WCC expands its Entrepreneurs-In-Residence program to mentor new business owners

September 23, 2021 Fran LeFort

Photos of EIR experts


Washtenaw Community College (WCC) is expanding its Entrepreneurs-In-Residence program to better meet increased needs of a growing number of small business owners.

The number of experts has more than doubled in the two years since WCC’s program started, with nine seasoned entrepreneurs now committed to mentoring new and prospective business owners throughout the community.

Begun in 2019, the Entrepreneurs-In-Residence (EIR) program is among numerous services offered at no charge through WCC’s Entrepreneurship Center.

“Many customers are from the east side of the county where they may not be getting a lot of support. The Entrepreneurship Center helps them with tools to launch their businesses, but this a leveling up of services and mentoring to get them to the next step. During the pandemic this program became even more vital with specific COVID-related business support requests, and we are thrilled to see it grow to meet the high demands,” said Entrepreneurship Center Director Kristin Gapske.  

In the program’s first two years, 287 EIR appointments were booked, 138 of which were hosted virtually during the 2020-2021 full-pandemic year.

Other Entrepreneurship Center services include training workshops and educational presentations, start-up research assistance, a Pitch competition and four month-long training and grant programs.

Common resources requested include idea development, funding and grant writing, marketing, industry-specific data and networking. In all, the Entrepreneurship Center saw 318 intakes, not counting market research and EIR appointments, during the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year.

“We see so many entrepreneurs filling out our intake form and requesting assistance that we need experts to take them to the next level with coaching and support in their specialties,” Gapske said.

“EIRs are sought out and are different in that they can speak to folks from a seat of experience. They have owned businesses, and most are currently still running vibrant companies. They love to transmit their knowledge to earlier-stage entrepreneurs,” she said.

The five new entrepreneurs-in-residence this year are:

  • Brynn Cooksey – HVAC/R business planning
  • Eric Fretz– Veteran entrepreneurship, creativity/ideation, entrepreneurship team dynamics
  • Autumn Kyles – Funding readiness, food business building, strategic business planning
  • Millie Chu (joining in October) – Determining for-profit vs. nonprofit business formation, starting or scaling a social enterprise, sustainability for social impact businesses
  • Leslie Sobel (joining in October) – Grant writing

They join the four original experts who have returned for the program’s third year:



What: Entrepreneurs-In-Residence

Where: EIR is a program offered to the community through Washtenaw Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center.

Cost: No charge

Call: (734) 249-5880

Email: [email protected]

Tags: Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, Entrepreneurship Center

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