Northwoods Angels Network

Brad Zdroik, Deep Freeze Fishing, Inc.

We are the lucky ones, living here in northern Wisconsin. We are able to enjoy the beauty and the natural attributes of living in a pristine and safe environment. However, one of the drawbacks to coming to this area is the difficulty of finding a job to sustain a comfortable lifestyle.

A relatively new investment group is trying to assist the development of new companies that show a potential for creating significant job opportunities. The Northwoods Angel network was introduced in December, 2010, a part of the Wisconsin Angels Network (WAN), and there are now 23 groups affiliated with this state-wide organization.

The Northwoods Angel network is comprised of high-net worth individuals who not only provide venture capital to assist companies in their early stage of development, but also offer their high-level business expertise to these start-up companies. This group also works closely with the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation (VCEDC) to assist Vilas County-based start-up businesses and where Northwoods Angels found its new leadership.

Entrepreneurs are encouraged to seek more information about the advantages of growing their businesses by applying for investment capital through the WAN. Dick Leinenkugel, former state commerce secretary, president of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., and one of the creators of the Northwoods Angels network, gave an interview to the Star Journal this past December. In this interview he advised applying entrepreneurs.“The main thing is to have a solid business plan with pro forma projections with a budget, a profit/loss plan for maybe three to five years and show that the company is fulfilling a solid need, whether it’s a business service or something they’ll produce themselves. It’s got to be based in reality.” 

There is no charge to entrepreneurs and they are encouraged to apply for investment capital on the WAN website. WAN reviews the application and then it is sent to all members of the Angel network. The Northwoods Angel network is comprised of Vilas County residents or visitors to the area that have a keen interest in growing the Vilas County business community. Through WAN any Angel groups can invest in the company.

Brad Zdroik moved his company from the southern part of the state to Eagle River due to his involvement with Northwoods Angel network. His company, Deep Freeze Fishing, Inc created an alert device affixed to the tip up, Blue Tipz, that alerts the Smartphone user when there is a fish on the line.

Dan Blake, director of the WAN, said in the same article that one of the biggest challenges facing the network is educating entrepreneurs as to its availability.  “We’ve been working on some new groups around the state, so we’re hoping to push that forward. We’ve seen some great growth recently, so we’re feeling pretty bullish on early-stage opportunities in Wisconsin.” 

Leinenkugel says that one of the things unique in Northwoods Angels is that investors are not looking for short term investments in these new businesses. “What is unique about our group is that we all have a tie to Vilas County, either as residents or because we visit the area, and so we all want it to succeed economically," he was quoted as saying. “Where we differ from other Angel groups is we’re not looking so much to cash out on a five- to seven-year return on our investments. Our interest is in bringing business to the area.” 

For more information and learn more about the application process, visit http://www.vilascountyedc.org/about.html and http://www.wisconsinangelnetwork.com/.

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