Local Businesses Win State Funding Contest

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Michelle Phillips

MIDDLETON–Three Middleton businesses were among the 231 winners in the We’re All Innovating contest held by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Community CoWorks, Meg’s Masks and Regal Find all received funding as winners in the competition. 

Kristi Warriner, owner of Community CoWorks said she learned of the contest through multiple sources including the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and WWBIC Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). “City of Middleton leaders and the Chamber also sent out press about the award.  Mike Davis at the city and Lisa Quam at the Chamber have been really fabulous about looking out for us,” Warriner said. 

Community CoWorks was selected for Community Post, a digital mail service offered to solopreneurs and small businesses that are converting to digital processes. Mail comes to Community CoWorks and is sent digitally to the client who determines if they would like the mail opened and digital images sent. 

Warriner said entering the contest was easy, “The application process was a simple questionnaire consisting of six questions that describe the pivot that my business is doing to stay relevant and in existence through the pandemic. Mine is a little different in that my pivot hasn’t launched yet–we’re targeting a Jan. 1 launch date,” she explained.

Warriner added that because the service is part of Community CoWorks, clients have access to space at the co-working facility.

To learn more visit: communitycoworks.org.

Meg’s Masks is a new business owned by Meg Reppart, began in early 2020. Reppart, a retired financial planner, said that design is what sets her masks apart from others.

“I wanted to create something that could fit most of the people without sacrificing the look. I used to wear gauze masks when I was little in Japan and remembered that they were very soft but hated their ear straps since they were so thin and dug into my ears. So, I looked for some material that was thick and soft…I wanted to make the ear straps adjustable, so people can feel like they are custom made. I wanted the parts that touch the skin to be soft, thus the gauze. I felt that three layers were needed even before CDC announced that the cloth masks should be at least three layers. I came up with the unique four two-way pleats to create the perfect shape even though that meant a lot more work.”

Style was also important to Reppart, who added, “When I was traveling to Europe on a plane in January 2020, I experienced a pretty aggressive harassment by a drunk lady for wearing a mask on the plane. She said that I was ignorant for wearing a mask and was scaring people. Instead of getting upset, I thought that the medical masks can look scary if you are not familiar with them and how sad that some people don't know the benefit of wearing masks.”

For more information or to purchase a mask, visit: megsmasks.com.

Jessica Regale, owner of Regal Find, said that changes she made during the pandemic included:

• Creating a website to shift to more e-commerce.

• Creating a safe space for customers.

• Virtual shopping appointments during the Safer at Home order.

• Sale of locally produced masks and hand sanitizer.

“Once we were allowed to open our doors after the shelter in place order was completed, we required masks at all times and have required a 25 percent capacity for customers. 

“We also placed a plexiglass glass shield at the checkout and whimsical stickers on the floor reminding customers to socially distance at least a distance of three armadillos, six penguins or one cow. We found that a bit of humor during this time can help make a difficult time a little more enjoyable. We want customers to feel safe shopping and hope that visiting The Regal Find is a calm break from the world right now.”

Regale said she has already received funds from the contest.

Learn more or shop online at theregalfind.com

In total the state awarded three million dollars in contest money and entries were received from 1226 businesses. Many of the entrants were minority or women owned businesses.

The judges selected winners in three major categories, technology innovation to address COVID-19 impacts on health, technology innovation to address COVID-19 impacts on businesses, and service and business operation innovations to respond to COVID-19 disruption. 

Top prizes went to 17 winners in the three categories; all 231 winners selected for funding have the opportunity to share in a total of $3 million. The grants will help offset costs incurred since March 1 and those anticipated through Dec. 30.  

Milwaukee-based Novir received the top prize for its work developing a test to rapidly detect antibodies found in people who have already contracted COVID-19. Novir’s test can deliver results in minutes rather than the days required for previous tests. Simple to use, portable and not dependent on expensive laboratory equipment, Novir’s serological antibody test is less expensive than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that also detect COVID-19 antibodies.

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