Leveling Up Small Businesses: Edina Innovation Lab celebrates first graduating class

Edina Innovation Lab – a new program to support local entrepreneurs and businesses – celebrated its first graduating class this past February, showcasing success and growth, according to Chief Innovation Officer Annette Wildenauer.

“Our cohort included nine businesses and 10 individuals,” she explains. “Every one of them made significant progress and learned something. Their business is the case study so everything that we talk about is related back to them. This went really well, and it exceeded my expectations.”

The lab began as a nonprofit program during July of 2022 in response to Edina’s ever growing need to help small business owners. The city and its chamber of commerce are the supporting founders who hired Annette to create it.

“While I was constructing Innovation Lab, I realized that there isn’t a lot of help out there for second-stage businesses, those who have been running for three years and proven a profit,” she says. “I wanted to focus my efforts on this untapped market. These businesses deserve a place to go and make connections.”

Annette is an experienced entrepreneur and comes with years of teaching experience.

The lab’s primary option is called BIG, Business Innovating and Growing. BIG is a six-month program with courses in business fundamentals, including finance, marketing, relationship management, sales, human-centered design, legal, accounting, media marketing strategies, employment recruitment and human resources.

“BIG is really for those businesses that feel stuck or just don’t know what to do to take them to the next level,” Annette says. “It’s a way to talk to other people that are in the same place you are. Talking to other actual entrepreneurs is so different than getting advice from a spouse or friend.”

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