Since the kick off of Design Ellsworth, doors have been opening and opportunities have been presenting themselves for our community!

Recently, the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce was approached by Reba Krueger, Director of Red Letter Grant. Red Letter Grant is expanding their programs into Western Wisconsin with the hope of inspiring local women to start (or expand) businesses in Ellsworth.

Just 31% of businesses in Wisconsin are owned by women, leaving a gap rural communities like ours feel not only in ownership, but leadership and mentorship. We all know that there are many women making things happen within a household, within an organization, and within the community–but we don’t always see those women at the helm. Red Letter Grant was created to encourage more women to take risks to build a stronger more innovative region.

The main way they do this is through their $2,000 Red Letter Grant program. They also partner with local organizations to host small business workshops and networking events locally for women. The knowledge and connections gained through these events can give women the confidence to make their business dreams come true!

After Design Ellsworth, we’ve been hearing more and more women come forward with business ideas, or the desire to start one. But taking the risk can be hard for a variety of reasons. Reba shared that this is exactly what they hope to overcome through their programs.

To take advantage of what Red Letter Grant offers we could use some help and we are hoping we can count on you…

  1. We’re looking for 20-30 local women who have even the tiniest desire to start (or expand) their business in the area. The Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce is working to compile a list so they can gauge interest and will have a group of women to invite to local trainings and networking events. The hope is that eventually these women will be ready to apply for a Red Letter Grant and start their business. There’s no obligation or pressure–women who are curious and interested in exploring the possibility for themselves are the ideal candidates for this initiative. Who do you know? Is it you? Email the Ellsworth Chamber at for more information or to have your name added to the “Curious” list.
  2. Red Letter Grant and the Ellsworth Chamber will need some space locally for the networking and training events mentioned above. Red Letter Grant likes to patronize women-owned businesses. In Ellsworth, this poses a challenge. Typically networking events are held at a women-owned bar or restaurant. We may need to get creative. Do you have an off the wall idea or suggestion for training space or a social function for 20 enthusiastic women?
  3. Once things get rolling, we invite area business women to consider taking part. Your career experiences can do a lot to support other women. There might be a training opportunity you are interested in. Perhaps you could be a trainer or speaker at a workshop? Or maybe you’ve got a secret business (or expansion) idea you want to explore? For now, just be thinking on it!

This is an exciting opportunity that has the potential to change our community. Imagine what would happen if just 1-2 additional women-owned businesses were generated in our community–what a huge win! However, it’s not just about adding new businesses, it’s about creating new leaders in our community, too. That’s going to make the biggest impact on our community over time.

You can learn more about Red Letter Grant, and what they’ve achieved so far in the Chippewa Valley, on their website:

If you’re to the point where $2,000 of start-up money would help get your business going, the deadline for their first round of grants for the year is Monday, May 6! If you’re not quite ready yet, there will be another opportunity in the fall. The Ellsworth Chamber has more information. And watch the Ellsworth Chamber’s Facebook page for opportunities for women to take part in Red Letter Grant trainings and networking events, or better yet, send an email to and ask to have your name added to the “Curious” list!

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