(Part 1) Our team here at the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce has had a pretty incredible couple of weeks. We have two huge announcements to share with all of you -- this news will have a massive impact on veterans and military spouses throughout the state. Don't miss it!
We are happy to address your questions live, so please leave your comments in the chat box!
Join WVCC staff, volunteers, board members, and friends every Wednesday at 11:30am for this informal, ask-me-anything-style live stream.
The WI Veterans Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit organization that serves veterans and military families by supporting veteran owned and veteran-friendly businesses across Wisconsin.
On behalf of our members, we serve as an advocate for Wisconsin’s veteran business community and promote economic opportunity for military veterans, military families, and veteran-friendly businesses.
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Intro/Outro Music: "Turn It Up" by Barry Dallas
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Today on Wisconsin veterans forward, man, have we got some exciting news to share with all of you or what can you hear me? Yeah. To share with all of you? My goodness , uh , Is big. Uh , but first I wanna put some things in, in context. So we have been Back in action really for golly . When did we get back in action? It's been like 18 months. Has it been 18 months already? My goodness. But we were , um, we experienced like so many other people , um, a partial and then a complete shutdown due to the due to COVID. And then even when we came back, the way that we did what we did was restricted significantly and we had to evolve and kind of change the way that we served our members and our C unity In a big, big way. Um , because we weren't able to have live events. And we just, this last summer in June, June or July, we're able to start doing events again throughout the state. And , uh, you know, obviously we've been since then traveling throughout the whole state, we've had, we we've had events and we've supported our members and , you know , Claire and lacrosse and Madison Green bay Appleton Stevens point, we're seeing Kenosha, Milwaukee, Brookfield, I mean, Darn near hit every county. And which is something we're really proud of, but where we are now and on the heels of, of receiving this huge news, which is going to be a game changer for us as an organization and the way that we serve people, you gotta think about where we were, you know, back in COVID land. When the last thing that we did before we had to sh shutter and go into hibernation mode. The very last thing that we did Was had a fundraiser. We like our last ounce of energy before we had to shut down. We did a fundraiser for veteran serving organizations in , in the state. We raised like $24,000. And then, then we had to , we had to furlough, we had to shut down And it was a tough decision for the health and VI like long term viability of our organization. And from there to where we are now is a lot of patient , a lot of hard work, a lot of evolution, a lot of changes, but a lot of vigilant service, right? And, and so bearing in mind that the news we're about to share , uh, that we are very happy about and you've maybe seen on our social media or whatever, but like the news we're about to share is something that we are very excited about. Something that didn't happen by accident. That's for sure. And, you know, I'm proud to serve alongside some of the best professionals, service oriented professionals who are committed to helping veterans veteran professionals, military families, veteran friendly businesses and bolster economic opportunity for all of the above, throughout the entire state. I'm honored to work alongside some really awesome people, Christian and SA . So there our guests today on the show and the three of us are gonna be talking about are two big, massive announcements that are gonna blow your mind. And then if you have any questions about that , uh, throw 'em in the comments, you know, how we roll around here, but I'm excited to get into this. Uh , cuz like I said, it's gonna be a game changer for our organization. It's also be gonna be a game changer for the people we endeavor to serve. I'm excited to get into all of that, right after this, you are listening to Wisconsin veterans forward. Wisconsin's premier audio resource for veterans, military families, veteran owned and veteran friendly businesses. Wisconsin veterans forward is brought to you by the Wisconsin veterans chamber of firstname.lastname@example.org , ladies and gentlemen in the flesh SA Newton and Christian Thornton. How are you guysSpeaker 2:
Doing great, Adam? Thanks. Thanks for having me on the show. OhSpeaker 1:
Bet . Yep .Speaker 3:
Doing fantastic. Really excited to talk about uh , what effect going on.Speaker 1:
Very, very excited. So should we just , uh, should we just dive all the way in which, which big news are we gonna start with first? Let's start with the grant SA yep . Throw it out there man.Speaker 3:
So , uh, I believe it late last year , uh, as part of the American rescue plan act that was passed by Congress and signed into law by , uh , president Biden , uh, the state of Wisconsin has received , um , a , a lot of funding , uh, to dedicate towards recovery, economic and health recovery from , uh, the COVID 19 pandemic. And what we know from research nationally, as well as in Wisconsin, is that diverse businesses that is , uh, businesses that are owned by , uh, minorities, businesses that are owned by veterans , uh, or I'm sorry, owned by women and businesses that are owned by veterans. Uh, we're disproportionately acted by the , uh, economic fallout caused by the pandemic. And so , uh, late last year, governor Evers announced that he would be allocating 75 million , uh, to support diverse businesses , uh, and help them recover from the pandemic. Uh, and that, that , uh, funding was to be used for two, for two purposes. One , uh, was to support what are called community development, financial institutions that is , uh, uh, financial institutions who , uh, offer lending capital to business , to businesses that may not otherwise be able to access it from traditional lending resources , uh, as well as organizations that support , uh, and serve underserved businesses and diverse businesses. And of course that includes , uh, veterans. And so , uh, we were very honored , uh, to be selected as one of 24 different organizations , uh, to receive , uh, more than I believe it was more than 35 million , uh, in five betweenSpeaker 1:
