When Green Bay SCORE mentor Timothy Majcen of Oconto Falls went to work with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation several years ago, he saw it as a way to combine decades of experience in the banking industry with his desire to help small businesses obtain financing.
“There are a lot of funding sources, but one of the key differences with WWBIC is that they also provide technical support and serve as a consultant,” Majcen said. “We may meet as often as monthly to look at things that could be changed or things that are going well but could be even better. This dialog helps them to address challenges early on so that they can improve areas before things get worse.”
Although Majcen retired from WWBIC recently, he continues to encourage participation. A major part of his role was marketing, and he spent hours with bankers, economic development personnel, entrepreneurial organizations and business owners to let them know how WWBIC might be able to provide nonconventional financing.
As part of a statewide economic development initiative, WWBIC focuses on individuals who face barriers in accessing financing or educational support. It isn’t just for women. The social goal is to advance inclusion in business ownership with loans of up to $250,000.
There are six offices in Wisconsin; one recently opened in Appleton. In promoting its unique services, the website says, “We focus our efforts on working with women, people of color, veterans and those who may be overcoming barriers in reaching their entrepreneurial dreams.”
Majcen agreed: “In most cases, the entrepreneurs are seeking financing that isn’t available from a conventional source. If it’s a startup business, many conventional lenders don’t like to finance them.”
He said that WWBIC provides options, including those where a lender might finance part and WWBIC will do the rest.
“We figure out what works,” he said.
For people with credit challenges, WWBIC will consider the reasons with the understanding that there are obstacles in life such as divorce or medical problems that don’t reflect the character of the applicant.
The ability to finance also depends on the strength of the business plan. Majcen said that it is an important part of the process and required part of the application.
“If a person had an idea and concept, I would help them lay out how a business plan would look by giving the subject headings and an idea of what goes where," Majcen said. "Once they have that, I’d help tweak it.”
For those starting from scratch, Majcen said working with a group such as SCORE or the Small Business Development Corporation is recommended. The WWBIC office in Appleton is also focusing more on educational courses to help entrepreneurs work through these challenges.
In his volunteer role at SCORE, Majcen said he will continue to help in this area. He often meets with clients who have a vague idea of what they want to do.
“What they need to do — a good practice I recommend — is to try to reduce their ideas to writing,” he said. “I’ve had this experience where I’ll sit down with someone and they have an idea and want to talk it through to vet it. The issue is they don’t have anything in writing, and haven’t begun to identify some of the obstacles or challenges that might be encountered.”
He suggests gathering more information and getting input from someone with a similar business that is successful, but isn’t a direct competitor. With the internet, it is easy to find a business somewhere else in the country and call for advice. Most entrepreneurs are willing to help and like to talk about their businesses. This information will help in completing a business plan and defining what the business will look like.
Complete details on the process and an application checklist are available at www.wwbic.com. In next week’s column, an entrepreneur will talk about the process and how WWBIC made her dream a reality.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.