The success of Wisconsin’s small businesses was celebrated during Global Entrepreneur Week.
“Small businesses provide the jobs that add to our economy,” Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said during a visit to Fox Valley Technical College Regional Center in Waupaca.
“We need startups, we need entrepreneurs,” Kleefisch said. “Entrepreneurs are born every day at our technical colleges. These are the job creators of the future.”
A former stay-at-home mom, Kleefisch told how she started her own small business “between children’s naps.”
“She is a steadfast advocate of businesses in Wisconsin,” said FVTC President and CEO Dr. Susan May.
According to May, a total of 420,000 small businesses support over 64 percent of the state’s jobs.
To help promote businesses in the state, FVTC created an entrepreneurship and small business resource center. Since it was established in September 2005, FVTC’s Venture Center has assisted 325 local business entrepreneurs.
“I am happy to be helping people to launch businesses and grow businesses in northeast Wisconsin,” said Venture Center Director Amy Pietsch. “Our rural entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy.”
In 2004, the FVTC leaders “realized there was a need for training and support for people who wanted to start a business and for those who wanted to grow and expand businesses,” Pietsch said. “The E-Seed Entrepreneur training has grown to become our signature series, and we now provide a whole host of training, mentoring and events for those who want to grow or launch a small business.”
Today, the Venture Center is responsible for “driving economic development through business launches and expansions while cost recovering,” Pietsch said.
To celebrate the success of Venture Center graduates, Pietsch led a tour to some of the small businesses that have participated in its programs.
The Nov. 21 tour scheduled visits to: Mama Z’s Bakery, Waupaca; Furniture by Todd, Inspired by Nature, Waupaca; Office Outfitters, Waupaca; Fremont Bait & Tackle/First Cast Tournaments, Fremont; Ebel Woodworking, Scandinavia; and The Millstone of Iola Mills, Iola.
The first stop on the tour was Mama Z’s Bakery, owned by Mitzi Wohlrabe, followed by Furniture by Todd, owned by Todd and Darlene Reed.
The Reeds have been in the woodworking business for the past 30 years, and opened Furniture by Todd five years ago.
A self-taught woodworker, Todd uses mostly local materials, and everything in the shop is created by him or his wife.
“We do what we want,” Darlene said. “It’s a great way to make a living.”
Office Outfitters, owned by Bill and Mary Zimmermann, has been located at 120 W. Badger St. for the past three years.
He spent 15 years working in marketing prior to purchasing Lighthouse Office Supply in December of 2007.
“It opened the door for us to stay in the community,” he said.
Office Outfitters offers everything a business needs and focuses on the business customer.
“What you see on the floor is only a fraction of what we offer,” Zimmermann said.
With regular deliveries, Office Outfitters does not need to keep a large inventory, except for paper.
“Paper is critical,” Zimmermann said. “If you’re not competitive on pricing, you don’t make it.”
Office Outfitters plans to liquidate its scrapbooking inventory and use the space to transition to offering office furniture.