EFund Doubles in Size & Grows Leadership to Best Serve the Region

Carly Viegut

June 20, 2023

The Entrepreneur Fund is actively expanding its capacity to further its leadership in fostering economic resiliency and economic mobility for the region.

Over the past five years, the Entrepreneur Fund has strategically grown our capacity and extended our geographic reach. This significant growth underlines our organization's steadfast commitment to empowering entrepreneurs to cultivate a diverse and resilient regional economy. The ever-increasing footprint of EFund is a testament to our pledge to foster entrepreneurial success and economic diversification.  

National Leader for Impact Driven Results

Our unique approach as a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), combining business financing with advisory services, distinguishes our nonprofit from other economic development partners and positions it as a catalyst for small business growth.

Our growth has established us as a national leader among CDFIs serving small businesses, particularly in rural areas. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, CDFIs have played a vital role in providing critical capital and resources to affected businesses, enabling them to sustain operations. Access to small business support offered by CDFIs is increasingly crucial for local entrepreneurs, as demonstrated by our organizational impact and growth.

“Small businesses are critical drivers of our regional economy.” says Shawn Wellnitz, CEO of the Entrepreneur Fund. “Access to capital and strategic support enables our entrepreneurs to grow their business, create quality jobs and bring investments to our region. We have great partners across the region, and EFund’s niche in the entrepreneurial ecosystem is one that is crucial for growth and success.” 

Charting Remarkable Growth

Between 2017 and 2022, EFund dispersed over $106 million in small business loans to support business growth and resilience. The number of entrepreneurs who received strategic business advising between the same years tripled from 583 to 1,617. Due to the growing demand for services, our team has grown from 20 to 40 full-time staff.  

Earlier this year, EFund announced the expansion of its service region from 17 counties and 5 Native Nations, mostly in northern Minnesota (apart from Douglas County in Wisconsin), to 29 counties by adding 12 counties and 5 Native Nations across Northern Wisconsin. 

Added Leadership Strength to Increase Capacity & Impact  

Three new leadership roles were recently created and filled to build internal capacity to meet organizational demands. A particular focus is on growing and deepening our partner relationships with outreach and continuous evaluation practices focused on target impact areas: regional economic diversification and resilience, access to capital for underserved, community vitality, economic justice and mobility, and small business growth.  We are expanding our ability to partner with communities, stakeholders, and funders to make tangible changes in our region and build an internal data practice of learning for results and continuous improvement.

Martha Bremer has joined Entrepreneur Fund in a new role for the organization as the Director of Strategic Partnerships. With a tailored background suited for this position, Martha brings a wealth of experience in building coalitions, demonstrating exceptional leadership, and nurturing relationships in service to the community.

Martha's impressive career spans nearly two decades, encompassing both sales and non-profit leadership. Her track record is a testament to her ability to engage positively with a diverse range of stakeholders and local community leaders. Now, as she takes the helm of our development team, Martha will play a pivotal role in fostering strategic partnerships and cultivating meaningful connections with our valued funders.

Martha's dedication to driving impactful outcomes and her genuine enthusiasm for collaboration make her the ideal advocate for our mission. She is eagerly looking forward to expanding relationships with partners across the region, working hand in hand to empower entrepreneurs and propel economic growth.

“Over the last decade I have followed The Entrepreneur Fund’s commitment to providing resources for growing small business and diversifying the regional economy,” says Bremer. “The organization has been a catalyst for creating positive change and making our region a better place for all. Having the opportunity to join their efforts has been an honor. I look forward to building upon the tremendous work that EFund has accomplished and scaling our ability to bring our services and resources to the next level through collaboration with community driven organizations.”

Kurt Thompson has been brought on as Chief Operating Officer. With his expertise in nonprofit leadership, small business lending, and entrepreneurship, Kurt is poised to make a significant impact on our organization's growth trajectory.

Kurt's recent role as Vice President for Central Minnesota Development Company (CMDC), an SBA 504 lending company, has equipped him with invaluable insights into small business financing. His strategic approach and deep understanding of the lending landscape will be instrumental in advancing our mission. As Chief Operating Officer, Kurt will optimize our internal capacity, streamline operational processes, and ensure seamless coordination among teams. With his dedication to fostering a supportive environment, Kurt will empower our team members to thrive and deliver their best work.

With Kurt's addition to our leadership team, we are confident in his ability to provide strategic guidance and operational excellence. His commitment to the entrepreneurial community, coupled with his wealth of experience, positions him as a key driver in empowering small businesses and driving economic growth. We eagerly anticipate the positive impact Kurt Thompson will have on our organization and the communities we serve.

“EFund has been a critical partner to small business owners and the communities we serve across the region,” says Thompson. “I grew up and spent most of my life in a rural community, and I understand the critical need for increased access to capital and support for rural economic development. It is truly an honor to be a part of this amazing team and I look forward to strengthening EFund’s operations to further the organization’s mission.”

Janie Moore, the newly appointed Director of Impact & Strategic Initiatives at the Entrepreneur Fund, brings a wealth of experience, with 15 years in her field, including 5 years specifically at EFund.

Janie's primary focus will be on enhancing the organization's ability to measure and understand its impact, enabling us to sharpen our focus and achieve impactful results. With her deep understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and her keen analytical skills, Janie will play a pivotal role in guiding us towards a data-driven approach that drives meaningful outcomes for our entrepreneurs and the communities we serve. In addition, she will lead the communications and marketing efforts for the organization, ensuring that our message resonates with stakeholders and amplifies the positive impact we create.

Janie's passion for creating change, coupled with her strategic mindset and extensive experience, make her an invaluable asset to the Entrepreneur Fund. We are excited to have Janie Moore driving our impact and strategic initiatives, and we eagerly anticipate the positive contributions she will make to our organization's growth and the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole.

The addition of these roles will significantly strengthen our organization’s capacity and ability to best serve small businesses and communities across the region.  

Evolving for the Future

As the economic landscape continues to shift, so will EFund’s strategies to best meet the demand for empowering entrepreneurial success. What will not change is our belief that small businesses have the power to transform their communities and regions, and the our commitment to partner with entrepreneurs to positively affect the regional economy.

For inquires regarding EFund's growth and impact, please email info@efund.org.

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