Local businesses receive state awards for COVID-19 innovation | WisCommunity

Local businesses receive state awards for COVID-19 innovation

December 8, 2020 - 4:30pm

231 Wisconsin businesses were awarded grants totaling 3 million dollars in the We're All Innovating Contest. This contest awards state CARES act funds to businesses that have found innovative solutions to issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition was limited to businesses with 50 or fewer employees and is administered through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

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, 2020.  

One of the big local winners in this contest was , which won an award for their new online ordering system which allows Co-op customers to order items on-line for curbside pickup. Menomonie Market Food Co-op was selected as a top winner in the Technology Innovation to Address COVID-19 Impacts on Businesses Category by a panel of 182 volunteer judges for the new online store they launched in response to the pandemic, a project that wasn’t originally in their business plan until 2023. They will receive a $17,250 financial award that will help offset the costs incurred to complete the project and will allow the store to continue offering curbside pickup for free to the Dunn County community for the foreseeable future.

“Our food co-op exists to create wealth for our owners and our local community,” says Crystal Halvorson, Menomonie Market Food Co-op’s General Manager. “When we were weighing whether or not to invest in building an eCommerce solution earlier this year, it felt risky to use that money for a project outside of our planned budget. Ultimately, we knew we had to make the leap to keep our shoppers safe and to continue supporting our local farmers and producers, so it’s awesome to see the state give money to locally owned businesses like ours to help with that unexpected cost.”

To complete the project, co-op staff completed the following tasks in just over two months:

  • Designed the eCommerce website and all accompanying materials
  • Cleaned their point of sale system’s product data so it would make sense to customers
  • Integrated the eCommerce website with their point of sale system’s cleaned product data
  • Sourced product photos from vendors and photographed some themselves when unavailable
  • Created systems, trainings, and schedules for staff to become personal shoppers
  • Wrote a collection of step-by-step tutorials for their customers to use after launching the site
  • Collected feedback from pilot shoppers to improve the system before launch
  • Integrated the eCommerce website and all of its new features into their promotions schedule
  • Launched and publicized the new eCommerce website
  • Helped customers adjust to the new ordering system by fielding phone calls, emails, and social media messages

Other local winners of smaller awards include:

A full list of the grant winners is

As a matter of transparency, publisher and author Steve Hanson is a board member at Menomonie Market Food Co-op.

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