Scale Up Milwaukee

It’s out: Wisconsin is No. 2 nationwide for scaling up companies

Published May 18, 2015
From BizTimes

Wisconsin has emerged as No. 2 in the United States in its “mid-market” business sector in the inaugural Dun & Bradstreet/American Express Power Index survey of 19 million American businesses released last month, outshining entrepreneurial superstars New York, California and Texas. This may be particularly surprising in light of past reports that Wisconsin fares poorly among such measures as number of startups and access to venture capital (although Wisconsin is not bad; high in private equity). In fact, ranking so high in mid-market companies is a likely leading indicator of growth that impacts the wider Wisconsin community, and bodes well for Wisconsin’s entrepreneurs, business owners and labor force.

Though it is oft-repeated that most new jobs are created by startups, the research is much more ambiguous. What matters for Wisconsin is that mid-market companies (between $10 million and $1 billion in annual revenues) are leading the way to post-2008 growth in the U.S., creating 92 percent of the net jobs in all commercially active businesses, despite being less than 1 percent of the number of businesses. These dynamic companies are typically privately owned, community-based, and more than 25 years old—neither the stereotypical tech startups, nor the stereotypically stagnant smaller businesses. Further, compared to the small businesses in the Power Index, fully one-third of which earn less than $10,000 per year, these mid-market ventures have a disproportionate presence in manufacturing, wholesale trade and natural resources, all of which play to Wisconsin’s strengths.

Comparing East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast is also interesting: Wisconsin has 50 percent more mid-market companies, proportionately, than California (3,037 vs. 16,391 in absolute terms), where small firms predominate. New York, on the other hand has more larger firms than Wisconsin. But Wisconsin punches well above its weight in the mid-market.

These findings bolster and write large the guiding thesis of Scale Up Milwaukee, a Greater Milwaukee Committee initiative supported by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, American Express OPEN, and private donors: Ambitious entrepreneurs drive companies to scale, and scale up companies drive local economies by adding dignified jobs, bolstering tax revenues, creating wealth, and, let’s admit it, pumping up local pride.

Read the full piece by Dan Isenberg here.

A Letter from the President: April 2015

We look forward to seeing many of our members at our April membership meeting as we hear from Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and hear updates from our Scale Up Milwaukee initiative.

We’ve come a long way from the initial visit that Shel Lubar set up to Babson with UWM leadership to explore how to grow entrepreneurship and scale companies in Milwaukee. Since then, with Shel’s leadership and dedication and strong support from GMC chair and economic development committee co-chair Ted Kellner, we have launched and taken to Phase II our Scale Up Milwaukee initiative. Thank you also to our key partners – the WEDC, American Express OPEN, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the City of Milwaukee and WHEDA.

Scale Up Milwaukee recently hosted its finale on March 20th, featuring the graduating class and many supporters. The Scalerator, a six-month program taught by Babson faculty members, is open to select businesses in the Milwaukee region poised for rapid growth. The companies have a total revenue of nearly $38,000,000 and anticipate growth of up to 50% over the next year, and plan to hire more than 150 new employees in 2015!

These are huge numbers, not just for the companies participating in the Scalerator, but for our region as a whole. This shows that Milwaukee is on the cusp of major job and economic growth; Scale Up Milwaukee is just one way of encouraging that growth and supporting companies in their efforts to hire more people and grow their businesses.

The Scalerator Finale featured presentations from three Scalerator companies – Brilliance Business Solutions, Scathain, and Telcom & Data- who, along with nine other Scalerator graduates, will be on hand at the Scalerator Village preceding Monday’s membership meeting from 11:30-noon to share their success stories. Prominent community members, including Mayor Tom Barrett and Park Bank president and Scale Up Milwaukee co-chair David Werner, were also vocal in their support of Scale Up Milwaukee at the finale.

We hope you will join us before the April membership meeting on Monday, April 13th, from 11:30-noon to meet some of the dynamic individuals representing companies that are shaping the growth of our region.


Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee

Let’s Scale Up Milwaukee

Published December 4, 2014
From BizTimes

Scale Up Milwaukee continues to inspire new projects in the U.S. and beyond. Earlier this year, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced its launch of Scale Up America, an effort to support community efforts fostering entrepreneurial activity and business growth. In September, the SBA announced eight specific programs in communities throughout the U.S. that will receive funding support.
Following on the SBA’s launch, on November 17th, the Scale Up UK Report was launched. It was covered in the Financial Times, Guardian, Wired, and more. Milwaukee was prominently cited as an impactful case study, alongside the Cambridge 50 and Google Campus London. Dan Isenberg, who provides the thought and practice leadership for Scale Up Milwaukee, was the keynote speaker at the Scale Up UK launch.
Its information is relevant and worthy of sharing on the home front. Among the highlights:

* The first class of companies participating in a six-month “Scalerator” program that provides training and mentoring on growing a business, revenues have increased 25 percent above initial projections for 2014;
* Projections based on Scale Up Milwaukee’s initial rollout call for development of 60 high-growth companies in the region as a result of the initiative, resulting in a commensurate increase in jobs regionally, along with wealth, tax base and quality of life; and
* Increasing recognition – both regionally and on an international level – of Milwaukee as a center for growth-oriented entrepreneurship.

For those who haven’t come across it yet, Scale Up Milwaukee is an action project focused on developing the entrepreneurial capacity in the southeast Wisconsin region by bringing together the policies, structures, programs, and climate that foster an environment that promotes entrepreneurship. Milwaukee is the first city in the country to develop a regionwide program, and it has been backed by Gov. Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett as part of a bipartisan effort to stimulate the economy, as well as by the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and others.

Read the full editorial here.


Milwaukee’s Hanging Gardens grows as a one-stop shop for green roofing

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published November 5, 2014
Featuring Scale Up Milwaukee

When John Lottes put money into Hanging Gardens LLC in the spring of 2011, his sole intention was to be an investor.

But the more Lottes got to know the Milwaukee distributor of green roofing products, the more interested he became in being a part of it. So less than six months after making his investment, Lottes joined the team.

“I saw it as a good industry to get into because it was going to continue to grow,” said Lottes, an architect who is now the company’s chief marketing officer.

So far, Hanging Gardens has found ways to grow with the industry and without having to raise money from outside investors.

The company’s only investment had come from its three partners: Mayer, Lottes and Daniel Philipp, its chief financial officer. Hanging Gardens generated revenue, but without outside funding its ability to expand was restrained by the long cycle involved in warehousing products, delivering them to job sites and waiting to get paid.

Scale Up Milwaukee’s “Scalerator” project helped change that. Mayer credits Les Charm, his Scalerator instructor and an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College, with giving him a different viewpoint.

“This guy totally changed my mind and philosophy about how to garner financing for the company,” Mayer said.

Read the full article here.


Looking beyond the cheesehead: How scaling up is Foamation’s focus

From The Milwaukee Business Journal
Published October 17, 2014

Ralph Bruno, 53, says he’s a lucky, hardworking guy who happened to invent the cheesehead and ultimately create St. Francis-based Foamation Inc., but he wants to be more than that.

Humility and hard work aside, he’s a guy with ambition and he admits that he’s gotten in his own way a little over the past 28 years by taking on too many projects that didn’t pan out. But he’s a dreamer and a tinkerer who has also worked at developing his production process. He has also become more selective in the work he takes on, and sees the need to diversify his business.

Bruno wants to create a company that he can pass down to his children or even his employees. So he’s been working on a succession plan as well. Foamation is certainly not alone in this process and it’s companies like Bruno’s that Scale Up Milwaukee is hoping to attract.

Scale Up Milwaukee is led by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, American Express OPEN, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and entrepreneurship expert Daniel Isenberg. The group targets businesses looking to grow, hosting its intensive Scalerator programming series for select companies. And the Scalerator program helps businesses find and leverage resources to help spur growth. The pilot program, which just started this year, included four two-day sessions, but now the program will feature seven sessions, some half- and some whole days, over the course of six months.

But first and foremost, the work of scaling up is predicated on the entrepreneur’s ambition and that’s not as common as people might think, said Elmer Moore Jr., project leader at Scale Up Milwaukee .


Read the full article here.

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