Things are changing in the city of Madison and the diverse talents of African-American entrepreneurs are slowly beginning to be recognized by the greater community as small black businesses are beginning to grow.

“I am getting more and more inquiries from people offering spaces in different parts of town to host an expo,” Sabrina Madison tells Madison365. “We are having more conversations. We have so many great entrepreneurs out there in Madison and I love to see them getting support. And these African-American entrepreneurs have been building a tighter-knit community amongst themselves where we can go to each other for services and needs. They are helping each other and connecting with each other and collaborating with each other … which is what we need, in the long run, to make our economy stronger.

Sabrina "Heymiss Progress" Madison (Photo by Marcus Miles)
Sabrina “Heymiss Progress” Madison
(Photo by Marcus Miles)

“Also, having these connections and these networks gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to test their ideas and to see what works and what doesn’t,” she adds. “That’s something that is very important.”

Madison has been a big part of encouraging and boosting African-American entrepreneurs here at the local level hosting a sold-out Black Women’s Leadership Conference in May, a successful Black Business in July, and an even bigger Black Business Expo Black Friday Edition a few weeks ago. On Monday, Dec. 19, she will host the Black Business Expo Holiday Meet & Greet at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Suite 200.

“The whole goal of this event is to have another great opportunity for the vendors to promote their businesses and their wares and for the community to connect with them,” says Madison.

Mo' Betta Butter Cookies
Mo’ Betta Butter Cookies

On the day after Thanksgiving, Madison hosted the first-ever Black Business Expo Black Friday Edition that had over 60 black vendors and businesses at The Village on Park on Madison’s south side. The event was a huge success and left people wanting more. “What always happens after one of these events is that the vendors are immediately asking: ‘When is the next event?’” Madison laughs. “The community starts contacting me again and asking for vendors contact information and how to get to them. So this is a great chance to bring people together again but to also say ‘thank you’ to everybody who has supported us along the way.”

The purpose of Madison’s Black Business Expos have been to inform the community of black entrepreneurs, to provide a place to network, and to encourage Madisonians of all backgrounds to financially support these business owners. “They have been excited and energized. Latisha [McDuffy of Mo’ Better Butter Cookies] is still taking orders from customers from people she met at the expo. Others have told me how they have sold out of their products,” Madison says. “The public has been great. I am getting e-mails from people who were shocked that we had these many African-American entrepreneurs that existed in Madison. They were even more shocked at all of the great things that they ended up finding at the expo.”

The Black Business Expo Holiday Meet & Greet, hosted by Madison and Madison365, will be another chance to move that positive entrepreneurial energy forward.

“We will have great speakers at the event,” Madison says. “Zach Brandon from the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce will be there, Henry Sanders from Madison365, and somebody from the Public Market Planning Committee will be there because they are talking about a space at the Public Market for black entrepreneurs,” Madison says.

Rakina White and her handmade jewelry and soaps at Black Business Expo Black Friday Edition.
Rakina White and her handmade jewelry and soaps at Black Business Expo Black Friday Edition.

Video storyteller Bria Brown will be showing off her finished videos from the Black Business Expo at the event.

“She did a couple of one-on-one interviews with black entrepreneurs. We have seen snippets of it already for the hype video, but on Monday we will see the full video,” Madison says.

There will be a few vendors at the thank-you party who will be displaying and selling their works and there will also be food and drink. It’s a great chance to network, socialize, and do a little bit of last-minute Christmas shopping while supporting local entrepreneurs.

“It’s really just about hanging out with the community and giving them another opportunity to mix it up with the vendors again,” Madison says. “It’s a great chance to network but also to have a little fun before Christmas.”

The Black Business Expo Holiday Meet & Greet will be held Monday, Dec. 19, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park St., Suite 200. For more information, e-mail [email protected]