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First of a Series of Business Socials Held at Big Fish Event Center

By Joe Morey

News Editor

In the first of a series of Sawyer County Socials held as learning opportunities for businesses and interested individuals, hosted by the Sawyer County/Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Development Corporation (EDC), a group came together to hear Andy Donahue present “Entrepreneurship Energy with Intention.”

The event was held on March 14th at the Big Fish Golf Course and was sponsored by Xcel Energy. Donahue is from the Small Business Development Center at UW-Superior. The Socials will be held monthly with the next one planned for April 11th.

Donahue’s presentation talked about energy, being able to get fired about and having passion about your business idea and bringing it to concept. He said it’s important to create a road map. He explained the Small Business Development Center as a statewide agency with a network that supports entrepreneurs and business owners through no cost, confidential consulting and educational programs.

Donahue said the agency started 23 new businesses in Northwest Wisconsin in 2022, with 1,120 jobs created.

He also talked about networking and how it’s an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“It’s how you all work off each other, and how you tell your story and what makes you unique,” Donahue explained. He went on to say that the Small Business Development Center can work with aspiring business owners with help finding lenders, other funders, angel investors, government, foundations, and resource providers. He works with Chambers, media and higher education institutions.

Donahue encourages business owners not to give up if first attempts aren’t where you want them to be. He said change things up, keep trying, innovate, come up with new ideas, pay attention to your customers.

“Don’t let your business get stuck and stale or it will burn you out,” Donahue said.

He added you should come to the Socials to learn ways to connect and grow your business with other businesses.

The President of the EDC, Monica Johnson, said they are doing a lot to try to help the workforce.

“We know business owners have been the only constant in their business and they are getting burnt out, they need help,” Johnson said.

She explained one program they are working on is with the Hayward Schools to get kids working in the summer and earn credits towards graduation. She said they will make some money and it helps them get into the workforce.

“We’ve talked with Superintendent Craig Olson and he said to put together a plan. We are going to put something out for the employers soon,” Johnson said.

Hayward School Board member Stacy Hessel was also at the Social and she said there is currently a program in place that is aimed only at kids who are short of credits to graduate, but that the EDC program would be for all students.

“A program like this could help with the struggles that small business owners are facing,” Johnson added.

The Sawyer County Socials aim to connect businesses and entrepreneurs with the opportunity to learn about different available programs. Guests may include representatives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Entrepreneur Fund, and other similar organizations. The Sawyer County Social Schedule includes six dates: March 14, April 11, May 16, September 19, October 17, and November 14, with topics and locations to be announced.

To learn more about the Sawyer County Lac Courte Oreilles Economic Development Corporation, visit their website at or find them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Have a topic you’d like the group to address? Please email

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