The organizations change organizations. Yes .Speaker 3:
Uh , and so , uh, on Monday it was announced that we would be receiving just over 2 million to expand our programs , uh , and expand our capacity to serve more veteran owned businesses across the state of Wisconsin. This is , uh , a once in a lifetime opportunity for certainly for our organization, but more importantly for , uh, veteran owned businesses to have access to resources, to have access, to direct , uh , marketing assistance , uh , technical assistance, all of the above. Uh, and , uh, we're really proud to be leading the charge and really the , the leading organization in the state dedicated to serving veteran own businessesSpeaker 1:
Right on. So, so how are we , uh, well first off have ever received a 2 million grant before?Speaker 3:
Uh, no, I can, I can say with certainty that we have not, I can also say with certainty that none of the other 24 organizations, chambers of commerce and business support organizations had ever received this kind of investment before , um, you know, this is the single large investment made in, in the diverse business community in history. Uh, no governor of either party has ever made , uh, supporting diverse businesses a priority in, in the way that this one has. And , uh , we're just fortunate that , uh, we, we are able to take what we do , uh, and expand our impact to reach more veteran owned businesses and ultimately to reach more businesses across the state, which we know strengthens our state's overall economy.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. And this is , so this, this was a huge investment , uh, for organizations that don't typically garner huge individual investments. And by that, I mean, chambers of commerce are membership organizations, 5 0 1 C6 organizations. So while we could accept a personal individual donation, that's we don't get tax deductible, individual donations, those are 5 0 1 [inaudible] [inaudible] nonprofit organizations. We are membership based like, like all chambers of commerce, so people could throw money at us, but they wouldn't have that tax deductible thing. So that's not, that's not even a sliver of what chambers of commerce typically build their annual budget on is these large individual gifts. And usually from my experience in the nonprofit world, large gifts come from individuals , uh, they come from planned giving , uh, from, from endowment giving, like, which are just things that chambers of commerce typically don't access. So when you say this is a once in a lifetime investment for all of the chambers of commerce that received it, like you aren't kidding, this sort of thing just doesn't happen.Speaker 3:
No. And, and I think it , it really reflects , uh, how I, I think across the board, whether it's a diverse chamber of commerce, a local chamber of commerce , um, this industry, I , I think the, the pandemic really showcased how important it is to have associations and have organizations that are dedicated to supporting businesses, even though , uh, Panda the, you know, COVID was certainly a challenge for us as an organization. We still, as you mentioned, were able to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support other nonprofit organizations. We were able to , uh, help our businesses, our members, and , and non-members as well, vet home businesses across the board access hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID relief funding that's right . Grant funding , uh , providing letters of support, providing , uh , technical assistance for things like PPP applications, P PPP forgiveness, E I D L loans. Those are all things that we were able to do because we, as an organization have , uh, have, are uniquely suited to , uh, to be able to provide that support and look until the , until we, we started this organization six years ago, there was no resource in the state of Wisconsin for veteran own businesses. There was no bit , there was no , uh, organization that was specifically dedicated to engaging veter own businesses. Uh, and so , uh, this is, this really reflects, I think , uh, the, the importance of supporting the organizations that support businesses, because as we in the military know, you're only as strong as the team you have around you. And so we're really par we're . We certainly can't do it all. We know we can't do it all. Uh, but to, to be able to look at what we've accomplished up until this point, see that impact, see the , the results of what we've been able to do. And from there, look and see, all right , now, now that we have more resources to work with, how can we expand our impact and further expand our reach and look, Wisconsin's a big state , uh, and, and just like every business and every organization we're trying to do as much as we can with limited resources, limited manpower, limited time , uh, but an investment like this really allows us the opportunity to, to expand our reach and , and ultimately serve , uh , more veteran businesses across the entire state.