replacement. Despite the stress of the incident, Terrones considers the layoff the best thing that ever happened to him.
At the time, Terrones said he couldn’t afford to retire and approached the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board at the Rock County Job Center in Janesville. He tried job hunting, but suspects his age may have been working against his chances.
“This old guy walks in and they are probably wondering ‘how long is this guy going to work for us?” he said.
Staff at the Job Center referred him to computer service technician program offered at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC) and helped him cover the tuition and books for one year.
Terrones admits going back to school was a huge undertaking, and he had to retrain his brain. Shortly after he started school he found a full-time job in manufacturing in Stoughton, but decided to keep attending school anyway. He said his wife, Jan, was a tremendous supporter, and expressed gratitude for his teachers at BTC.
“I can’t thank them enough. They don’t tell you the answer, they make you work for it,” he said.
And he was working for it a lot. In the laboratory, instructors doled out parts to make computers, while requiring massive amounts of homework, tests and worksheets.
“I’m not saying it was fun, but it was interesting,” he said.
Although he said not too many kids hung around the ‘old man,’ he did find a few buddies only a decade younger than him. However, some had families and Terrones had to bid them farewell.
Terrones continued to stumble upon fellow soldiers in the trenches of post-manufacturing struggles. He fondly recalled a man he knew from Beloit Corporation who he found working as a nurse, when he finally got the looming hip replacement.
Launching his fledgling business was a struggle, as he attempted to do it while still working full-time. It pretty frustrating because he would miss computer service calls while at work. And by the time he got home, customers had found someone else to nurse their computers.
Terrones was finally able to retire from his full-time job at age 65 to devote himself fully to his business.
“Every year it’s progressively gotten better,” he said.
Terrones’ customer base grew and he attracted senior clients, who he said relate to him. He often trains them on the latest software and e-mail options available in the comfort of their own home, without exorbitant prices or judgment. He can transfer documents to new computers and can keep it under wraps if someone is still an outdated software package. He provides repairs, upgrades and virus removal.
“My number one priority is customer service,” Terrones said.
In the past three years he’s built 11 custom built computers for seniors, students and even gamers. He’s built a solid base of 50 customers, but is always scouting for more.
He said the house calls are popular for people who don’t want to unplug their computer and lug it in for service. He’ll help people make a simple repair for a much lower price than the teams at big box stores. He takes a conservative approach, opting for a simple fix rather than pushing a pricey purchase. He also prides himself on fast turnaround. If a students has to start college or get to a term paper, he’s been known to perform a miracles in short order.
“I’m very fussy. My wife thinks I’m a fanatic, and it’s probably true,” he said.
Terrones said he’s pleased with the new life he’s created. He enjoys his business and also moonlights as a crossing guard at an elementary school.
“I am busy, and I don’t like my life any other way,” he said.
He admits his journey was very difficult, but having survived it has made it all the more satisfying.
“The end result makes it really good,” he said.
The fit and spry sage encourages younger folks to pursue something they love while they still have the time, although he cautioned against obtaining education for jobs which don’t exist anymore.
“Think about a change, but it has to be the right change,” he said.
For other more mature people who are out of work, he gives a clarion call to action.
“Just don’t give up and stay home when you are laid off. Be ready to make a change,” he said.
February 6, 2012
From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Business seminar set for Thursday in Tomahawk” – Tomahawk Main Street and Nicolet College will hold a free seminar next week for people interested in starting a new business.
Explore Starting a Business will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Tomahawk Community Bank, 15 E. Wisconsin Ave.
The seminar is geared toward entrepreneurs looking to start a business, current business operators who need to write a business plan or small businesses in need of help.
Call Michelle Madl at 715-365-4492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register for the workshop. Call Liz Milender at 715-453-1090 or email email@example.com for information about Tomahawk Main Street’s recent business recruitment efforts or about starting a business downtown.