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12 on Tuesday: Gregory St. Fort

100State Executive Director Gregory St. Fort

Gregory St Fort has been an entrepreneur in New York City since 2009, starting businesses in marketing, web design, event production, and encouraging his fellow entrepreneurs. A recent transplant to Madison, he now runs 100State, the largest coworking space in Wisconsin.

Rank your Top 5 MCs. Nas, J Cole, Fabolous,Eminem, 50 Cent (for his old albums only). Nas is by far my favorite. I still listen to Illmatic. His music brings light to topics that people need discuss.

Which motivates you more: doubters or supporters? Supporters. I want to be around the energy of people who want to build with me.

Do you prefer being called Black or African American? Either…

What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most? I don’t have a top three at this point. I have seen some awesome work and leadership from many people. Some in the startup world and some in the nonprofit world.

What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities? People seem to deny that there are racial disparities and that they have their own biases. We need to have the tough conversations and have them often.

What are the top three priorities at this point in your life? My faith, the people I love and my work. It is important for me to be spiritually grounded. It gives me direction. My family has my back no matter how good or bad the choices I make are. No one will have my back like that. My work wakes me up early every morning because I love what I do. I get to work with awesome people and build awesome things….as i like to say, “let’s keep building!”

You’re from New York. What are the three biggest cultural differences between the Madison and NYC? It’s always hard to compare these cities because there isn’t a city in the world that’s like NYC, but I will try.

Population. There are 8.5 million people in NY.

Diversity. Out of that 8.5 million there are 2 million black people, 2 million Hispanics….44 percent of the city is white, so the majority of people in NYC are of color. That diversity changes the feel of the city. I have always enjoyed going out for authentic Colombian or Jamaican food one day in Queens, head to the Bronx for Dominican food, head back to Queens for Haitian food then to Brooklyn for a great slice of pizza. From food to music you can learn and enjoy a variety of cultures. Diversity also provides different opportunities for people of color. If you provide products and services geared to specific demographics, having a large population of that demographic certainly increases your chances of success.

Competition. New York is so competitive. The attitude is a lot more aggressive. From school, to sports, to businesses to trying to get on the subway. While in Madison
everyone seems to be a Badgers and Packers fan, in NY we fight with our teams. Either you are Yankees or Mets, Giants or Jets.

One more….the basketball courts are not nearly as active here. Maybe Madison365 and
100State can organize a charity basketball game next summer…

What restaurant in Madison most reminds you of New York food? Tornado Steakhouse and Deluxe…I have always enjoyed going to a great steakhouse or burger place.

How has the African American community embraced you here in Madison? It was rough at first. I didn’t know where the black community was, specifically the young professionals. I would say it took about four months to find a couple of groups to hang out with. Career wise there has been a few people like Bob Wynn and Maurice Cheeks, that have been awesome for me. There are plenty of people who I have not met yet and hope to meet sometime in the future.

Name the five things every newcomer to the City should know about Madison.

  • There are real opportunities for entrepreneurship. Madison’s entrepreneurship is growing fast. These opportunities are for people of all colors and backgrounds. 100state’s membership reflects that.
  • Take advantage of the beautiful lakes. There are plenty of affordable kayak rental places. It’s a great experience.
  • The Race To Equity report.
  • There isn’t much night life
  • You have to try cheese curds. People in Madison will go crazy if you tell them you have yet to try it.

What makes 100 State unique? 100state is the most diverse experience in Madison and of course the largest coworking community in the state. We are proud to have members like Will Green (Mentoring Positives/Off The Block Salsa), Willy Hakizimana, who was in the first White House Demo Day, Joy Tang (Markable) , Taylar Barrington (Maverick Hill), Todd Streicher (5Nines) and more than 200 others that are shaping the future of Madison. From freelancer to startup to artist to corporate, our members come together and we are building. I will say it again…let’s keep building!

How did being raised by a pastor influence your life as an adult? It makes me live by faith. Wisconsin is considered one of the worst places to live if you are black but here I am, the executive director of 100state and a leader in Madison’s entrepreneur community.