Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Heather Wentler, Co-Founder of Doyenne Group, Inc., located in Madison, WI, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am the co-founder and Executive Director of Doyenne. Doyenne mobilizes a community around economic growth for early-stage, scalable ventures led by women and marginalized gender/s entrepreneurs. We focus on three core strategies to support entrepreneurs as they scale their dreams:

  1. Develop the Entrepreneur: Expand entrepreneurial skills through professional development workshops and webinars, and provide public programming to highlight the entrepreneurs within Doyenne.
  2. Access to Funding: Put dollars into the hands of underrepresented entrepreneurs and create pipelines for more classes of individuals to invest in each other.
  3. Transform the Narrative: Changing the face of entrepreneurship through our collective voice and the way entrepreneurship is recognized and supported within an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Tell us about yourself

I have always encouraged others to reach for what they want to become. Teaching early childhood, middle school, and disadvantaged schools, my role was more than simply that of the teacher to the students and coworkers. To ensure that the lives I was touching would have long-lasting impacts on their futures, I became their parent, role model, coach, and educator all rolled into one.

Being an entrepreneur for over ten years, married to an entrepreneur, and working daily within the Wisconsin entrepreneur ecosystem, gives me first-hand knowledge, experience, and understanding of what founders go through and the various mountains they climb every day to keep their ventures open and viable. I use a strategic approach to identifying entrepreneur's personal connections to their life and venture develops a stronger sense of identity and professional growth for the entrepreneurs I work with, and my connective thinking approach helps take high-level ideas down into manageable paths of actions and introductions to others within the Doyenne network to provide additional guidance and mentorship.

My passion for entrepreneurship and supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs in business became more prevalent in my career as I founded Fractal and transitioned from teaching in a traditional classroom. I am an active leader and organizer of entrepreneurial efforts across Wisconsin.

I have provided leadership & organizational level support as a board member and/or organizing partner for Forward Fest, Startup Madison Week, and Launch Wisconsin conference, have judged various business plan competitions across the U.S.A., mentored entrepreneurs for SXSW, sat on the StartingBlock Madison Board of Directors & Executive Committee. I previously served on the Boards for WEDWisconsin and Early Stage Symposium Advisory Board, the B Corp Wisconsin Movement committee, and various committees supporting entrepreneurship & STEM teaching for K-12 curriculum development.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Showing up on the hard days is an accomplishment sometimes. Doyenne has provided funding for over 50 Wisconsin-headquartered ventures led by women and/or marginalized gender/s. We impact over 350 entrepreneurs yearly through programming and services, even as a small team. Our success rate is more than 80% of ventures we work with are still open after a year since exiting our programming and have seen growth. This is above the industry average and a huge accomplishment as it shows what we've built works.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Being the business owner. It's isolating being the owner sometimes, and it's hard being the leader when you don't always know if you're making the right decisions and others' success lays on your shoulders.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Do it! Believe in yourself.
  2. Find a network or group of other business owners you can trust to serve as outside supporters and learn from their experiences.
  3. Ask for help. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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