Mitchell named Wisconsin SBDC Network’s 2021 ‘State Star’

Cheryl V. Mitchell, director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-Milwaukee, was honored posthumously by her peers as the Wisconsin network’s 2021 State Star.

Mitchell was chosen in June in a statewide vote for turning around the performance of the SBDC at UW-Milwaukee. Upon her recent promotion from consultant to center director, Mitchell met all of the center’s goals for the first time in seven years. In 2020, the SBDC at UW-Milwaukee served 565 clients, resulting in $12 million in capital investment, 28 new businesses and 2,550 jobs supported.

Mitchell, 53, died in May after fighting for months to recover from a brain hemorrhage.

In her award nomination, Mitchell was described as a persistent, solutions-oriented professional who could handle any challenge with her strategic mind and collaborative approach.

“Everything Cheryl did with her bright smile and calm demeanor was to help others — her staff, her small business clients and her community,” said Bon Wikenheiser, state SBDC director. “Anyone who knew her has been inspired to carry forward her legacy.”

Nancy Nelson, Provost’s Deputy for Continuing Education at UW-Milwaukee School, said under Mitchell’s charismatic leadership, the SBDC thrived. “Cheryl was always willing to take on new challenges while assisting SBDC clients with solutions and strategies.”

The Wisconsin Small Business Development (SBDC) Network offers no-cost, confidential consulting and business education to new and existing businesses through 13 centers across the state. In 2020, the SBDC served 7,870 clients, resulting in $107.5 million in capital investment, 256 new businesses and 26,275 jobs supported.

The State Star award recognizes:

  • Impact on clients,
  • Innovative approaches,
  • Team spirit, and
  • Willingness to go the extra mile.

The Wisconsin SBDC is a nationally accredited member of America’s SBDC, which traditionally honors State Stars each fall during its national conference. Past Wisconsin State Stars include Michelle Somes-Booher (2020), center director, SBDC at UW-Madison; David Stauffacher (2019), consultant, SBDC at UW-Green Bay; and Kevin Kaufman (2018), center director, SBDC at UW-Whitewater.

Mitchell earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW-Madison and an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before joining the SBDC in 2016, she already had amassed a diverse portfolio of experience: She worked as an analyst and marketing manager for a number of health care and biotech firms. And she founded two of her own enterprises, Mitchell Companies LLC and The Diabetes Bootcamp.

In her years with the SBDC Network, Mitchell was appreciated by her clients for her candid business advice and personable nature.

“Cheryl was far more than an expert on business strategy, marketing and personal branding,” said Alan Goodman, owner of A Goodman’s Desserts. “She was the ultimate inspirator, nurturer and coach who constantly pushed me to think boldly about my business, while also becoming a good friend along the way.”

Sharon Celek Kevil, owner of Forti LLC, met with Mitchell for almost two years while seeking investment and launching her first product line of sustainable wood furniture. “I feel so fortunate to have had her advice during such a critical time, and I miss our conversations.”

Mitchell’s mother, Pauline, said Cheryl’s intelligent counsel, giving heart and uplifting spirit left “forever impressions” on her family, friends and colleagues. “Cheryl, my beautiful precocious daughter, was like a rose flower of the purple hue, so gentile yet strong. She blossomed so profusely with an uncanny wisdom for all to see, touch and embrace.”

About the Wisconsin SBDC

The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a nationally accredited statewide network supporting entrepreneurs and business owners through no-cost, confidential consulting and business education. Regional SBDC experts facilitate improvement and growth for small and emerging mid-size companies and help launch successful new enterprises. The Wisconsin SBDC is hosted by the University of Wisconsin System under the Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. It is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.  

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