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. And, you know, I think you make an excellent point about our business service. You know, there are a ton of ton of really awesome veterans serving or organizations throughout the state that provide direct emergency assistance or food assistance or subs , sub subsistance , or housing for veterans and military families in need for homeless veterans. Those are extremely valuable organizations, you know, that's not what we do, you know, and, and just because a veteran isn't homeless doesn't mean that they aren't in need in some way of some sort of assistance. Uh , you know, there , there's a huge wide range of people that are in need and can use help and resources. And we are, you know, we appreciate those other organizations. We work hand in hand with them and we support them. And we , we love 'em to death, you know, and we are on the business development end of things . So with that in mind, the next question I was gonna ask and Greg Fisher , just read my mind. Um, he says, I speak to some of the mentor metrics or benchmarks we're gonna have for the new program. Greg might be a little early for specific benchmarks, and I'm gonna , and I'm also gonna say not program, but pro plural throughout the state, but I think how are we going to measure success? How are we going to use this money? And how are we gonna measure success? I think is something we can definitely talk about.Speaker 3:
So this, this investment and, and what we have committed to , uh, in exchange for receiving this investment is expanding our current programs and services over the course of the period , which is through the end of 2024 . So it's important for folks who are , uh, who are watching to understand all of the business support programs that we offer. The first is our morning formation, educational workshops. Those are a series of workshops that we hold throughout the year and communities across the state that are targeted to meet the unique of veteran, small business owners and entrepreneurs. We talk about general business operations topics, including marketing operations, financial management, business planning, and legal issues. So one of the things that we're gonna be able to do with this funding is offer those types of workshops more often. And in more communities across the entire state, obviously a lot of folks who have been involved with us for a long time, know that networking is a big part of what we do. It's a critical need for veteran business owners, because as we, as we know, one of the things that , uh, veteran business owners struggle with is developing a professional network and having access to professional resources. And so our chamber mustard series is our networking series that we hold across the state. Once again, this funding is gonna be, is going , going to allow us to be able to offer those networking opportunities more often. And in more communities across the state, we also have a , an event series that focuses on supply chain, supplier , uh, diversity programs and contracting programs. That's called our supplier and contractor briefing. That's an event series that provides specialized information for veteran owned and service disabled veteran own businesses, looking to take advantage of public private sector, supply chain diversity and contracting programs. One of the biggest events that we hold throughout the year is our , uh, Wisconsin veterans business conference. This is the largest gathering of veteran business owners and the veteran business community across the board in the entire state. We recognize that contributions that veterans make to the state economy and to our communities with a day long event, that includes a veteran business expo, breakout sessions and workshops, networking events, and an awards launching beyond those specific events. We also have a business accelerator that we offer , uh, called command post , uh, really targeted towards emerging veteran entrepreneurs. Uh, that business accelerator program offers technical assistance curriculum mentorship. We're building in a pitch competition with financial awards and access to resources. We also have a marketing campaign available to all of our member businesses called proud to serve you where we, we promote. And we market , uh, the bus , the veteran own businesses within our networks across our platforms. And we also provide our members with marketing materials that they can use to promote their own businesses as being veteran owned . So that's what we do currently, what we're able to do with this increased investment. First we're planning to expand the Wisconsin veterans business conference to a multi-day event with more breakout sessions on more targeted topics. We're building in a more direct , uh, uh, function of supplier diversity programs. And we'll be offering direct meetings with purchasers, with vendors, with purchasing specialists, so that veteran own businesses can have direct access to private and public sector programs that are looking to patronize and looking to contract with veter home businesses. We're expanding our educational , uh, events that we offer, as I mentioned those morning formations, supplier, and contractor briefings, so that we can hold those events more often and in more communities across the state. And we're specifically gonna be focusing on engaging , uh, underserved populations in rural air areas of the state, as well as underserved communities, such as communities of color women, L G B T folks, et cetera . Uh, we're going to be able to build , uh , upon existing relationships with community , uh , development, financial institutions in local lenders to be able to access , uh, to increase access to lending capital for veteran entre , which we know , uh, veterans are , uh, four times as likely to be denied lending capital as non-veteran entrepreneurs. So this funding is gonna be able to , uh, allow us to expand our relationships with lenders and