2023 Impact: Driving Change Through Our Mission

Entrepreneur Fund

January 25, 2024

Entrepreneur Fund business advisor and Women's Business Alliance North Director Sandi Larson visits with her client Lorena Velez, owner of Mexico Lindo in Duluth, MN.

For over 34 years, the Entrepreneur Fund has remained dedicated in our commitment to nurturing local business prosperity and economic diversity in our region.  Our core aim is to collaborate closely with entrepreneurs, fostering business expansion, vibrant communities, and a robust regional economy. In 2023, we stayed true to our mission by providing accessible capital paired with strategic advising to 1,222 businesses across central Minnesota, northeastern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin.  

2023 was a year marked by significant successes, a testament to the invaluable collaborations with individuals and organizations throughout the region who share our dedication to bolstering local businesses. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our partners for making these successes possible.

Here are some of the standout moments and accomplishments from this past year:  

Lamppa Manufacturing CEO Garrett Lamppa, right, updates Entrepreneur Fund business beveloper Kyle Dickinson on his business during a spring 2023 visit to the wood burning furnace manufacturer in Tower, Minnesota.

1,581 local business owners supported

  • 14% identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) business owners
  • 56% identify as women’s business owners
  • 258 businesses supported in the first year of our expansion into northern Wisconsin

$21.5 million in total lending to local businesses

  • 62K average loan size
  • 15% of total lending to BIPOC owned business
  • $3.3M total
  • $4.4M in small business capital to Wisconsin businesses
  • $262K distributed in grants to eligible WI businesses
  • $2M in Healthy Food Fund lending to local food producers and retailers

Over 30k hours of personalized advising with business owners

We pair our lending options with personalized business advising services. In 2023, business owners accessed a variety of advising topics including strategic business planning, business management, human resources, accounting, marketing and sales, customer relations and more.

Over 60 business owners participated in an EFund educational programs

  • Five Be Strategic courses in fall 2023 gave local, non-competing business owners near the Iron Range, Duluth, Ashland, Hayward, and Spooner areas a unique opportunity to create a strategic business plan for growth, make meaningful connections and improve their business within a supportive group setting. The six-week interactive course is designed and facilitated by EFund advisors who have years of experience helping businesses grow. Participants work through various business topics, including defining their mission, vision, and core values, identifying trends in their industry, creating a marketing plan, and refining their 10-year target. By the end of the course, each business owner walks away with a strategic plan to help them achieve their growth goals. More Be Strategic courses will be offered in 2024. Join our email list for updates on courses being offered in your area.
  • A Profit Mastery course in Ashland facilitated by the EFund team brought out eight business owners looking to maximize their profits and better understand their business financials. The two-day workshop focuses on providing participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to help their business achieve financial success. Profit Mastery has an international reputation for providing unparalleled financial management and business planning education. The curriculum is owned by Business Resource Services and facilitated by EFund advisors. More Profit Mastery classes will be offered in 2024. Join our email list for updates on courses being offered in your area.
  • Two Women’s Masterminds – one in our North region and one in our Central region – brought women business owners together to connect, access support and hold one another accountable as they worked towards their business goals. Facilitated by EFund’s Women’s Business Alliance directors, Sandi Larson and Sandy Voigt, and an area business coach, the groups met monthly for six months to discuss growth strategies, overcoming challenges, capitalizing on opportunities and much more.  

For updates on 2024 educational programing, including if any of the above programs will be offered in your area, we recommend joining our email list. Spring educational programs for business owners will be announced soon.

Eight Ashland area business owners earned their Profit Mastery certificates in fall 2023.

Distinction Awards: Celebrating Regional Business Excellence

The inaugural event celebrated 10 remarkable small businesses that are a driving force behind our region’s economic growth. With over 250 business owners and community leaders in attendance, the fall event highlighted business excellence while fostering connections and appreciation for the invaluable contributions of these entrepreneurs to the local economy. Stay tuned for 2024 Distinction Award announcements!

Looking ahead

As we reflect on the impact our team and our invaluable resource partners have had on regional businesses in 2023, we can see the positive changes that have emerged. From supporting local entrepreneurs to promoting sustainable practices, our initiatives have contributed to the growth and success of these businesses.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our mission to actively partner with entrepreneurs to create growing businesses, thriving communities and a diverse regional economy in 2023. We are excited to continue this important work in 2024.

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