Local, minority and women-owned startups make a pitch for future success

The Blueprint Green Bay is a Greater Green Bay Chamber accelerator program that helps local, underrepresented businesses get their footing

By John McCracken

Avery Rhenwrick is the founder of 4thN Long, a Green Bay founded clothing brand that donates a portion of proceeds to cover the cost of sports equipment and fees for low-income youth. Rhenwrick pitched his business idea at a recent Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce event. John McCracken photo

Avery Rhenwrick said he was nervous but prepared for when he stepped in front of a panel of three judges and an audience of potential investors.

“I’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks now,” Rhenwrick said, “so it was good.”

Rhrenwrick is the founder of 4thN Long, a social impact clothing brand that donates a portion of all of its profits to cover the cost of sports admission and equipment for low-income youth.

Rhenwrick is one of six business owners who participated in the first-ever pitch night through The Blueprint Green Bay, a 12-week startup accelerator program created by the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce to help develop budding minority-,women- and veteran-owned businesses in Northeast Wisconsin.

At the recent pitch event, startups presented in front of a panel of judges composed of local community and business leaders while also presenting their ideas to an audience of community members and potential investors.

Other businesses in the cohort include Nicole Tilot’s financial and medical record management software AppEase, Takieta Pritchard’s culturally-focused hair care training and retail location Intrigued Braiding, Tyrone Powell’s employee recruitment software Unext, Kaleb Robertson’s comedy and entertainment venue Kaleb Robertson Comedy Club and Elizabeth Paulson and Eliza Cussen’s online gift registry for newly separated individuals Divorcist. (Editor’s Note: Cussen is a recurring political columnist for Green Bay City Pages.)

Rhenwrick said before the cohort, he didn’t have business experience. A 2019 Saint Norbert College graduate, he said he was laid off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had to go “soul searching.”

“I kind of just jumped in,” Rhenwrick said. “Because I was so passionate about the issue and the cause.”

Since launching the socially focused streetwear brand, Rhenwrick said he’s made enough money to fund athletic needs for 40 middle schoolers or 13 high schoolers.

After the first cohort, current members have an opportunity to continue with The Blueprint Green Bay for a market research cohort if they apply for the program.

Rhenwrick said he isn’t sure if he is applying for the second cohort, but he learned a lot of valuable business skills during his time with The Blueprint Green Bay. He said he plans to take increase visibility and awareness around his clothing brand in the coming months.

“That’s the next thing,” Rhenwrick said. “Is really diving into marketing and sharing this with more people.”

The Blueprint Green Bay is the first version of a Young Enterprising Society (YES) program which has previously operated in Milwaukee and plans to launch in Madison in 2022. YES is a social outlet that connects young entrepreneurs to funding and business connections.

Stephanie Crosley is a program manager for YES who worked closely with the Green Bay cohort. She said the 12-week program demands a lot from participants who often are already working multiple jobs and have family commitments to focus on.

“We did ask the participants for a lot of their time and commitment to make sure they have what they need to be successful,” Crosley said. “And that’s always our goal, to make sure they leave the program better than how they entered.”

Crosley said the launch of the Green Bay cohort came at a rocky time, but the business owners powered through. She said participants had to balance hybrid in-person and virtual learning and presentation models due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also continuing on the track for the 12-week program.

Crosely said apart from any potential funding that comes from a successful pitch during pitch night, The Blueprint Green Bay provides funding to the startup businesses based on how they did throughout the 12-week program.

“It’s a combination of a few things where participants can walk away with a good amount of money,” Crosley said.

John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.

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