Jenie Gao, in this image from July, works on one of four large panels that comprise her mural titled "Journey to a New Beginning" on the exterior of Trinity Lutheran Church in Madison. Gao is among those who have used the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison to help create a business plan.

The success stories have included numerous fitness centers and gyms around the state, an independent book store in Appleton and a home maintenance company in Onalaska that specializes in small projects.

And now the organization that helped those businesses launch is celebrating its own success.

The state’s Small Business Development Centers helped businesses around the state exceed $100 million in capital investment. It’s the first time the centers, most based at UW System schools, have surpassed that mark.

“Our clients aren’t just starting or running small businesses. They are fulfilling their dreams, reinventing their careers and making positive contributions to their communities,” said Bon Wikenheiser, state director of the SBDC program. “The SBDC empowers business owners with the information they need to achieve their goals.”

The announcement comes as the third annual national SBDC Day approaches on March 20. The centers provide entrepreneurs with new or existing businesses personalized consulting services to start, manage and grow their businesses. The program was founded in 1980 and in Wisconsin is part of UW-Extension.

Wisconsin SBDC consultants across 13 locations in 2018 provided confidential, no-cost consulting to 3,780 clients, leading to 256 new businesses, 9,617 jobs supported and $101 million in capital investment compared to $80 million in capital investment in 2017.

In the Madison area, the success stories over the past few years have included the expansion of Little Vikings, a Mount Horeb day care facility; improving the business plan for Parthenon’s Gyros on State Street; and the creation of State Line Distillery on Madison’s Near East Side.

Jenie Gao, an artist known for her murals and other paintings in public spaces and businesses in Madison, used the SBDC at UW-Madison’s Entrepreneurial Training Program to help her grow her business in a fiscally responsible way.

“I was bleeding money and trying to figure out what to say yes to and what to say no to. It was hard to figure out what it was all going to add up to when I was going from one gig to the next,” Gao, who completed the program in 2017, told the SBDC. “I’d gotten to the point where I was growing and needed to continue growing. I needed a business plan to meet my goals for growth.”

In 2016, centers throughout the country provided 1.24 million hours of consulting to 188,602 businesses. Those services resulted in 17,174 new businesses, 96,095 jobs, $6.4 billion in sales growth and $5.16 billion in capital investments.

In Southern Wisconsin, centers are located at UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater while a Southwest Center covers Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette and Richland counties.

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