Minority as well as women owned businesses in Wisconsin can get financing from a wide variety of free grant or loan programs. There are banks, credit unions, corporation, non-profits, and even government funds available each and every month. The goal is to help small businesses get the capital they need, with a focus on Black, women, and minority owned companies. Find a list of grants and loans below in Wisconsin that may be near you, including in Milwaukee, Madison, and other cities.
The funds will be for women owned companies, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) businesses as well as MWBE companies. There are also loan and free grant programs for Black, Latino, or Asian owned companies as well as LGBTQ companies. The financial assistance, when combined with mentoring support, can help a business either start or grow.
The list of funds below will be updated daily. It is the most recent list of loan as well as grant programs as they “open up” for minority as well as women owned companies. Note some funds focus on start-ups or micro-businesses as well.
Free grants as well as loans in Wisconsin
While there may be other sources of funds out there, the loans and free grants below are aimed at helping disadvantaged businesses. This may be a Black owned company or small women owned business. There are also funds for LGBTQ companies, Asians, Latino businesses, and other minority owned small to medium sized businesses.
Year round small business assistance
Kiva Microloans are offered throughout the state, including in Madison, Milwaukee and other cities. 0% interest rate loans are offered to small businesses, and the amount that can be borrowed is up to $15,000. The loans can help business owners with little or no credit as well. Much of the funding goes to disadvantaged businesses such as LGBTQ, veterans, minority, women and others. Find details here. For Milwaukee – https://www.kivaushub.org/milwaukee or for Madison learn more. https://www.kivaushub.org/madison
Dane County and Madison small businesses (in particular Latino owned companies) can turn to the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County for assistance. They help with economic development, which includes information on free government grants, loan programs, start-up help, employment issues and much more. A focus is on Hispanic owned businesses but any small to mid-sized company can get help. They are also part of the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce (WLCC) as well as the PROSPERA Revolving Loan Fund, which provides financial help. More here. https://lccwi.org/
Milwaukee ethnically diverse businesses, including Black, Latino, Women, Asian, and immigrant among others, can contact the Business Council. They are a non-profit agency that is part of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). They offer counseling, advice, information on how to get capital for a business, networking and more. The goal is to help disadvantaged businesses, including those in low income areas, get the help they need. Find details https://mketbc.wordpress.com/
Milwaukee businesses in economically disadvantaged parts of the city can get funds from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s impact investing program. A multiple year financial assistance program is providing funds, with most of the low cost or interest free loans going towards Black and minority owned businesses. They also focus on education, housing, and other needs. Read more here. https://www.greatermilwaukeefoundation.org/community-leadership/impact-investing/
Latino Chamber of Commerce of Southeastern Wisconsin helps Latino and other minority or disadvantaged businesses including immigrants. They work with regional banks to offer resolving loans. There are educational resources, job creation and training programs, entrepreneurial classes, and small business help. Whether it is details on financing or free mentoring/coaching, resources are offered. The majority of their services in Wisconsin are free to clients. Find details here. https://latinochambersew.org/
Red Letter Grants helps fund women owned businesses in Wisconsin. Community leaders, business owners, and volunteers (among others) help run the non-profit. Small dollar grants are only one service – there is also mentoring, peer support groups, workshops and more. Learn more on the WI non-profit. https://www.redlettergrant.org/
Urban League of Greater Madison is assisting businesses in the city and Dane County. Among the programs available is a resolving loan fund – this means once the cash has been paid back by one borrower the funds can be issued to another minority owned small business. The focus of the financial aid is on the south side of Madison, and the funds are offered in partnership with the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. Up to $20,000 can be loaned, and the Urban League also gives other support to minority companies. Learn more. https://ulgm.org/
A program known as Upstart from WARF provides women owned companies and BIPOC (“Person of Color”) businesses with support. Most of the help is mentoring or free coaching, but there are referrals to grants and financial help. Get assistance with social media, business plan creation, raising capital, finding loans, hiring, and so much more. Learn more. https://www.warf.org/programs-events/innovators-investors-and-researchers/upstart/