make sure that veterans have access to the capital that they need in order to start businesses on the right foot. Um , we're, we're able to , uh, develop new programs to support veteran own businesses , uh, participating in those supply chain programs. So we'll have more information about , uh, direct offering direct workshops where veterans can come and get certifi with either the state of Wisconsin, the federal VA, other federal agencies, defense contractors, et cetera . We're going to be actually , uh, putting resources towards a, a overall paid marketing campaign , uh, promoting veteran own businesses , uh, through a strategic marketing campaign , uh, that will be a digital , uh , digital campaign around our proud to serve you , uh, proud to serve you campaigns. So we're gonna be developing a veteran made product guide , uh, across the state of Wisconsin. Uh, the coolest things made by veterans , uh, uh, all kinds of different initiatives to , to increase awareness of veteran own businesses and how jet enrolled customers can, can , uh, uh, patronize those businesses. Uh, and ultimately , uh, this, this one time investment is going to allow us to increase our capacity , uh, and invest in our organization so that we, so that once this, this funding period expires, we're able to continue doing this, even though we don't have, have this one time large investment.Speaker 1:
That's a , that's a lot. So I, I, I hope that answered your question, Greg, you know, to the, to, to the question, what is , what does the chamber do? Does it even do anything? Well, there it is. That's, we're planning on doing our things and doing them more and bigger and better for more people. Um , and we're planning on doing them in , in all the, the corners of the state. And we're, we're planning on doing as many of those things in person as we possibly can, cuz we understand the network development, professional network development value of doing those things face to face . I just wanna talk about the chamber musters for a minute, cuz I think those are misunderstood. I wanna ask Christian about that also, cuz we haven't, we haven't given Christian a chance to say anything. Um, chamber musters from the outside looking in might appear like, well that's just a good old boys , you know, hanging out and having good time together , you know, for a a for people, for business owners, for entrepreneurs or for professionals who , who are looking to develop their careers that are in that mode, they know that there's no more valuable piece to your career or development in any way, shape or form than like networking. Can you talk about out Christian? What is a chamber muster ? Is it just a bunch of guys hanging out and drinking beer? Like what is the impact of that? And, and can you extrapolate on that and get, get people to maybe understand what, what the, the deeper value is for thatSpeaker 4:
A hundred percent? Um, so yeah, the , the misconception , uh , can be that, that it's just a , a good old boys club, you know, chance to, to throw back a few beers with , uh, with, you know, your vet buddies , um , you know, much like the perception of, of some of the, the talent bars and things like that. And , uh, whilst , you know, I would never say that , uh, you , you couldn't do that and, and you could absolutely kick back , share some more stories, et cetera . Um, the main focus is really centered around networking opportunities and networking opportunities can take on many facets. So on the, on the surface level, you're looking at one business talking to another, making a connection about how to , uh , expand some supply chain, expand collaboration, work together towards common goals. Uh, but it can actually go deeper than that. And , uh, you know, in just one case , uh, when I was up in central Wisconsin and a couple weeks ago , um, you know , it , it was really an opportunity for businesses to connect and discuss their pain points. You know, in many cases, particularly with, with veteran entrepreneurs , um , especially if they're in the early days, they don't know what they don't know. Uh, you know, and, and so often they'll encounter a situation and they don't know how to resolve it on their own. They're not sure of the resources that are out there and these musters and these networking opportunities provide that , uh, that format or that platform for one business to talk to another, that might be more established that might be going through those same points at those same pain points and be able to say, this is what we've done in the past, or this is what's worked for us. This is what hasn't worked and they can , uh , they can work on solutions that, that benefit not just themselves, but the entire community at large. And that's everything from supply chain issues, workforce development. There's no limit to, to the possibilities that take place. So whilst it might look like, you know, a bunch of people getting together and, and throwing back some beers or whatnot ,Speaker 1:
That happensSpeaker 1:
Too , you know, but reallySpeaker 4:
That's such a minor piece of it. Quite honestly, it's, it's really that , uh , there's more business work that gets done in those hours or three hour musters . Uh , then in many cases might happen , uh , during an entireSpeaker 1:
Work day . Boom, good stuff. Part two of this dialogue with your friendly neighborhood, Wisconsin veterans chamber of commerce team, it's coming up in the very next episode, Wisconsin veterans forward, it's already been published. It's right there waiting for you . Head on over there. We'll see you there. Thank you for listening to Wisconsin veterans forward brought to you by the Wisconsin veterans chamber of commerce. Please visit email@example.com . Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast, leave a rating and review in whatever platform you're listening through.