Another Boost for Innovation Accelerator for Veterans

Another Boost for Innovation Accelerator for Veterans

New grant supports entrepreneurial program for veterans

| By: Daley-Hinkens, Carmelyn M

After a 23-year career in the United States Air Force, Kell Bales returned home to the Fox Cities in 2018 and pondered what civilian life would look like. He and his wife were interested in starting a cookie and coffee boutique business, but beyond that, Kell wasn’t sure how to get the idea off the ground. Then he heard about the Innovation Accelerator for Veterans at Fox Valley Technical College. He went through the program and now owns il Bar Coffeehouse & Bistro in Kimberly.

“I think most military members have an underlying entrepreneurial kind of motivation and I knew I wanted to do something unique,” Kell explains. “I looked at some opportunities and the Innovation Accelerator for Veterans sort of fell in my lap. I’ve shared my story many times, but this program was a lifesaver.”

Kell is one of 98 veterans who’ve gone through the accelerator program since it started in 2017. The college is now looking for its next group of participants after receiving a state grant to continue the program. Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs (WDVA) recently announced FVTC will receive almost $100,000 to offer two cohorts of the program in 2023.

The accelerator program guides veterans who want to start their own businesses by providing entrepreneurial training and technical support, access to networking opportunities, one-on-one mentoring, and completers receive seed funds for startup growth expenses.

“We are honored to receive this grant to help Wisconsin veterans put their experience and talents to work as entrepreneurs,” says Becky Boulanger, executive director of FVTC Foundation. “Veterans are proven leaders and risk takers; characteristics that are well suited to business innovation and creation. It is exciting to use this grant to provide them with the education and resources they need to be successful.”

Fox Valley Technical College is the first college or university in Wisconsin to offer this type of training. Among the veterans who completed the training, 71 have successfully launched a business. Another 23 have expanded their business.

The FVTC Foundation and FVTC Venture Center work together to administer this program. Interested veterans still have time to sign up for a complimentary Explore Innovation Accelerator session to learn more about the program. The next cohort of veterans starts this spring.

Kell shared his story with the Wisconsin Technical College System. You can watch it here.