Sheboygan County, WI – The Sheboygan County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-Green Bay aspire to offer a wide array of services, resources and expertise designed to help lead both budding and experienced entrepreneurs on the road to sustainable success.
Through this unique collaboration between the SCEDC and the SBDC, the Wisconsin Restaurant Initiative (WRI) has stepped to the forefront in aiding restaurant owners, many of which have been dealing with numerous challenges over the past year related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spearheaded by Southwest Wisconsin SBDC Business Consultant Jason Schleip, the Wisconsin Restaurant Initiative initially formed in December 2019 to address the specialized needs of the state’s restaurant industry.
“The WRI provides confidential, no-cost targeted consulting to the restaurant and bar industry in the state of Wisconsin,” Schleip said. “In 2019, we recognized a need in Wisconsin for restaurant assistance. I happened to be an ‘expert’ in the field, so the state director asked if I would head up the initiative.
‘I help restaurants and bars around the state in all stages of their business,” he said. “I can help with startup, operations, employee management, menu engineering, food costs, kitchen design, marketing, ecommerce, capital access and basically any other area a restaurant needs. Many times, independent restaurant owners lack the time and sometimes the skills to deal with all aspects of their business. I try to help fill in the blanks. Also, the restaurant business is a unique field and I understand the nuances of the business.”
Schleip brings an impressive track record in the restaurant industry to his role with the WRI.
“I started Falbo Bros Pizzeria in Madison, Wisconsin in 1992 and eventually grew it into a multi-unit multi-state franchising operation,” Schleip said. “I sold it in 2016. Over the years, I helped open 20 different restaurants around the country, 16 in our franchising company and four others that were not Falbo related. I gained a ton of experience in my 25 years in the industry, made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of things right. I hope that my experiences, both good and bad, can help others. There aren’t a lot of situations, before COVID, that I haven’t encountered.”
The assistance and resources available through the WRI have been in even higher demand over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic has had a particularly large impact on restaurants in Wisconsin.
“The restaurant industry, except for a few areas up north and in Door County, suffered in 2020,” Schleip said. “Pizzerias and other restaurants, which were able to focus on delivery, did well. The PPP and EIDL relief programs pretty much saved the entire industry from going under. However, the new relief bill, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, will provide an incredible boost for those who suffered the most and managed to make it through.”
The SBA is slowly releasing information about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and the application period is unknown currently. The SCEDC will work to get the information out to those eligible in Sheboygan County once more is known about the program. Those that hold a food or liquor license in Sheboygan County should continue to check the Wisconsin SBDC website for updates on this program.
Schleip, who joined the SBDC in March 2019, paid a visit to the Sheboygan area on Tuesday, March 16 to meet with restaurant owners and share insights based on his extensive expertise in the industry.
“The visit to Sheboygan County went great,” Schleip said. “I cannot give the names of the businesses I helped, as we have strict confidentiality rules. Overall, folks were happy to have the help. Restaurant owners in Sheboygan County have suffered during COVID. Even the ones who have made it through are mentally and physically exhausted. It was nice for them to know they were not alone and that they have a free resource in the SBDC to help them.
“My original goal was to do a couple of these city restaurant trips each month,” he said. “COVID crushed that goal and we ended up doing mostly virtual consulting in 2020. I hope, as the state reopens, to do at least two of these trips each month in 2021.”
Schleip believes the WRI will continue to be a highly valuable resource to restaurants for the foreseeable future.
“I want restaurant and bar owners to know we are here to help,” Schleip said. “Our services are confidential and no cost. If anyone has any questions about the PPP, EIDL and the new RRF please reach out to me, so I can help them get the funds they deserve. Also, we have a network of 13 SBDC offices here in the state. There are over two dozen consultants from all different industries, each with their own area of expertise.”
For more information on the Wisconsin Restaurant Initiative, contact Jason Schleip by email at [email protected], via phone at 608-215-3915 or by visiting wisconsinsbdc.org/swwi.
For more information about SCEDC entrepreneurial services, email [email protected] or call 920-452-2479.