Western Dairyland Business Center

Operating under the Western Dairyland Community Action Agency, the Western Dairyland Business Center offers assistance and training in all aspects of business.  Since 1993, the agency has helped more than 500 clients start businesses in Western Wisconsin, resulting in more than 1,000 full-time and part-time jobs.  Clients include men, women, teenagers, minority populations, military veterans, disabled individuals, and low-income families.


The Business Centers' services are designed to provide entrepreneurs with access to individualized as well as group business training, referrals, financing, technology, and ongoing business case management services.  Owners of start-up, existing, and expanding businesses receive technical assistance in all aspects of business operation including business plan development, feasibility studies, marketing assistance, business management, and operations.


The importance of the Business Center’s support is reflected through the words of one of many successful clients who believes she has found her purpose in life:  "If I were to give any advice to other entrepreneurs, I would tell them to find out what your natural gifts and talents are, and use those to create a dream and pursue it.  If you do that, you will be successful and happy.”



The Business Center’s website, www.successfulbusiness.org, has a wealth of information on business development training opportunities and related resources.  The website provides business owners and prospective business owners with the necessary tools to start or improve their business.  It features:


  • More than 130 links to business planning resources
  • Application for one-on-one business counseling with one of our business development specialists
  • Upcoming Business Center events, including future business training sessions
  • Services for entrepreneurs with disabilities or low-income households
  • Access to budgeting tools such as our Startup and Income Expenses worksheets


Women’s Business Center

A Women’s Business Center, funded by the SBA Office of Women's Business Ownership, specializes in providing services to assist women entrepreneurs.  Special efforts are made to support economically and socially disadvantaged women.  Intensive group and one-on-one business training and technical assistance help women grow their business ideas and acquire or improve their business management skills.


The Women’s Business Network involves free monthly educational and networking events, which include presentations by area experts and networking with local entrepreneurs.


Business Training and Classes

Group trainings are geared toward people in the business ideation stage.  For example, 7 Steps to Starting a Small Business is offered each month.  This features practical information on the tangible steps that need to be taken in order to start a small business - and consider the feasibility of a business idea or simply whether entrepreneurship seems like a good fit for the client!


Monthly trainings are scheduled to help clients get started with composing their own business plan.  Those already in business can hone their business skills by taking business classes on topics ranging from recordkeeping, marketing and more.


A newsletter is sent out at the beginning of each month detailing the events scheduled for that month and providing general business information - including local success stories.  Information can also be accessed through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.


Statewide Conferences

The Business Center hosts and sponsors several annual, statewide conferences throughout the year:


  • Women's Business Conference – First organized in 2003, this conference has assisted and encouraged thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs.  It's the only conference of its kind in Wisconsin, and has grown in size and scope every year – now exceeding 500 participants.


  • Direct Sellers Opportunity Fair – Individuals interested in pursuing business ownership through a direct selling company are encouraged to attend.


  • Contracting with Government and Prime Contractors Conference – A must attend for all small businesses considering or already selling to the Government.  This conference provides a unique opportunity to learn how to successfully sell to the government at all levels including Federal, State, and Local Government, as well as Government Prime Contractors.


  • Wisconsin Family Child Care Association Conference – Provides support, education, communication, and resources to family child care providers, families, and community members, while promoting professionalism and advocating within the early childhood field to provide quality care for children.


Making a Difference

A series of Business Success Stories are featured on SuccessfulBusiness.org reflecting the variety of entrepreneurial concepts that have been supported by Western Dairyland.  Here are excerpts from just a few:


Becki's Mediterranean Olive Salsa – “I was out of work and my son was in rehab for a life-altering event so I had no money.  I went from being a professional to being dirt poor and I was sure I couldn't do this without capital."  To access capital, Becki knew she needed a business plan and turned to the Western Dairyland Women's Business Center for help where a Business Development Specialist urged her to apply for two local business plan contests and then helped her put together the business plan and financial projections necessary for submission.  Becki went on to win both business plan contests that year.  The financial awards from these contests granted Becki the ability to launch Becki's Mediterranean Olive Salsa, LLC and move into her own space.


On July 8, 2006, Becki had her first sale at the Eau Claire Farmers Market when she brought 87 containers of her salsa and sold out in just two hours.  By the fall of 2006, she was able to get her salsa into several local grocery stores. Three years later, Becki's Mediterranean Olive Salsa, now in four varieties, can be found in approximately 50 grocery stores and she continues to sell at the local farmers markets.  To keep up with demand, she has hired five part-time employees and continues to enjoy a steady growth in sales.


Chippewa Valley Cremation Services – When Thompson first began writing his business plan, he had a pretty good idea of the direction he wanted his business to go.  After encouragement from a friend, Thompson went to Western Dairyland for help in perfecting his business plan.  "I'm glad I went to Western Dairyland. I needed different perspectives on my business plan, and I'd recommend doing that for anyone starting up a new business."  Western Dairyland's one-on-one business counseling gave Thompson even more confidence in his business plan, and in 2010 Chippewa Valley Cremation Services opened its doors.


Schultz’s Country Barn – Feeling a bit overwhelmed with starting a business, Carlene sought assistance. She was directed to Western Dairyland by an acquaintance that owns a similar business. She received technical assistance through a Western Dairyland Business Development Specialist and began attending Western Dairyland events and the annual business conference. The Business Development Specialist helped Carlene figure out what types of insurance she needed to carry and write a business plan, including financial projections. "I was really naive when it came to the insurance I needed. Western Dairyland helped me sort that out."


Schultz's Country Barn opened in September 2006, but was only open a few days a week. However, the business grew and about one and a half years ago, Schultz's Country Barn was open for business year round.


Schultz's Country Barn sells a variety of hand-made items including jewelry, furniture, rugs, quilts and candles.  The store is stocked with seasonal produce and farm fresh eggs as well.  Once an avid crafter, Carlene has approximately 60 individuals who make the homemade items found in her store and sells them on consignment.  Running a growing business does not allow much time for crafting, but business is good. Carlene says the business "turned out a lot more than anticipated…I am seeing so many repeat customers".  When approached by entrepreneurial-minded women, Carlene always directs them to Western Dairyland Women's Business Center.



And many others have also become successful entrepreneurs and been able to achieve their dream thanks to Western Dairyland’s Business Center!


Information Sources:

2012 Annual Report - Western Dairlyand Community Action Ageny



This website is maintained by the National Association of Community Action Agencies – Community Action Partnership, in the performance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Grant Number, 90ET0469 and 90ET0481. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.