By Karen Stokes
Earlier this year, BizStarts, was awarded the runner-up in the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) Model Community Accelerator/Incubator Program.
This Model Award is for community* accelerator or incubator programs primarily designed to develop and support community entrepreneurship at any stage appropriate for the community context.
“We took a lot of pride in that, as far as I know a Milwaukee organization has never even been in the finals before this national competition. A group like USABE that’s been around for decades to be recognized is really an honor,” said Patrick Snyder, President of BizStarts.
USABE is one of the largest organizations in the world for faculty that teaches entrepreneurship.
“This award is to celebrate a university that’s working with a community organization that’s making a difference in the community by creating entrepreneurship and making a way to alleviate poverty,” Snyder said. “We were the only group there that wasn’t a university.”
In creating the program, BizStarts sought support from the University of Notre Dame Professor, Michael Morris. Morris has worked to bring entrepreneurship empowerment to those operating under conditions of adversity.
“So what we do is we borrow this 6 week credential curriculum from the University of Notre Dame. They do it as a 6 week boot camp on Saturdays, that’s what we do. The program teaches mostly non-traditional students that haven’t gone to college, bookkeeping, marketing, profit model, and how to leverage opportunities,” said Snyder.
After the 6 week boot camp, after the learning happens, then it becomes a system of knowing. BizStarts has partnered with Alverno College, Marquette University and a student group at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to provide student consultants.
“Imagine there are 25 steps to being in business when the person gets out (of boot camp). Things are different from what we teach in class,” Snyder said. “We can’t spend a lot of time in class saying here’s how you get your LLC, or here’s how you get your website up and running. What the college students do is they literally check those 25 boxes. They create the website, they put up social media, they help with their numbers so they can create profits. Everything the students do is free of charge. If you started doing a business you would need to hire a lawyer when you now have Marquette doing it free of charge to our entrepreneurs. Then they can focus on their business.”
Entrepreneur and participant of BizStarts, Ruben Gaona shared his experience:
“Bizstarts assisted me by first accepting me to be part of their program regardless of where I came from and what my background was. In 2019, I left my State of Wisconsin employment to become an entrepreneur. Currently, I am Co-founder and Chief of Operations for The Way Out, and I also started a Non-Profit organization.”
The Way Out assists formerly incarcerated individuals (they call them Justice Involved Job Seekers) embrace their past and match them with employers who understand the social and economic benefits of hiring from a “hard to employ” population.