Governor Tony Evers was on hand Tuesday at the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce to announce tens of millions of dollars being invested in organizations that support businesses and business owners from traditionally marginalized communities. The press conference followed a similar event Monday in Milwaukee.
The Department of Administration’s Diverse Business Assistance grants program will invest more than $57 million over the next three years in Chambers of Commerce and other organizations serving businesses owned by people of color as well as veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“You know, most of our minority chambers across the state (have) limited resources, limited funding, limited staffing. And so this really allows us to have the resources to execute on a lot of the strategic visioning that we’ve had year over year,” said Camille Carter, president of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 550 member businesses. She said the $3.6 million grant MBCC received will have a “significant impact” on the group’s budget.
“Our entrepreneurs are growing, and they are increasingly needing more and more resources and a very solid Chamber of Commerce to assist them in building their businesses and connecting them with resources,” she said. “And now the Chamber will have the capacity to grow its staff in order to meet the demands of entrepreneurs, and to really assist them in areas that we’ve not historically been able to assist them due to lack of capacity.”
Rock County Jumpstart, an organization founded in Beloit just three years ago to help Black and brown people start and grow small businesses, will receive just over $1 million. Founder Genia Steves said most grant funding is tied to specific programs, but this infusion of cash will allow organizations to expand all of the services they offer.
“It’s going to allow organizations like ours to build our capacity so that we can … increase the services that we’re already providing, and build out those programs and services that we really want to provide that we’ve never had the funds to do,” she said. “The grant will allow us to develop our Next Step acceleration program that’s designed to work with business owners who graduate from the Jumpstart accelerator program. It’s going to allow us to develop an incubator program that provides an immersive, hands-on, real world experience, for business owners to start a retail business. We’re also going to develop a nonprofit incubator, providing assistance to individuals who want to learn more about developing nonprofit organizations, and provide grants and scholarships to Jumpstart members who might need assistance with things like marketing, the purchase of software, and paying for fees and licenses.”
Stevens noted that historically, these kinds of organizations have been shut out of major funding.
“Literally, I’ve been working for free, and my wife and I have been funding Rock County Jumpstart,” she said. “That’s typically the case with any new organization that you start, particularly those that are led by Black and brown nonprofit leaders. Typically, those organizations … don’t get a lot of funding. They’re self funded, typically.”
Stevens also said collaborations among organizations who received grants are already starting to form.
“A lot of the organizations are going to be working together to figure out how to maximize that funding,” she said. “It’s the head nod, let’s talk, let’s get together and make it work.”
The full list of funded organizations is below.
- Latino Entrepreneurial Network Incorporated: $1,235,800
- Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Inc.: $2,044,323
- African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin: $5,000,000
- Develop America, Inc.: $3,510,078
- CRC Employment and Entrepreneurial Services: $2,950,000
- Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County, Inc.: $3,397,965
- Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc.: $3,632,802
- The Business Council, Inc.: $5,000,000
- Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc.: $5,000,000
- Word of Hope Ministries, Inc.: $2,781,597
- Collaboration for Good: $991,900
- Northwest Side Community Development Corporation: $1,000,000
- Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Inc.: $1,567,043
- American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin Inc.: $2,062,547
- BizStarts Milwaukee, Inc.: $870,950
- Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, Inc.: $3,397,500
- Latino Chamber of Commerce of Southeastern Wisconsin: $2,989,974
- Wisconsin Chinese Chamber of Commerce: $1,488,070
- Rock County Jumpstart: $1,056,525
- Greater Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, Inc.: $989,400
- Wisconsin Indigenous Economic Development Corporation: $4,000,000
- Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations, Inc.: $2,000,000
- MMAC Community Support Foundation – Hispanic Collaborative: $580,000
- Walnut Way Conservation Corp: $130,000