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Venture Wisconsin beginning to make a statewide impact

Local entrepreneur aims to create Tinder-like app for things to do in Wisconsin

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November 2, 2023

APPLETON – Venture Wisconsin – a new twist on the coupon book – got its start in March 2017 with a single video when owner Evan Freimuth had an idea that was as he calls it “essentially Tinder for things to do.”

At the time of ideation, Freimuth was attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (UWO) and said he spent quite a bit of time sitting around with his friends watching television and drinking beer.

Scrolling through the gamut of apps out there for things to do, Freimuth said he found something for pretty much everything, but nothing all-encompassing.

“There’s Yelp, which is food,” he said. “Then there’s TripAdvisor, which is for landmarks. There’s Facebook and Eventbrite for events and others for outdoors. (But), those are four separate things. I wondered why they weren’t together?”

Recognizing the issue, but yet unsure how to solve it, Freimuth said he spun his tires on the idea for about three years, essentially getting nowhere.

“After three years of not making any progress, I hooked up with a radio, TV, film major (at UWO) and we made a launch video,” he said.

Freimuth said he also attended a digital fertilizer event where he met Andrew Verboncouer – which he said rekindled a love he had when he was young of working with videos.

“I had a business built just on making content,” he said. “We had three people on the team plus myself, and we were putting out an average of two good pieces of content a week.”

In 2020, Venture Wisconsin launched its first product, the WI Brew Deck – a deck of cards with deals to explore local Wisconsin breweries.

Things at that point were going well – with business doubling every year and a half, on average.

However, Freimuth said things came to a screeching halt when he tried bringing a salesperson on board.

“I was trying to onboard this guy, but I had no systems in place – so it fell apart,” he said. “Then it was just me. I had to go back to the drawing board.”

Essentially starting over, Freimuth said during spring 2022 he came up with the Old Fashioned Passport – which includes more than 100 “Buy One Old Fashioned, Get One Old Fashioned Free” (BOGO) coupons at supper clubs, distilleries, taverns and more across the state.

Venture Wisconsin owner and founder Evan Freimuth with his family. Submitted Photo

“That pivot kept us on pace,” he said. “We went from Northeast and Central Wisconsin with our videos, and now we’re statewide with the passports.”

The Old Fashioned Passport, Freimuth said, was well received both on social media and in sales.

A 2024 version of the Old Fashioned Passport will be released soon and is already available to pre-order on Venture Wisconsin’s website.

The company is also working on launching a Coffee Shop Passport, which includes BOGO offers at 90 coffee shops across the State of Wisconsin – Freimuth said he hopes it has a similar popularity as the Old Fashioned Passport.

Based purely on the Facebook reactions, Freimuth said the Coffee Shop Passport already has half of what the Old Fashioned had, and it’s only been out for three weeks as of the end of October.

Though, he said it’s still too early to tell the real impact the sales will have overall – “time will tell.”

“Beer and coffee people are similar because they take a ton of pride in the product,” he said. “And they all have a distribution mindset. They’re way more open to collaborating and participating in stuff like this.”

When it comes to the old-fashioned, Freimuth said the response is a little different, “you’re dealing with people across the spectrum” – some supper club owners might be second- and third-generation and have been doing things the same way for the last 50 years and aren’t interested in participating.

And, Freimuth said “that’s okay,” knowing not every business is going to want to participate.

Freimuth said his goal is to find people who are excited about the passport program, because it’s fun, not only for the end customer but for the establishment as well.

With the understanding that Venture Wisconsin is fundamentally an entertainment and media platform, he said “social media is our foundation.”

“Facebook is where we grew our main audience going on seven years,” he said.

Friemuth said social media has allowed people to find Venture Wisconsin and its products much easier.

“I think we did a good job of executing on it because it’s easy to understand,” he said. “It’s led to being accessible by more people.” 

The value
Freimuth said Venture Wisconsin essentially has two customers – the end consumer and participating establishments.

From the participating establishment standpoint, Freimuth said Venture Wisconsin has the data to show the promotions can and do bring in new customers.

Venture Wisconsin’s first product – the WI Brew Deck, a deck of cards with coupons at local Wisconsin breweries – was released in 2020. Submitted Photo

He said Venture Wisconsin does not charge businesses to participate, as they want to help keep businesses alive, growing and most importantly, making money.

“There are many mom-and-pop businesses,” he said. “Each place has its own flavor, which is awesome. If we can contribute to keeping them open or bumping up their traffic during slow times, that’s a win for us.”

Freimuth said he takes pride in knowing he’s helping Wisconsin businesses.

“If we’re helping a coffee shop or a brewery make an extra $400-$500 that month, that’s what matters – any little bit helps in this economy,” he said.

With Venture Wisconsin focusing on promoting the State of Wisconsin, Freimuth said one of his biggest rules is that all local business participants are local – no chain stores.

He wants to help promote the local shops that have unique offerings that will bring people in, keep them in and get others talking about them.

Freimuth said there is a process for getting into a passport.

First, he said, decisions are based on his experiences, then follower suggestions.

Freimuth said it’s interesting to learn about the different types of businesses and the type of people who are drawn to them.

After that, Freimuth said he looks at the balance of different types of establishments and what they have to offer.

Before reaching out to a prospective business, Freimuth said he would do his due diligence to ensure it fits with the Venture Wisconsin branding and marketing.

This process, he said, supports businesses while also helping ensure a positive experience for passport end users.

The future
Just as it was in the beginning, Freimuth – now married with a family of his own – said Venture Wisconsin is still important to him and to fellow Wisconsinites.

Ultimately, Freimuth said he sees what he’s doing as promoting tourism within the Badger State, first and foremost.

“We want to move people, and we’ve seen we’ve moved people, and that’s exciting,” he said. “I see a confluence of factors making it even more important soon,” he said.

Moreover, Freimuth said he sees a path that has emerged through trial and error where he keeps getting to the next stage – up next, an app.

“I see the app, (currently in phase one of development), as a competitive social media platform,” he said.

Currently, Freimiuth said Venture Wisconsin is in the minimal viable product (MVP) stage of the app. 

“We’re going to send people a code, and they can submit a picture of their passport, and we’ll add more places throughout the year,” he said.

A big hit in 2023, Venture Wisconsin’s 2024 Old Fashioned Passport is already available for presale. Submitted Photo

This, Freimuth said, will lead to a partnership between the app and the physical passports – with the two working in tandem.

More details on the app will be released as progress is made in the process.

Doing its part
Freimuth said he wants Venture Wisconsin to contribute to the culture in Wisconsin – which is highlighted in the company’s mission: Making Wisconsin the most interesting place to live in the Midwest.

“I think Wisconsin has the most distinct culture,” he said. “I think about what Charlie Berens is doing – he’s exporting Wisconsin culture as Midwest culture.”

Furthermore, Freimuth said Venture Wisconsin promotes tourism in a way that works in conjunction with both locals and tourists, in-state or otherwise, causing a distinct blurred line rather than a distinct border where people don’t try new things.

“At the end of the day, Wisconsin is fun – whether it’s a party, making up words or making up phrases,” he said. “It’s having pride in your work and your state – which is what we hope to reflect and add to the party.”

More information on Venture Wisconsin, its various products and a list of participating businesses for each can be found on its website, at or through its Facebook page.

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