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WEDC grant helps Urban League aid startups

October 27, 2021
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WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes (right) speaks at a July press conference announcing a
$400,000 grant to create the Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund. At left is Dr. Ruben L. Anthony Jr., President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison.

Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund will support diverse entrepreneurs

WEDC has awarded the Urban League of Greater Madison a $400,000 Capital Catalyst Grant to help the organization launch its Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund.

“We know that entrepreneurs and business owners of color can face hurdles in getting access to capital needed to grow their businesses,” says Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “This initiative addresses some of those concerns and provides business owners with culturally competent advisors and services.”

The Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund will offer loans, grants and culturally competent technical assistance to at least 40 startups and existing companies owned by people of color. The fund is geared toward businesses considering locating in the newly announced South Madison Black Business Hub.

The hub will be a four-story, 76,000-square-foot building to be located at the corner of Park Street and Hughes Place. It’s designed to offer businesses owned by people of color a chance to have a physical location, serve as a commerce hub and have an on-site ecosystem of entrepreneur support services.

“Careers in high-tech industries like biosciences and entrepreneurism are key to closing the dramatic racial disparities in wealth,” said Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “We are excited that WEDC and the Department of Workforce Development recognize this and are making this investment in the community.”

The hub and accelerator program have been inspired by efforts such as the Madison MarketReady program and Milwaukee’s successful Sherman Phoenix project, which WEDC supported with a $250,000 Community Development Investment Grant. Sherman Phoenix converted a former bank that was damaged by fire into a business hub to support entrepreneurs of color; it’s now home to more than 25 small businesses.

For Tanisha Harbert, the Urban League’s new Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund means a chance at a new home for her beauty school and support as she figures out the next steps for her four-year-old business.

“There is just not enough training for multicultural hair care,” says Harbert, the founder of Madison’s first Black-owned beauty school, Chanell Ardor Schools of Beauty and Culture.

The building where the school is currently located, 1810 S. Park St., was recently purchased and Harbert is unable to renew her lease beyond 2022. A longtime salon owner on Madison’s South Side, she is looking forward to the possibility of locating in the Black Business Hub, not just because of the location and additional space but also because of the mentorship and support opportunities.

“It’s the perfect place for my business and the services we offer,” says Harbert. “Sometimes we may have these big ideas and know where we want to go but we need help with strategic planning and finding the growth drivers to get us there.”

This is part of an ongoing series about initiatives that support diversity, equity and inclusion in economic development, a strategic priority for WEDC.

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