December 2, 2022

Urban League of Greater Madison (UGLM) – Accelerating Diversity in Madison’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Impact Stories, Partner Highlight

As the holidays quickly approach, we’re reminded of the importance of giving back to our community. And this year, the team at FCI is thrilled to see so many individuals already fully immersed in the giving spirit.

For one of FCI’s partners, the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM), this holiday season’s generosity has been particularly noteworthy.

A Game-Changer

Announced in early November, ULGM received a $2.9 million donation from renowned novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The largest single private donation in ULGM’s 55-year history, this landmark gift will provide the organization with extra resources as it works to advance racial equity and social justice across the Greater Madison area.

Currently, $1.9 million of the total gift has been slated to go toward advancing specific ULGM programs, including career readiness training and housing initiatives that provide Black families with houses and important training in homeownership.

As ULGM CEO Ruben Anthony said in a recent statement, “We’re honored and grateful that Ms. Scott and her team have recognized the Urban League’s value and impact to the community. […] It’s going to be a game-changer for Urban League programming. […] $2.9 million will go a long way.”

Breaking Ground to Break Down Barriers

Additionally, $1 million of this record-breaking gift will be dedicated to help bring ULGM one step closer to completing its long-awaited Black Business Hub project. After breaking ground in April of this year, ULGM’s Black Business Hub will represent an exciting shift within the Dane County startup and small business ecosystem. Once complete, the new Hub will provide resources to help Black and BIPOC entrepreneurs network and develop their nascent business ideas.

And, with plans for a ribbon cutting ceremony in June 2023, this most recent gift from Scott will serve as an invaluable stepping stone towards reaching its goal on time.

As a recipient of New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program funding facilitated through FCI and consistent with FCI’s mission to support projects that address issues of socioeconomic disparity, the new Black Business Hub will provide unprecedented entrepreneurial support for a historically underserved demographic in the Greater Madison region.

According to 2017 American Community Survey data, only 0.4% of the nearly 10,000 employers with more than one employee in Dane County are Black-owned businesses. This troubling statistic represents the drastic need in the community for more dedicated support for Black entrepreneurs. And once completed, the Black Business Hub will be exactly the kind of centralized resource facility that the area has needed.

A True One-Stop Shop

ULGM projects that the new Hub will support a minimum of 100 Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs over the course of the next few years. Dedicated to incubating, accelerating, and networking opportunities for Black and other BIPOC entrepreneurs, the Hub will embody a unique blend of commerce and entrepreneurial education. In addition to its wide range of programming and accelerators, the Black Business Hub will offer the chance for Black-owned retail businesses to establish physical storefronts, providing increased visibility and opportunities to interact with customers.

And to ensure that all four stories and 76,000 square feet of space remains used to the best of its capabilities, nearly two dozen community advisors came together to devise six “Guiding Principles” for the Hub. As written, these principles ensure that the Hub prioritizes the following:

  • Local Economy
  • Mixed Use
  • Non-Profit Ownership & Management
  • Attractive & Agile Design
  • Sustainability

Designed to be an entrepreneurial one-stop shop for Madison’s Black business community, the Hub will also offer a wide variety of innovative industry-specific assistance including dedicated co-working space and a rentable commercial kitchen, as well as a place-based system of business support including loans, grants, and technical assistance.

As U.S. senator Tammy Baldwin said at the April 2022 ground-breaking ceremony, “The Hub is a long overdue investment. [It] will serve as an incubator for entrepreneurs and innovators, empowering and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders.”

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