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 female or black 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
There are a number of assistance programs, including free grants, coaching, business development workshops and more that operate year round in Wisconsin. Find details be area, category, and region below. Or continue to scroll down the page for monthly grant and loan programs.
Statewide assistance programs in Wisconsin
African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin supports the entire state, with a focus on Milwaukee. They help minority owned businesses as well as others, but a focus is on businesses owned by people of color. Not only is free mentorship, counseling and networking given, but they also help facilitate interest free loans of up to $15,000. The goal, among other things, is to help people of color get capital and support they need for short and long term success. Call (414) 462-9450 for the agency.
Forward Community Investments provides support to businesses and non-profits that are focused on social causes, helping the disadvantaged, and businesses that try to address economic inequalities. As part of this, there will be low cost loans and/or free grants. Beneficiaries are often women, LGTBQ+, minorities and people that are often denied access to capital. There are also advisory services, consultations and so much more. Continue reading here. https://www.forwardci.org/
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
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/
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/
Wisconsin Economic Development, or WEDC, helps hundreds of businesses per year, including Hmong, African-American, Latino, Asian owned and others. Main Street Grants, low cost SBA loans, help for exporting, Kiva funds, and more. Everything around small business growth and development, including MWBE, is provided. Find details on financial help from WEDC here. https://wedc.org/
Green Bay, Brown County and Northern WI business assistance programs
NEWCAP is the local community action agency for Green Bay and the region. They have many resources for small businesses, in particular those owned by veterans, people of color, and women. They can have financial help from time to time such as Diverse Business Assistance Grants. They offer business plan creation advice, coaching, programs such as “Create your own opportunities” and many others. Find details here. https://www.newcap.org/program_category/success/
Madison area and Dane County grant and loan programs
Center for Black Excellence and Culture is based in Madison. They provide a number of resources to the Black community, including business owners and entrepreneurs. There are workshops and classes, free use of classrooms and workstations, mentoring services, and an ongoing list of grant programs. Opportunities are offered for the Black community in Dane County. Learn more here. https://www.theblackcenter.org/
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/
United Way of Dane County, working with other charities and corporations, provides support to small businesses, including annual microgrants to Black women owned companies and other minorities. The non-profit United Way has many assistance programs around education, employment, small business development and entrepreneurship and more. A major focus is on people of color, immigrants, women, and veterans in Madison and the county, but anyone can apply for grants or other help. Learn more here. https://www.unitedwaydanecounty.org/
Madison WI Black Chamber of Commerce has a goal of helping build successful Black-owned businesses in the city. A wide range of services are offered. There is information on raising capital from bank loans, non-profits, or government grants among other sources. Or get networking help, leadership development, publicity in Dane County and many other resources. Read about the Chamber here. https://www.madisonblackchamber.com/
Madison Black Business Hub is a multi-story facility that allows Black owned businesses to shop up shop as well as provides a number of assistance programs. There is information on free small businesses grants for Black women and male owned businesses. There are co-work spaces, information on loans (including interest free), networking and technical help and so much more. There are also business accelerator programs for Black owned businesses. Read more on the Hub. https://ulgm.org/black-business-hub/
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/
Milwaukee Wisconsin MWBE programs
Black Business Boost in Milwaukee is a partnership of Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM) as well as Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). Dozens of Black-owned businesses, owned by both men or women, can receive financial support and other assistance from the program. There will be money to help entrepreneurs, counseling, workshops, sales and marketing support and more. Continue reading on the BBB program. https://www.wwbic.com/black-business-boost/
City of West Allis is a Kiva Trustee that can help small businesses in the city get the funding (and other financial resources) they may need. The city government partners with WWBIC to ensure the financial aid and other resources get to the most qualified businesses, with a focus on MWBE companies. Up to $15,000 can be borrowed by a qualified company. Learn more here. https://www.westalliswi.gov/1863/Kiva-West-Allis
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/
Mas Fuertes Network helps Latino owned businesses in the Milwaukee region get the financial help they need for their small to mid-size business – whether it is a grant or 0% APR loan. The Latino Entrepreneurial Network as well as the Latino Chamber of Commerce partner together to offer assistance programs including the Microloan Relief Fund, training, the bilingual and bicultural business counseling, and a program known as Stronger, all of which offer financial help, counseling and more. Continue reading here. https://latinoentrepreneurialnetwork.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/
Upstart Kitchen helps food entrepreneurs, restaurants, cafes, diners and similar companies in Milwaukee WI. The non-profit Upstart Kitchen provides financial help, free use of a kitchen, help finding retail spaces, assistance from professionals cooks and more. A major focus is on Black owned and food serve companies owned by people of color. Learn more here. https://www.upstartkitchen.org/
Wisconsin North Central Minority Supplier Development Council (NCMSDC) has a business center in NW Milwaukee. A wide range of assistance programs, loans, financial support, and more is offered to businesses owned by people of color and/or women. Free coaching is combined with minority certifications, help finding and applying for loans or grant money and more. Get details here. https://www.northcentralmsdc.org/
Sherman Phoenix Foundation is using government grants to help Black-owned businesses in the city, and the focus is on the creative community. This may be artists, people that work with their hands, designer type businesses and others. The foundation also offers other support too. Learn more here. https://www.shermanphoenix.com/foundation
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