First group of entrepreneurs graduates from UWRF program

Posted February 15, 2017

The first student entrepreneurs have graduated from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-River Falls and the program is preparing for the next group.

The SBDC consults with anyone and everyone about starting and developing a small business idea. The center is part of the UW Extension program and is fully funded by the state of Wisconsin.

It offers no-cost consultation to anyone in Pierce, St. Croix and Polk counties who is interested in starting a small business. People have to register with the center before receiving consultation.

The SBDC saw 11 of its clients graduate in December from the Entrepreneurial Training Program. Danielle Campeau, the center’s director for innovation and business development, said that a portion of them are pursuing their idea.

“About half of the students are pursuing their original idea and others are seeking to modify their ideas,” Campeau said. A lot of the businesses are construction based or involve woodworking.

A few of the other students had plans to open small retail shops like bakeries or work with products such as flowers or jewelry.

Campeau said that the first step in developing a small business plan is to learn the startup process. Center staff works with the client to find the direction they want the business to go.

“After the client establishes a direction, they go through what we call ‘boots on the ground,'” Campeau said.

Clients are asked to come up with what is essentially a hypothesis about what they think their market will be. Along with developing a hypothesis, students conduct interviews in the places where they want their business to be located. Students talk to people from all over the prospective communities and try to gather information to help them make an informed decision about whether that’s a good area to open their business.

“The whole process is very rigorous and really helps the client understand where they sit,” Campeau said.

After the interviewing process, students are asked to tweak their plan to fit what the market research said.

Clients have to understand nine different areas of the market and then make a decision based on all the information presented.

Campeau said that the SBDC has seen lots of success with the process already. With the six or so student who have started working on their original ideas, and the other half of the graduating class having a plan to rework their ideas, the proof is in the results.

The Small Business Development Center is set to graduate about 20 more students in the spring.

The center is located at River Falls Municipal Power Plant building at 401 S. Winter St. in River Falls.