The Jumpstart Marketplace is an effort to promote Black business owners in Rock County and surrounding areas. These vendors will be available every other Saturday from July 10-Dec. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Uptown Janesville, formerly known as Janesville Mall.
“And the reason we’re doing it is because one of our goals for kind of jumpstart is to provide low-cost retail space for Black business owners in Rock County, to be able to sell their products and promote their services,” said Genia Stevens, Founder and Executive Director of Rock County Jumpstart. “So that’s always been one of our goals from the very beginning. For the past 18 months, almost a year, we have always been on the lookout for spaces to do something like this.”
The Jumpstart Marketplace will be held at Uptown Janesville in Center Court on the following dates: Saturday, July 10 and 24; August 14th and 28th; September 11th and 25th; October 16th, November 13th, and December 11th. As a member of Rock county’s advisory board, Stevens said that the team has always had the goal of promoting and supporting Black businesses.
“We’ve looked in various places in Beloit, Janesville and everything in between to find those spaces so that they would have an opportunity as regularly as possible to sell their products and promote their services … offering them an opportunity to scale up,” said Stevens. “A lot of our businesses are selling from their kitchen, and they have their Facebook page, they have their website. Or they’re producing their products from their kitchen, their basement, and then they put them on their website, or their Facebook page and they sell it that way. We have some that have storefronts, but not a lot of them do. We wanted to provide them as many opportunities as possible to get out there and have an opportunity for people to come to them, see their products and buy that way.”
There have been previous Black business expos that have promoted Black businesses and provided them with the opportunity to gain clientele. The Jumpstart Marketplace is intended to provide Black business owners with chances to sell their products on a more frequent basis.
“So we thought, what if we could do this on a very regular basis and provide them (Black business owners) with this marketplace, where they could sell quite regularly and then really scale their business,” said Stevens. “And that’s what we really wanted to do. So that’s always been our goal and we were finally able to do that.”
The Marketplace will have businesses that sell clothing like t-shirts and handmade crafts. Business owners will also be selling art and baked goods like cupcakes. This opportunity is also open to Black business owners in Madison as part of their partnership with the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce.
“So far, the Rock County Black business, the Rock County-based Black business expos that we have had have all happened in Beloit,” said Stevens. “I’m looking forward to our Black business owners having exposure in Janesville. So that way they’re getting wider exposure in the Rock County area.”