Wisconsin Small Business Loans and Grants
Small business often struggle to remain afloat or to get themselves going due to cash flow issues. Thanks to Wisconsin’s robust support network of loans, grants, and investments, small businesses are more equipped to succeed.
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Small businesses just starting out in the world and companies struggling to grow can benefit from business financing. By putting more money into their small businesses, owners may be able to retain top-quality talent, provide better training, and branch into new markets or even start exporting.
The SBA Wisconsin and SBA Milwaukee provide a number of loan options to help small businesses get the capital they need, but that’s not all; thanks to Wisconsin business development grants and even angel investing, even new companies have many different ways to get the money they need to flourish.
Exploring your options for small business grants and loans can be the first step toward improving the productivity and success of your business, so check out our guide to help you get started.
On this page:
- Wisconsin Small Business Grants
- Wisconsin Small Business Loans
- Small Business Investors in Wisconsin
- Other Sources of Small Business Financing
- Getting Your Business Ready for Financing
- What Kind of Financing Do You Need?
Wisconsin Small Business Grants
Brownsfields Grant Program: The Brownfields Grant Program is intended to support community redevelopment in Wisconsin. Grant funding of $5 million is available for 2019 and grants are available with a continuously rolling deadline. Brownfields funds may be used for brownfield redevelopment or related environmental activities so small businesses keying in on these areas may be eligible for help from this Wisconsin business grant program.
ExporTech Grant: Grants for ExporTech are intended for businesses operating in Wisconsin that manufacture, process, assemble and/or distribute a product or perform a service that is exported. A total of $222,000 is available for fiscal year 2019, and awards go to multiple recipients yearly. The contract runs from July to June of the next year.
Amber Grant: Amber grants are intended for women business-owners. Applications are accepted monthly for awards of $2,000 and a yearly winner will receive $25,000. Judges look for passionate business ideas in any field, from dog walkers to science startups. There is a $15 application fee.
Global Business Development Program: This grant program, like the ExporTech grant, encourages businesses to expand their offerings to exports. Awards range from $25,000 to $150,000 and grants are awarded in response to an ongoing online application process.
Wisconsin Focus on Energy: This environmental group offers grants to businesses that either work as environmental allies or need help going green in their processes. They specifically tend to help small businesses whose processes are stalled due to lack of capital. Awards range from $25,000 to $500,000; however, it is important to note that while this program is advertised by the state as a grant, it is instead an interest-free loan. There is no deadline for application.
Wisconsin Small Business Loans
First Bank: Wisconsin’s First Bank offers a wide variety of small business loans, including SBA 7a loans, Working Capital CAPLines, and even Veteran Advantage Lending to veteran-owned businesses. Maximum loan amounts are generally around $5 million depending on loan type, and revolving lines of credit are available. The SBA provides the lender with a guaranty of 75% to 85% for SBA 7a loans and CAPLines.
Peoples State Bank: This Wisconsin state bank provides SBA 504 loans for small businesses, specializing in businesses that have limited liquidity for a down payment. To be eligible, a business must be for-profit with net worth not exceeding $15 million and net income for two fiscal years of less than $5 million. Loans can range up to $350,000, and terms begin as low at 7 years and as high as 20 years for real estate.
Associated Bank: This bank located in major metro areas of Wisconsin offers a number of small business loans, including Express, 7a, and 504 loans. Those interested should have a credit score of 650 or higher and a debt-service-coverage-ratio of 1.1 or greater. Collateral is required for loans over $25,000. Interest rates sit between Prime rate + 4.5% and Prime + 6.5% with loan repayment terms extending all the way to 25 years for real estate.
Small Business Investors in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Investment Partners: As a leading angel investor and business incubator, WIP focuses on assisting small businesses in the life science and technology sectors. They invest $3.5 to $4 million annually, and WIP is among the top 10 most active angel groups nationally.
