Zandra Hagberg is co-founder and owner of JMC Business Solutions, a full service consulting practice that provides assistance to small businesses and non-profits with a focus on implementing the best solutions for business intelligence and operational excellence. She is also a founding member of the Focussed Interruption Coalition, the driving force behind the 15-Point Plan to reduce violence in Madison.
Name your top 5 MCs. The classics of course, Tupac and Biggie. I love Future. As a woman, I have to take it back to my younger days and go with a female, MC Lyte. And, I gotta go with my all-time favorite, Jeezy.
What motivates you more, doubters or supporters? Absolutely my doubters – they motivate me to grind even harder. I was told that if you have haters, you’re doing something right.
What does it mean to be White in Madison? As a white woman in Madison with children of color, I’m able to see perspectives from both angles. I’m able to see the disparities, the privilege in being a white woman, the despair in my children growing up in this community. I was once challenged with why as a white woman do I do the work that I do because when I turn around I will still be white and privileged. However, when my children turn their heads around, they’re not, and from the moment I gave birth to my first born I was no longer living for me – I live for my children, and everything they go through, I go through with them.
What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most? Michael Johnson – I have so much respect and admiration for his grind – not only for his organization, but for the community as a whole. He doesn’t just talk the talk, but he walks the walk. His ability to connect with people from all walks of life is impressive, but what impresses me the most is his ability to keep hustling despite the continuous stones thrown at him.
Sabrina Madison – Small business is my passion, and the things she has done for black small businesses in this City is remarkable. She has provided a platform to showcase all of the talent in this City and saying I’m impressed by her leadership may be an understatement.
Focused Interruption Coalition – I have to go with my team. I can’t pick just one individual from this group because they all impress me individually and as a team, every day. Together, they have overcome many obstacles, but their commitment to this community and the issues at hand is impressive. So, here’s a shout out to Jerome Dillard, Anthony Cooper, Aaron Hicks, Caliph Muab’El, Jackie Morris, Martin Lackey, and Daniel Davis.
What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities? Looking at the privilege of white people in Madison, I would say the biggest stumbling block to turning the corner on our racial disparities is the failure of white people in Madison to expose themselves to being vulnerable and allowing the people closer to the problem to be the leaders in finding their own solutions. They should take a step back by supporting those solutions with real support financially, morally, etc. and not just putting a band-aid over the problems and believing that they fixed them.
What are your top three priorities at this point in your life? To help create a better world for my children of color that is more inclusive, that is fair, and is saturated with equal opportunity;
To be instrumental in helping to end the beast – the system of mass incarceration;
To create an outlet for the individuals I grew up with that I know from the streets and provide them with a platform that transforms the dominant narrative. What irritates me about white America is that we are so quick to judge what we don’t understand (people are limited to their experiences). They judge the people living in despair because they don’t understand the cause, they only see the effects. Once you experience it like I have, you have a better context on the magnitude or the impact the struggle has on these people.
Why did you decide to join the Focused Interruption Coalition? For some time, I had been meeting with numerous people in the community at a grassroots level that wanted to do something in the area of violence prevention on a Peer Support level – basically, individuals that I knew from the streets that had managed to overcome the obstacles and wanted to help others with their experiences. I had met with Michael Johnson to discuss Peer Support and he invited me to the initial announcement of the 15 Point Plan. From there, we convened to make some changes to the original plan and merge the gun violence prevention plan that Alders Cheeks and Phair had announced the day after our announcement.
I am extremely passionate about the need for Peer Support – people trust, engage with, relate with, and learn more from individuals that have been through the same or similar things that they have been through. All of the members of the Focused Interruption Coalition are formerly incarcerated, including myself who spent the better part of a year in institutions as a minor, and we all share this passion for Peer Support for violence prevention and recidivism reduction. The people closest to the issues are closer to the solutions. Additionally, we are all passionate about moving all of the points of the 15 Point Plan forward. We continued meeting on a weekly basis and, thus, the Focused Interruption Coalition was created.
You are the CEO of JMC Business Solutions. When did you decide you wanted to have your own business and why? I have wanted to have my own business since I can remember – the dream of being your own boss. But, a few years ago I had a number of people that I knew coming to me with excellent business ideas or wanting me to put some paperwork together for them, but I couldn’t commit enough time to them because of my career. I continued to see them struggling to find a quality job – one that provides a living wage – and I started to think more about it. My desire to help these people navigate through the systemic challenges they faced overcame me and all I could think about was helping them create their own pot of resources by creating their own businesses.
I started doing some consulting on the side independently and then built enough clientele to form my own business – JMC Business Solutions – named after the first letter of the names of each of my oldest three children. I only work with black and women-owned small businesses with ten or fewer employees doing everything from helping them file their initial paperwork, helping them obtain their MBE certification, developing their logo and branding, creating marketing collateral, website development, and contracting out monthly administrative support services. My clients are in a number of different industries such as dry cleaners, restaurants, retail stores, music production, entertainment, car dealerships, financial advisory, real estate, catering, etc. I have never loved my “work” more than I do today, and they say when you love what you do, you never truly work a day in your life.
If you could be anyone in the world, living or dead, for one day who would that be? Ret. BG Robert (“Bob”) Cocroft, my mentor. So much of who I am today and the things I have been able to accomplish are because of him. Bob is the President and CEO of the Center for Veterans Issues in Milwaukee. In the 70s, he co-founded the National Association of Black Veterans (NABVETS) where he served as Executive Director for 30+ years. When I started my career at 19, I was working at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Bob was the Deputy Secretary. He opened up so many doors of opportunity for me. He was passionate about helping homeless veterans, black veterans, veterans reentering the community from prison, etc., and he has done that through his work at CVI by developing residential treatment housing and, most recently, developed affordable housing units for veteran where many of the units are occupied by homeless veterans. Some of the residents are employed in the onsite café.
I met Bob for lunch a few years back when I was first considering starting my own consulting practice. My first client was a non-profit veteran’s organization, so I was seeking Bob’s guidance. In this conversation, I asked him how he continues to do all of the things he still does today. He has accomplished so many things in life and continues to amaze me with the things he is involved in. He could’ve retired a while ago, but his passion and drive keep him going. He said, “Zandra, when we die we all have a tombstone of some sort, and on that tombstone we all have the date we were born and the date we died. The only thing different on our tombstones is the dash between those dates. That dash is the most important thing because it represents our life. I decided a long time ago that I wanted my dash to mean something.” Since that day, I wanted my dash to mean something too. I would love to be him for just one day to have his passion, his commitment, his knowledge, his hustle, his power, and his abilities.
Name your top 3 songs of 2016.
Black Heaven by Lil Boosie feat. Keyshia Cole
Low Life by Future feat. Weekend
Fake Love by Drake
Chris Rock or Kevin Hart? Definitely Kevin Hart.
Do you know what your new year’s resolution will be? If so, please share. To set aside more time for myself and my children in 2017.