Promising entrepreneurs filled up on advice and connections—high-octane fuel for startups—at the North Side Business Incubator workshop held Thursday, Aug. 31, at St. Ann Center’s Bucyrus Campus, 2450 W. North Ave.
“It was inspiring to see how many people are committed to starting businesses on the north side,” said John Jansen, Vice President of Grants, Community and Capital Development at St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care. “Besides making money, they are dedicated to improving their neighborhood and serving the people who live there.”
Twenty one entrepreneurs had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to more than two dozen investors, mentors and business coaches at the free event. The aim of the day was to nurture homegrown commerce for Milwaukee’s 15th Aldermanic District. Ald. Russell W. Stamper II and the Marketplace Business Improvement District 32 co-sponsored the workshop—the third in an ongoing series of business incubators hosted at St. Ann Center’s north side campus, which opened in the 53206 ZIP code two years ago.
“There were a lot of connections made—both between the entrepreneurs and the business resource people and among the entrepreneurs themselves,” Jansen said. “People were very interested in one another’s ideas and how they might work together. A few set up appointments to meet later because one needed the other’s services.”
The workshop kicked off with elevator speeches from the business hopefuls. Instead of the traditional half-minute pitch, these went three to five minutes. “The entrepreneurs were more passionate than 30 seconds would permit,” Jansen said. The day also included time for one-on-one discussions between entrepreneurs, mentors and investors along with a networking session.
Each entrepreneur had a chance to meet privately with Ald. Stamper to discuss what they needed to start or expand their business. Several are currently pursuing their ideas as sidelines—most dream of launching full-time businesses. Participants like Monica Hubbard of the Bread Explosion Comfort Cafe came with samples of their products. Her mini peach cobblers didn’t last long. Maurice Sharpe, who was seeking startup funds, gave potential investors a chance to taste his brainchild—hot chocolate with a caffeine kick.
Response to the incubator was so overwhelming, 40 additional entrepreneurs have already registered for a second workshop tentatively scheduled for October. In the meantime, Ald. Stamper, Sr. Edna Lonergan, President of St. Ann Center, and Jansen will meet to determine next steps for helping participants turn their ideas into profit-making ventures.
Jansen will also be sending out contact information so the networking can continue. “There was so much camaraderie in the room, it was incredible,” he said, adding participants all had one dream in common. “They want to take back their neighborhood and see it grow and prosper. Judging by what we saw today, I’m sure they’re going to do it.”