WWBIC provides a few types of small business help, entrepreneurship assistance, and other resources. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age, WWBIC (also known as Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation) can help men, women, minorities and others get financial help in the form of loans, credit, or grants. Counselors help businesses apply for funding. There is also one on one free business coaching, financial literacy and education, workshops to help females, rural, and Black business owners get the advice they need, business plan help and other programs. Assistance, including free grants, is available statewide from the office at 1533 N Rivercenter Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53212 or remotely. Call (414) 263-5450. Or more details here. https://www.wwbic.com/
October and November 2021
The state of Wisconsin has created two different grant programs to help businesses of color, veterans, or women owned businesses. They include the Equitable Grant Recovery program, which is $75 million being allocated to help businesses impacted by COVID. The second financial aid resource is called the Diverse Business Assistance Grant program, and this can help businesses owned by people of color, including Latino,, Black, immigrant and others. More details here. https://doa.wi.gov/pages/EquitableRecovery.aspx
April and May 2021
Dane County is providing up to $15 million dollars to small businesses as part of Dane Buy Local. The funding for the financial assistance program is from the CARES Act. Local partners in Madison and the County include the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, the Latino Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Black Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to help small businesses that were hit by the COVID pandemic and the grants are a form of financial relief. Learn more about the Dane County resources here. https://www.danebuylocal.com/
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is providing 2% interest rate loans to small businesses. Up to $50,000 is offered to each qualified applicant, with one million allocated to the program. The loans are interest free for up to 12 months, with funds allocated to women and minority owned businesses as well. Restaurants, cultural centers, hotels, early childhood businesses, and other businesses hit hard by the pandemic can get financial help. More information here. https://www.greatermilwaukeefoundation.org/community-leadership/impact-investing/thriveonloans/
$5000 Grants are being offered by the Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant program. The state is offering this financial assistance to small and even mid-sized businesses – as long as the applicant’s revenue is less than $7 million per year. It is estimated that tens of thousands of businesses, including many female, veteran, and minority owned, will benefit from this free government grant program. It is part of COVID relief. Apply here for details. https://www.revenue.wi.gov/Pages/TaxPro/2021/WisconsinTomorrowSmallBusinessRecoveryGrant.aspx#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20Wisconsin%20Tomorrow%20Small%20Business%20Recovery,Corporation%20%28WEDC%29%20and%20the%20Department%20of%20Revenue%20%28DOR%29.
Minority and female owned businesses in the city of La Crosse Wisconsin can get grants of up to $5,000. The city Planning and Development Department. The funds are part of the Minority Owned Business Assistance Grant Program. The money is for both (1) existing businesses as well as (2) startups that need capital and that have a solid business plan. All minorities, including Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian Americans and others can apply. Grants can pay for equipment, legal goods, inventory, technology and other bills. Read more here. https://www.cityoflacrosse.org/your-government/departments/planning-economic-development/moba-grant
September – October 2020
The Milwaukee Business Restart Program is providing small businesses, including minority, veteran, and female run, with free grants. Up to $10 million dollars will be distributed. The applying company needs to have under 20 employees 9and even sole-proprietors can apply) and limited revenue. if a small business/start up with zero dollars in revenue can apply for a grant. Partners include Latino Entrepreneurial Network, the Milwaukee Urban League, Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, with a focus on Black, Latino, LGBTQ and female businesses in the city. Read more. https://city.milwaukee.gov/DCD/BusinessToolbox/COVID-19-Resources/Restart.htm
Waukesha County and WWBIC to Launch Small Business Business Assistance Grants Program. Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp – WWBIC will be handling the application and distribution of the free grants, as well as follow up business coaching and mentorship opportunities for women, Black owned and minority start ups or micro businesses. Funds will be targeted to micro enterprise (5 or less employees) businesses located in Waukesha County. Applications are here https://www.wwbic.com/business-lending/loans/, or read a news release. https://urbanmilwaukee.com/pressrelease/waukesha-county-and-wwbic-to-launch-small-business-covid-19-business-assistance-grants-program/
$30M Milwaukee investment pool targets businesses, projects by people of color. Details on the foundation and the grant program. https://www.greatermilwaukeefoundation.org/ or read more information here, https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/29/milwaukee-investment-pool-for-business-targets.html
By Jon McNamara