Fostering entrepreneurship is essential for any community to grow, no more so is this true than in rural areas like Chippewa County. It takes a certain type of person that wants to create new products or services. These entrepreneurs stimulate new employment, which positively impacts our economic growth. So, it makes sense that the sooner entrepreneurs are cultivated, fostered, incubated, and supported-the more benefits our local region will receive.
One does not need to look far to find success stories of young adults that have taken the entrepreneurial route. According to www.investopedia.com – Hart Main created manly-scented candles when he was 13 only after he kept teasing his sister about her girly-smelling candles. Then there is Caine Monroy, who transitioned some space in his father’s auto parts store into a makeshift arcade at age 9. Catherine Cook created MyYearbook, then merged it with an ad-supported site that allowed users to post and complete online quizzes. She was only 15 at the time. In Horsehead, New York www.localsyr.com recently highlighted 17 year old’s Cale Sutterby and Silas Farrell, seniors at Watkins Glen High School, who started ‘The Cheese Bus,” selling various cheeses to tourist that visit the areas wineries.
Young entrepreneur success can be found within Western Wisconsin as well. Will Wanish, currently a 17-year old junior at Colfax High School and resident of Chippewa County, knows exactly what he wants to do when he finishes high school—manage his own business and build on his passion for maple syrup. Four years ago, he began tapping maple trees with his uncle, Jon, in the Cadott Wisconsin area. The next season, while some students began thinking of college or working for someone else, Will’s entrepreneur spirit drove and dedicated him in securing “liquid gold” from maple trees. That year he decided to have about 50 tree taps in his yard. Each year since then, he has added trees and modified his operation. Back in 2018, when he decided that he wanted to focus on establishing a maple syrup business, he had a serious conversation with his mom and dad, Todd and Heather Wanish.
During that discussion, both parents told him that a business was completely different than a hobby and he needed to have a plan for funding, sales, and future opportunities. “We made a list of the equipment he would need, potential sales he could make, and how he would be able to make this actually work,” Todd said.
After reiterating that this was a long-term plan, Will decided to move forward and was able to secure a $30K loan from the Regional Business Fund. This allowed him to purchase an evaporator and a reverse osmosis machine. “Without the help of Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation and the Regional Business Fund, I wouldn’t have been able to get my business off the ground,” Will explained.
During the 2020 spring season, he cooked down approximately 22,000 gallons of sap into maple syrup. Then, COVID-19 became a pandemic and Will like many entrepreneurs had to improvise and look beyond traditional farmer’s markets and events for sales. He decided to get licensed and inspected, thus allowing him to sell his syrup via wholesale methods to stores. “Currently, my maple syrup is in approximately 100 stores throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota,” he said. Throughout 2020 and 2021, sales remained extremely strong, and business keeps expanding. Now Will, Todd, and Heather are on-the-road building sales by securing new wholesale accounts.
During the spring 2021 sap season, Will received a call from Boyd Huppert, a KARE-11 NBC reporter from Minneapolis. He featured Will and his business on The Land of 10,000 Stories, an award-winning feature on KARE-11. Within minutes of the story airing on television, hundreds of orders came through the Wanish Sugar Bush website and business to individuals catapulted. “The exposure we received from the KARE-11 story has been amazing—we are so appreciative that Boyd wanted to share Will’s story,” Heather said.
This spring, Will made approximately 1,000 gallons of maple syrup and is already planning for next year. He hopes to add more taps, build his tubing system, enhance efficiencies, and potentially expand into other products that include maple sugar and maple cotton candy. As he looks to the years ahead, he is grateful for the help he has received thus far. “I am so glad that Charlie Walker, CCEDC, and the Regional Business Fund had faith in my business and in me. As I continue to grow as an entrepreneur and as a business, I know that I will be seeking further advice from all of these organizations,” Will said.
Will’s parents are proud of his accomplishments and know that he will be successful in whatever he chooses to do. “He is always on-the-go, enjoys working, and is not a teenager that has ever just sat around,” Todd said. “I couldn’t be more excited for what he has done so far; there aren’t many kids his age who can say that they have a successful business already,” Heather added.
Will is confident that he can make his business, Wanish Sugar Bush, a success story well into the future. “This is what I want to do and it’s not an option to not be successful; I know that I can continue to grow and build this business,” Will concluded.