The upcoming Heymiss Progress Expo and Job Fair will be the largest African-American consumer trade show in Wisconsin.
“I made sure that I could say that! I did the research,” Sabrina “Heymiss Progress” Madison tells Madison365 in an interview at her office at 100state in downtown Madison. “This year, we’ve added so much from last year’s expo. We’ve added speaker presentations and community presentations. Fire trucks are coming out for the kids. We have a youth area. DJ Pain 1 will be there. We have food trucks. Eneale Pickett will be hosting a fashion show. We have so much greatness going on this year.”
The Heymiss Progress Expo and Job Fair that will be held Saturday, July 22, is, indeed, shaping up to be a huge event that will host 60 vendors and, this year, adding a Job Fair featuring more than 40 employers from across Dane County. There will be a line-up of speakers and a fashion show featuring Insert Apparel. Madison will be giving out some very special awards including ones to entrepreneurs Ajani Carr and Jasmine Banks.
Madison has been busy organizing it for months and the event will be held at Madison College where she had worked before venturing off on her own to become a successful entrepreneur. So it’s very much like a homecoming for her.
“Most people don’t know me well enough to know that this is only my second time around [for the Expo]. I haven’t even hit two years of leaving my job [at Madison College],” Madison says. “It’s coming home. This space is really beautiful and did not exist when I was a student or an employee at Madison College. To be in this space will be special. I’m excited that the college is a partner in my work. [Madison College President] Dr. [Jack E.] Daniels will be a part of the event and he will do the awards presentation with us. He has been so supportive of my work and of trying to grow the black entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The City of Madison has not seen anything close to the Heymiss Progress Expo and Job Fair, which is a unique place for supporting African-American entrepreneurs and for job searching, but also a great place to network.
“One of the things that people seem to love about this event, outside of the things that they can buy, is the great networking. They didn’t know that this person was there doing this or that person was doing that. They didn’t know this person had this side-hustle going,” Madison says. “You get people seeing folks they went to high school with succeeding and doing well and just catching up with them. I think one of the needs that this event serves is for people to be able to see other people that look like them and share some of the same likes and interests as you and you can find them all at once space.”
Traditionally, the city of Madison can be tough to be an African-American entrepreneur, even though the city of Madison is such a strong entrepreneurial town.
“There is actually a ton of entrepreneurial activity happening around Dane County. There are a ton of networking events. There are pitch events where you can learn about investors. But they don’t attract folks of color because the way that they deliver those networking services or those resources are not in a way that is thinking about us,” Madison says. “We’re sort of the odd man out when we show up in those spaces … and that’s if we even know about them.
“Even spaces that I get invited to, I’m like: Why am I even here? Am I here because you needed a black person in the room? And then you’re going to be ticked off that you invited me because I’m going to say what needs to be said,” she adds, laughing. “I’ve never been interested in that role. I only want to be in spaces where I can add value.”
The Heymiss Progress Expo and Job Fair is thinking about those people who are often overlooked. “I’m thinking about what people need and how to keep them in the space where they feel like they are thriving,” Madison says.
With that in mind, Madison will be turning her office space at 100state into a center for entrepreneurship aimed at black folks.
“I’m still working out many of the details. What is confirmed already, is that Upstart will support a portion of the space. For some reason, everybody thinks that I know everything and everybody black in Madison,” she laughs. “I know lots, but not to that degree. I really at some point want to become the go-to office for what is black in Madison. That’s really my goal. To be a community resource.
“A space for black entrepreneurs doesn’t really exist in Madison. There’s no central place that pulls it all together,” Madison adds. “I’m hoping to help provide that space.”
People have gotten to know Madison and her support for African-American entrepreneurs through her previous events, but she’s really excited about this weekend’s Heymiss Progress Expo and Job Fair.
“This year, we’ve added a lot more,” she says. “The expectations are for folks to come in and shop, but we also want to give the community more to do while they are there and keep them there longer and to also influence young people.
“We are at a point where we have one … maybe two clothing stores that we can walk into that are black-owned and a couple of soul food restaurants … and that’s it,” Madison adds. “I’m hoping that with folks coming to my events that hopefully within the next 3-7 years a few of them have storefronts. If we are inspiring these young kids that are coming behind us and they are seeing black people doing all of these wonderful things, then they can be them in 10-15 years.”
New to this year’s expo is the job fair section featuring more than 40 employers from across Dane County.
“I wanted to give folks who didn’t necessarily have money to spend an opportunity to come to the expo and find a job,” Madison says. “I wanted to make sure we served that need, too.”
Madison can’t see any reason why people won’t come out to support the Heymiss Progress Expo and Job Fair on Saturday. Sure, there are many things going on in Madison this weekend, including the Urban League of Greater Madison Unity Picnic. But why can’t you do both?
“You can do both easily. People think they can dip in and dip out to the Expo and then they end up being there for an hour or two because they want to walk the entire space and talk to everybody and see everything,” Madison says. “Now that we’re all on one floor, you won’t miss anything.
“I hope people come out to this because entrepreneurs need to feel supported in the community that they live in. My goal is to have more than 2,000 attendees,” she adds. “That will show these entrepreneurs that this community believes in them and that they are supportive of them. I’m hoping that Madison shows up and supports this.”
And, besides, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“Are you kidding me? This is going to be an incredible day. We are going to have live music! We got DJ Pain 1, an international DJ, doing a beats workshop,” Madison says. “We have so much planned for Saturday. You are not going to want to miss it!”
The Heymiss Progress Expo and Job Fair will be held at Saturday, July 22, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Madison College, 1701 Wright St. This event is free, family friendly and open to the public.