Milwaukee – On October 2, Launch MKE will offer its inaugural, interactive 10-week Business Academy course to both aspiring and established entrepreneurs in Milwaukee. Classes will be taught by local experts and cover the basics of starting a business: licensing, financial literacy, market research, cash flow and more. Graduates of the program will be partnered with seasoned entrepreneurs who will mentor them over a two-year period. Anyone looking to turn an idea into a sustainable, successful business can apply at LaunchMKE.org.
Students will leave the Business Academy with a completed plan for their business, a cohort of fellow entrepreneurs in Milwaukee, and the knowledge and confidence to take their ideas to the next level. Starting Oct. 2, classes will be offered on Monday evenings at Parklawn Assembly of God in Sherman Park, Tuesday evenings (starting Oct. 3) at St. Michael’s Parish in Midtown and Saturday mornings (starting Oct. 7) at Grand Ave Mall downtown. Each class is limited to 20 students. The cost of the program, including all materials and resources, is $225.
“Milwaukee struggles with business startups,” said Jay Mason, Milwaukee serial entrepreneur and president of Launch MKE. “Our program will work collaboratively to create an ecosystem of established businesses, entrepreneurship programs, schools and non-profits that can contribute to the success of urban entrepreneurs, particularly those in low-wealth neighborhoods.”
In a year when new company formation rose nationally, Wisconsin ranks dead last among the 50 states in terms of startups – and Milwaukee ranks second to last of its peers – according to the Kauffman Foundation’s annual Start-up Activity report. Existing efforts to support the creation and growth of new businesses in Milwaukee’s low-wealth neighborhoods have fallen short.
“Unlike other entrepreneurship programs, Launch MKE is not focused on high tech or high growth startups, but on targeting budding entrepreneurs in overlooked or undervalued communities,” said Larry Waters, Chairman of Launch MKE and a successful retired executive with MillerCoors. “This works well in cities such as Chattanooga, Baltimore and Grand Rapids where we’ve learned a lot from them so we can create something here that is ours.” The results they have achieved include over 80% business success rates after five years; a 40% reduction of public assistance; and a 50% increase in household income. We hope to experience those same results here.”
Each Launch MKE course will be led by one of five dynamic, super-experienced facilitators, according to Mason. They include trainers, teachers and coaches from places such as Milwaukee Area Technical College, Concordia University Wisconsin and successful area start-ups.
One of the facilitators for the fall Business Academy is Chad Johnson, an entrepreneur and Milwaukee native. Johnson travels across North America as a training consultant facilitating leadership development courses for clients such as MillerCoors, Johnson Controls and Fiserv. He is also a partner in MKEing Coffee, a new coffee roasting company and brand in the city.
“What engages me most about facilitating Launch MKE’s Business Academy is empowering entrepreneurial-minded innovators in our city with foundational business know-how and connecting them with impactful relationships,” said Johnson “It is a blessing for me to both learn and help foster the passions and dreams of everyone in the group. We will truly see our local business community flourish as we generously pass along the knowledge and experience that has so generously been given to us along the way.”
Much of the cost of Launch MKE has been offset by private contributions from area businesses and foundations, leaving only a $225 cost to students for the 10- week course and related resources. Interested businesses and entrepreneurs can learn more and sign up for one of the Business Academy classes on the LaunchMKE.org or on the Facebook page LaunchMKE.