We partnered with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to discover Milwaukee’s entrepreneurial community. It was a privilege to learn about this city, especially the recent endeavors the city has taken to grow its small businesses and attract younger talent.

The WEDC hosted us for a few days on a press trip and we had were lucky enough to hear from some of the city’s most influential leaders themselves. This included the Alex Lasry (son of Marc Lasry) who bought and commissioned the Fiserv Forum. It also included the founder of the Sherman Phoenix and a networking event with employees from locally-focused businesses.

We really enjoyed our time in this city! It’s full of opportunities for creatives and entrepreneurs. Plus, the affordability makes it accessible for those wanting to go for their big dreams without adding huge stresses onto their finances while doing so.

Leah Gervais in the Historic Third Ward in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Every single local we met was enthusiastic about the city. I loved seeing how much pride they had for their home. That’s what makes a real community. Below is our Milwaukee travel review, particularly through the lenses of entrepreneurship!

Entrepreneurial Discoveries in Milwaukee

The Commons

The Commons are a unique, co-working style space that connects up and coming talent in Milwaukee to the local businesses. We met the founders of the organization as well as some of their most successful alumni. They’ve been able to contribute to the growth and community of their city.

Many of the students were born and raised in Milwaukee but had always assumed they’d move away after college. They had their sights set on Chicago or New York, where they thought there would be more business and entrepreneurial opportunity. Through joining the Commons in college and networking with thought and business leaders of the city, they realized how much was at their fingertips already.

Hearing them find their dream jobs and opportunities in their home city, which they already loved so much, demonstrated the power of the Commons. Of course, this also contributes to the growth of the city and its entrepreneurial developments.

We’ll be interviewing an amazing success story of one of the entrepreneurs from the Commons soon. Stay tuned!

Sherman Phoenix

This was the highlight of our trip. The Sherman Phoenix has an incredible story of building economic development out of economic hardship. In wake of the a tragic fatal shooting in Sherman Park in 2016, the community reached a “breaking point.” The long-time need to change the intense segregation and systematized racism in Milwaukee inspired the birth of the Sherman Phoenix.

The Sherman Phoenix is a creative hub of entrepreneurs and their storefronts in the heart of the Sherman Park. It is built in a previously burned down bank building, literally arising from the ashes. It’s fostering community, entrepreneurship, and economic growth in a segregated community of color.

It’s inspiring, influential, impactful, and something that we all can learn from.

Check out our podcast interview with two of the founders, coming out in October!

Leah Gervais interviews two of the founders of the Sherman Phoenix, Juli Kaufmann and Maanaan Sabir

Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum was amazing! It was right on Lake Michigan and even the infrastructure and location was stunning. The diverse collection of European Art, American Art, and local Milwaukee art was entertaining. This was definitely worth the trip!

If you’re an art fan and find inspiration in it, don’t miss a visit it there!

Leah Gervais at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Historic Third Ward

Up until recently, this district was still recovering from its complex past. In the 1850s, it was the only area in Milwaukee primarily managed by women. It was a working-class area, and this combination led it into a “red light” district that stuck with it, in various shapes and forms, until as recently as the 1980s!

In the 80s, the city got serious about transforming this Historic neighborhood. Now, the Third Ward is one of the creative hubs of this creative city! It’s full of former warehouses which have turned into art galleries and performing arts centers.

While here, we ate the Milwaukee Public Market, drank at the Café Benelux, shopped at MOD GEN, strolled and explored! I can’t recommend the St. Paul’s Fish Company enough. The lobster roll was delicious.

Leah Gervais at the St. Paul's Fish Market in Milwaukee

Saint Kate Art Hotel

Even if you’re not staying at this hotel, you’ll want to stop by! If you’re wanting to do any work or get your creative juices flowing, spend the afternoon with a latte in their hotel lobby. They have outlets at every single seat, great Wifi, and art tours available if you have the time.

Travel Tips for Milwaukee Tourists

Where to stay

We stayed at the Saint Kate Art Hotel (full review here). With some research and learning from the locals, the Pfister hotel was another popular and historical hotel. Next time we visit, we definitely want to check out the rooftop bar, Blu, if it’s still open!

Saint Kate Arts Hotel lobby and bar

What to do

We LOVED visiting the discoveries above. I especially recommend making it out to the Sherman Phoenix while there. You will have to take a taxi or drive out there, but no need to go to take a tour like we did. You can simply visit and indulge in their delicious offerings! The ice cream looked unreal.

Other than that, we toured the Fiserv Forum and it was incredible. If you’re able to go make it to a Buck’s game, you’ll love the new Forum. Even if you don’t get actual game tickets, the surrounding area, Deer District, was hugely lively and decked out with outdoor sports bars. It’d be a great experience during a home game!

The new Buck's Stadium, the Fiserv Forum, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Harley Davidson Museum is another popular attraction.

Finally, you have the chance, I recommend taking a boat tour on Lake Michigan! We had a fabulous experience sailing a few hours out of the port with a beautiful view of the city. We also learned that the entire lakeshore has recently undergone improvements that included a beach on the lake. It’s as if the city has beach city benefits while in the Midwest!

How to get around

We found Milwaukee to be quite walk-able, which we loved. There’s even a River Walk along the river so you don’t have to wait through stoplights, and you can enjoy the river! If you need to go outside the city’s main center, we used Lyft and it was easy.

Where to eat and drink

Milwaukee has some of the best food of any US city I’ve visited! It’s known for its German-influenced cuisine of craft beers, bratwurst, and cheese. We gathered that most famous brewery there was the Lakefront Brewery, likely because of its obvious location. Additionally, we were told the Water Brewery and Good City Brewing, but were told Lakefront had the best food.

We went to the Lakefront and the food was fantastic. During happy hour, our beers were only $2.50. I don’t think I’ve ever had a beer for $2.50 in my ten years living in NYC, let alone a delicious local beer for that price! I was delighted.

Some popular streets for drinking and eating were Water Street and Old World Third Street, both close to the River Walk. There are several bars near each other there, so if you’re looking for a neighborhood to go out in but not take continuous cabs, they’re good choices. They would’ve been a lot of fun for sports days!

Milwaukee skyline from Lake Michigan