Businesses and entrepreneurs in Wisconsin’s Northwoods have a new go-to source of support. Just a few months after its official launch, the GRID—which stands for Guiding Rural Innovation and Development—is already succeeding at its mission to be the place business owners and startups can reach out to for connections and solutions.
Thanks to a WEDC Capacity Building Grant and other funding, the GRID launched its cornerstone project—a searchable database of business resources—in September. The list is extensive in both scope and geography, covering Oneida, Vilas, Lincoln, Langlade, Forest, Florence and Iron counties. Listings range from incubators, accelerators and venture capital funds for startups to tax services and other technical assistance for existing small businesses.
Toni Van Doren is the business solutions coordinator at Nicolet College, where the GRID is currently based. She notes that the number of people now working remotely in the region is growing as those workers take advantage of vacation homes they’d normally only be at for a few weeks or weekends a year.
“They don’t know where to find the resources they need for their businesses, and we can help with that. The GRID connects those innovators, those small business owners to the resources when they need them,” she says. “Plus, those workers are looking for the kind of resources and amenities they’re used to having in other places, and that is creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”
The GRID is also gearing up to promote and enhance the region’s cultural offerings, not just its businesses resources, as a way to attract and retain more remote workers and entrepreneurs.
“If we can amplify those points of light to make the Northwoods so bright and such a great place to be it will also start bringing more people, more businesses to the area and creating this culture of entrepreneurship, which brings a lot of new services, a lot of new businesses, a lot of remote workers,” says Van Doren.
While networking capabilities are limited by COVID-19, the initiative also hopes to build connections between area businesses, organizations and investors. There are plans offer a concierge service to help entrepreneurs navigate the startup process and eventually grow into a standalone organization with its own incubator space and accelerator program.
As for right now, the GRID has already produced a series of YouTube videos spotlighting local entrepreneurs. With the year coming to a close, it is offering an educational session for businesses looking for help navigating through the tax and financial impacts of the pandemic. In January, it will be hosting a series of free virtual Preparing for Entrepreneurial Success sessions.
More information on these sessions, as well as the resource database, can be found on the GRID website.