Lakeland lands $75,000 entrepreneurship grant to support veterans
Lakeland University has received a $75,000 entrepreneurship grant from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to help veterans start their own businesses.
The grant will enable Lakeland to expand existing programs and to build new programs to address the gaps in community resources that have been identified through a variety of interviews with community stakeholders.
“We are passionate about entrepreneurship activity and breaking down the barriers to entrepreneurship for all populations,” said Lakeland President Beth Borgen. “This grant will allow us to expand our programming to serve more veterans.”
Through community outreach and relationship development, Lakeland and its downtown location, Jake’s, A Lakeland Community, have connected with several veteran small business owners, leaders in the community and students to identify areas of opportunity to support and enrich the entrepreneurial journey for veterans throughout Sheboygan and surrounding rural communities.
Lakeland currently has 50 veterans enrolled as students, and the university has a director of veterans services who coordinates additional programming and support for veterans. Lakeland will use the grant to better serve the veterans currently enrolled at LU, expand access to training and programming for more veterans and support veteran-owned businesses in the region.
Stephanie Hoskins, LU’s inaugural Herbert Kohler & Frank Jacobson Chair for Business and Entrepreneurship, said the grant will provide seed money for veteran students to start their own small businesses, stipends for co-working spaces at Jake’s, a veteran-focused accelerator program this spring and a recently launched virtual network for veterans.
The roundtables discussions will mirror that of other offerings in the region with a focus specifically for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are veterans. The veteran-focused accelerators in Sheboygan County or Manitowoc County will provide veterans ways to connect, encourage innovation, give an overview of what it takes to start a business and provide initial financial support.
Lakeland has launched a virtual network for entrepreneurs and supporters of small businesses and entrepreneurs to connect, and the grant will add a channel specifically for veterans, veteran-owned businesses and those who want to support veteran-owned business through mentorship, discounted services or by being a customer and purchasing from veterans.
Lakeland will use an existing program, Launch: Lakeland Student-Run Businesses, as another outlet for veterans. Lakeland will provide seed money for students to launch their own business, and when students graduate, they will take their business with them. Lakeland will provide support, training, mentorship and identify potential clients or engage as a customer when possible.
“There is an opportunity for us to serve even more veterans through innovative programming, support, education opportunities, access to capital and networking,” Hoskins said. “Jake’s is dedicated to breaking down barriers to entrepreneurship including those unique to veterans.”
Lakeland has recently launched partnerships and initiatives with several community organizations that are focused on the same goals of enabling access to entrepreneurship for all populations and breaking down the barriers faced by rural small business owners and founders.
Gov. Tony Evers and the DVA announced $424,970 in grants to Lakeland and more than a dozen organizations that help Wisconsin veterans and their families.
“As a state, Wisconsin is a national leader in providing for our veterans, and we continue to strive to provide our nation’s heroes with the support and resources they’ve earned through their service,” said Gov. Evers. “These organizations do great work, ensuring Wisconsin’s more than 300,000 veterans and their families have the services they need to be successful, and they deserve to be recognized for being a vital part of ensuring our veterans are cared for and uplifted.”