4490 Investors: In the venture capital arena, 4490 seeks to help small businesses in the software technology sector, especially in underserved areas. With as much as $8 million invested annually, 4490 prefers to invest in innovative small businesses that will disrupt their industry and that have the potential to grow.
Golden Angels Investors: Golden Angels is of the longest-lived angel groups. While their areas of expertise are primarily Healthcare Technology, Educational Technology, and B2B applications, all businesses are welcome to submit applications for funding. High-potential, high-growth businesses are welcome and will be reviewed by more than 100 angels.
Other Sources of Small Business Financing
Small businesses based in Wisconsin should dream big—you don’t need to find a local lender just because you’re based in Wisconsin. Online lenders offer a variety of products for small businesses. Here are a few:
Offering small business loans, lines of credit, and invoice financing, Fundbox is a solid option for financial support. Businesses should expect to pay an origination fee of 4.66%. Paying the amount off early is fee-free, and there is no minimum credit score to qualify. Businesses must have been actively invoicing for three months before applying.
BlueVine is a flexible online small business loan option offering lines of credit, term loans, and invoice factoring. While credit lines for invoice factoring can reach up to $5 million, loans and lines of credit come in at a more modest $250,000 maximum. Rates can stay as low as 4.8%, though individual rates vary. Payments are fixed and paid weekly or monthly, and funding can be received within hours.
The peer-to-peer lending company Funding Circle offers fixed rates starting at 4.99% APR for small business loans ranging from $25,000 to $500,000. Repayment terms are between six months and five years. Businesses are assigned a loan specialist and approval can come in just 24 hours for businesses experiencing a time crunch. While all business types are welcome to apply for a loan, you should know applying with Funding Circle may impact your credit score.
>> Read More: Best peer-to-peer options
Getting Your Business Ready for Financing
While your business might be in need of funding, it’s important to remember that banks, investors, and grant organizations don’t need to provide you with money. It’s critical to make a strong case for why you should be eligible for grants, loans, or investments. The Wisconsin small business association can provide resources to help with this, but some of the work is yours to do.
To start, work on improving your business credit score if needed. The most successful applicants have a score of 650 or higher, and higher is better. Next, consider writing a strong business plan. A good business plan introduces the lender to your mission and convinces lenders you have a solid plan for the future. While not all applications require a business plan, it’s helpful to have one to demonstrate you’ll be able to pay back the loan, plus interest, as you promise.
While you are not always required to show P&L statements, have a business bank account, or hold a business credit card, having these things may also help prove your legitimacy and smooth the way for financing approval.
What Kind of Financing Do You Need?
SBA loans, business lines of credit, angel investing—seeing all these terms can make even the most savvy business manager’s head spin. How can you tell which means of funding best suits your small business? It’s important to consider not only what each type of funding is primarily geared for but also what your business is experiencing at the moment.
For example, venture capital may not be the right choice for your small business if you are not in technology or software-oriented fields, as most venture capital tends to invest in these types of businesses that have a very quick growth strategy. If you need ongoing capital, a line of credit may be a better choice instead. Lines of credit become available again once you pay them off; this differentiates them from a loan, which is a one-time cash disbursement that must then be paid back.
On the other hand, if you need a fixed sum of money for a one-off purchase such as equipment, consider a secured loan from a bank. A loan will provide a lump sum cash payment to ensure you can make that critical purchase. While you may be able to make the same purchase on a line of credit, loans tend to be approved for larger amounts—you may be unable to find a line of credit big enough to finance your purchase.
Angel investing is also great option for businesses who are in a solid and sustainable place but hope for long-term growth. Because angel investing is not a guarantee, businesses in need of cash fast should not be relying on it.
Wisconsin small business financing can be a tricky issue, but there are a wide variety of options. Thanks to a large number of small business grants in Wisconsin — alongside other financing such as loans and angel investing — small companies may have an easier time than they expect finding the support they need to grow.
Author: Jeff Gitlen