Sophie Bolich

Women-Led Businesses Launch Mentorship Program

Feeding the Starter, Funding the Rise would connect up-and-coming entrepreneurs with funding and mentorship.

By - Apr 14th, 2023 12:11 pm
Staff from Tall Guy & a Grill and Flour Girl & Flame: Joanna Cieslak (left), Chyanne Clopper, Dana Spandet, Melissa Burazin and Emma Schwendeman. Photo courtesy of Flour Girl & Flame.

Staff from Tall Guy & a Grill and Flour Girl & Flame: Joanna Cieslak (left), Chyanne Clopper, Dana Spandet, Melissa Burazin and Emma Schwendeman. Photo courtesy of Flour Girl & Flame.

Dana Spandet is no stranger to the complexities of entrepreneurship. The veteran chef is the founder of wood-fired pizza restaurant Flour Girl & Flame and seasonal scoop shop Everyone’s Ice Cream, as well as executive chef for Tall Guy & a Grill catering company.

Through each venture, Spandet had to navigate a tangled web of inspections, permits, financial documents and more — a daunting process even to seasoned restaurateurs.

For many first-timers, Spandet explained, opening a restaurant seems as simple as making delicious food and offering a high-quality product.

“But as you get deeper and deeper into it, it’s like oh my god, there’s permits and zoning and finances and accountants and taxes — it’s all really confusing,” she said. “It all just, at times, can feel like this really lonely island that you’re on.”

Spandet’s years of hard work and perseverance have made her a major player in the Milwaukee food scene — but another key component to her success, she said, was the support of fellow business owners.

“We opened officially in August of 2020,” Spandet said. “And after COVID-19, businesses really had to help each other to get by, because there wasn’t a ton of extraneous help. And that was kind of the business model, because it had to be.”

Now, she wants to offer similar support to up-and-coming female business owners. Later this spring, Spandet plans to launch Feeding the Starter, Funding the Rise, a program to connect a budding food business with funding and mentorship opportunities.

“We want to support women, we want to support people of color, we want to support LGBT people and really get kind of granular with who needs it the most,” Spandet said. “As as an LGBT-owned business, as a woman-owned business, we want to make sure that we’re all elevating each other.”

Spandet is collaborating with Hannah Kopplin of Tots on the Street, Brianne Mallo of BB Cakes and other women-led businesses for the program, which will include several months of fundraising and culminate in an end-of-season festival in October, where this year’s winner will be announced.

In addition to a check for business-related costs, the winner will receive mentorship from the group of women-led businesses on any number of subjects including finances, production, cooking, baking, permits and more, Spandet said.

Participating businesses have been quietly contributing a percentage of profits towards the program, and have already reached the halfway mark of a tentative, $10,000 goal.

The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) will act as the fiscal agent for the program, which will officially launch and begin accepting applications in the coming weeks.

Spandet said that the program is seeking a woman who owns or is looking to start a food business. An ideal candidate, she added, would be compassionate as well as community-minded.

“We’re looking for enthusiasm, heart and determination,” she said. “And people that are looking to make an impact in our community with their businesses. I think that’s kind of the way that small business is trending, too. Instead of this ‘every man for himself’ mentality, it’s like, how do we utilize the rest of our community so we can all succeed?”

More information about the program and how to apply will be available after its official launch. Keep an eye on the Flour Girl & Flame social media accounts and website for updates.

Spandet is also a city co-host for Milwaukee’s chapter of Let’s Talk Womxn, a national collaboration of women-led food and drink entrepreneurs committed to building economic power.

“It has just been such a phenomenal way to network as women business owners and share resources with each other,” she said. “I’d love to open that up to another woman-owned business.”


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