Our first Executive Committee Meeting gathered representatives and leads from university centers, WARF, economic development organizations, associations, well established private businesses, start-ups, City of Madison and community orgs to get into the details about what it would take to make a successful Economic Empowerment WI collaboration - offering needs-based resource development, low barrier grants, loans and investments to entrepreneurs of color. What came out of the meeting was golden.
We talked about structure - imagining how organizations already doing good work in the community could work together without stepping on each others toes. The truth is, with more than 4,400 non-profits in Madison (Over 6,100 in Dane County) and Wisconsin's highest rate of non-profits per capita, our organizations are already bumping into each other. Some of them aren't even aware of each other.
Did you know about UW Madison's Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic? Or the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition? Did you know that Doyenne Group has an investment fund for women and people of color and that they, along with WARF help connect entrepreneurs to mentors?
How can we expect entrepreneurs to know about us - to benefit from us, if we don't even know about each other?
What EEWI is forming is a way for our economic development businesses and organizations to work together to reach the maximum amount of entrepreneurs made aware of their services through a streamlined system of connection based on needs.
Susan Schmitz, President of Downtown Madison Inc. shared that "a great model for collaboration around a specific purpose could be found in the Homeless Services Consortium's Continuum of Care." We aim to have them at our next meeting.
"We don't want to duplicate services; we want to - we have to collaborate." Eric Upchurch, Opportunity Inc. Chief Visionary and EEWI Founder.
What's in it for Collaborators?
We asked that question with a request for transparency and honesty. That's just what we got. Organizations confessed what some of their own motives might be in participating. They ranged from reaching diverse populations to complimenting services to even generating clientele and business partnerships.
It's important to understand why folks are coming to the table; and we're so glad we laid out all the cards, because what we discovered in the end was that each organization wanted to see entrepreneurs of color succeed - and that's the common thread in the backbone of what we're embarking to accomplish or as Len Devaisher from Old National Bank puts it, "We're building something that's going to change this community for the better."
The next Executive Committee meeting looks at finalizing structure, asset mapping and figuring out how to save our bumper cars for the fair. You can find a link to the deck from the meeting here.
Our community support is building, and we’re moving along quickly on the path to providing entrepreneurs of color the fighting chance they deserve to grow economically. We need you to help us make it happen. Please stay engaged with EEWI by signing up for our email list in the bottom right corner of this page and following us on Facebook and Twitter to stay involved.