FORWARD FEST: So, You Want to Start [or Grow!] A Business: Fastracking Entrepreneurship Through Franchising

This no-cost session is being hosted as part of Forward Fest 2023! Learn more about all of the sessions offered for entrepreneurs – and register for the full Forward Fest event – at

Click here for directions on how to sign up for your FREE Forward Festival pass! All SBDC-hosted sessions are offered at no cost with this pass option; other events may charge to attend.


  • Intrigued by entrepreneurship, but not sure where to start?
  • Interested in using a tested model to streamline your success?
  • Been successful, but looking to grow?

If you’ve been thinking about entrepreneurship or curious about turning your business into a franchise, this session is for you!

Session Description

Entrepreneurship can be a thrilling opportunity – but there’s a lot to know! Are you ready? This session will help you explore the pros and cons of starting a business from scratch or exploring the option of franchising.

We’ll start by helping you consider your business ownership goals. What are you looking for professionally? How does entrepreneurship fit into your personal life? What is your professional and financial risk tolerance? (P.S. our First Steps to Starting a Business free online course is another great place to evaluate if entrepreneurship is right for you!).

From there, we’ll articulate some of the differences between starting your own business and becoming a franchisee. You’ll learn more about what to expect – whether starting your own business or becoming a franchisee. Examples include:

  • Support you can expect to receive as a business owner
  • Establishing or maintaining a brand
  • Managing business operations
  • Paying ongoing fees/business support costs
  • Understanding legal obligations

If you’re an existing business owner seeking expansion, we’ll explore more about the qualities of businesses that can franchise and scale, and those that are best left as independent businesses.

Finally, we’ll hear two entrepreneurs’ experiences purchasing a franchise and franchising their own business.


Location: Online (link will be sent out shortly before the class date)

Dates:  August 24, 2023 from 11:30 am – 12:45 pm (part of Forward Fest)

Fee: This course is being offered at no cost. Participants must reserve a Forward Fest pass (available at no cost) to register, and must register ahead of time for the event. The registration page includes several ticket options, including a Free Events Forward Pass; all SBDC events are accessible with this pass.

Register for Forward Fest here

Fee: This course is being offered at no cost due to the support of the presenters


Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the UW-Madison SBDC office at to request accommodations or to ask general questions about the SBDC, classes and consulting.

Meet the Presenter

Aaron Bakken
Franchise Consultant & Broker

Making the decision to become a business owner is a big step for most people. After years of working for someone else, it can sound exciting and liberating. But it isn’t simple. If you’re giving some consideration to franchising, you will want an experienced guide. As someone who has had 12 different businesses over 22+ years, Aaron bring this experience to every prospective franchise owner relationship. He truly enjoys coaching people interested in starting a business and is committed to helping clients navigate the complex selection process & ultimately choosing the right franchise to invest in.

At the beginning of 2023 Aaron sold his Sky Zone Trampoline Park franchise in Eagan, MN (Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro) and invested in 3 more, completely different franchise systems. Prior to this, he spent 5 years as as a Franchise Sales Director with a franchise acquired by the Sky Zone company from 2013 – 2018. He was the first employee with the brand Sky Zone acquired – so he’s seen a business go from inception to owner exit. He knows all sides of the franchise relationship, and can help clients with setting expectations and understanding the nuances and responsibilities that come with buying a company’s concept.

Meet the Panelists

Nathan Allman

In 2013, Nathan and his father Barrett founded Chefs For Seniors, a one-of-a-kind in-home meal prep service that provides nutritious meals for independent senior citizens wanting to age in place. The company was recently named one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 500 Franchise Brands in 2023 and has locations in 90+ markets across the US. Growing up in a family of restaurant owners cultivated Nathan’s passion for entrepreneurship and food.





Eric Cortese

Eric Cortese is a seasoned franchise entrepreneur with a journey of success in the junk removal industry. After two decades in property management, Eric sought a new opportunity that would grant him the freedom of self-employment while allowing him to enjoy the company of his beloved dog at work. Through thorough research, Eric found the perfect fit – a national franchise with a solid reputation, affordable startup costs, call center support, a protected area, and promising cash flow. He launched the first location in Wisconsin. His dedication and effective management led to excellent year-over-year growth. Notably, Eric’s business thrived even during the turbulent times of the Covid pandemic. Eventually, he made a strategic move, selling the franchise at a profit. Learn from Eric’s first-hand experiences in purchasing, running, and successfully selling a franchise. His journey embodies the pitfalls, rewards and possibilities that franchising offers to aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Wisconsin SBDC Network is a proud part of the Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship in the University of Wisconsin System.
It is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.