Entrepreneurial activity increased sharply in Wisconsin in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Entrepreneurship is a key part of any healthy economy but ensuring that new business activity leads to significant economic impact by creating high quality jobs can be difficult. Communities can take a lead role in a range of strategies that help entrepreneurs grow and be successful to make the most of this opportunity to improve their economies.


  • In Wisconsin, business applications reached the highest level on record during the pandemic.
  • Business applications increased by 21% from 2019 to 2020 and 23% from 2020 to 2021.
  • A small share of business applications will result in actual new businesses with paid employees.

Start-up activity accelerated during the pandemic across the U.S. In Wisconsin, business applications per month reached the highest level on record (Figure 1). From 2004 through 2019, Wisconsin averaged 3,175 applications per month. During the pandemic, from April 2020 through December 2021, applications increased to 4,716 applications per month. In total, there have been more than 136,778 new applications since the beginning of the pandemic, signaling the largest surge of entrepreneurship in at least 15 years.

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