Black, women's business associations partner to show value of mentoring business owners

NOW: Black, women’s business associations partner to show value of mentoring business owners

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Running a business is hard enough if someone has a good idea of what they're doing. But without a basic sense of how to make a business plan, those prospective entrepreneurs are almost guaranteed to fail.

To address that, the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Coalition (WWBIC) partnered up for a statewide "Road to Diversity" tour, aimed at helping people of color position themselves for success when starting a business.

According to the chamber, there are currently around 15,000 Black-owned businesses in Wisconsin. The chamber has a stated goal of adding another 3,000 over the next three years.

At the county level, Only Milwaukee and Menomoniee counties have a share of minority-owned businesses that is greater than 10% of all firms in their respective counties, according to a UW-Madison review of Census survey data.

Wednesday's event in Schlitz Park was the final stop on the tour, which included visits to Racine, Appleton, La Crosse and Madison. Leaders of both the Black and women's business associations said they were focusing on helping would-be entrepreneurs and even current business owners, develop a better sense of how to access and manage money.

Douglas and Tina Lockwood have been married for 28 years, and for half that time, they've been in business together.

"We met at work, and now we're working together," Tina said with a laugh.

During their 14 years of running the Lockwood & Lockwood accounting firm, they've seen business owners come in who were less than prepared.

"We've had clients come in at the end of the year; they're bringing in shoeboxes full of receipts," Douglas said. "So, throughout the entire year, they don't know what they're making."

Dr. Kamaljit Jackson, the vice president of operations at WWBIC, said an emphasis they've placed in sessions with prospective business owners is building a plan based on reasonable projections.

"We have businesses or entrepreneurs that come to us and say, 'I'm gonna make $10 million my first year,'" Jackson said. "And we're like, 'We don't think so. What's the reality of those projections?'"

For its part, the Black chamber hosts bootcamp sessions twice a month, on the first and third Saturdays. The eight-hour long sessions cover a wide of topics, including how to draft a business plan and how to apply for grants and loans.

"In that boot camp, each business that attended was given up to $1,000 to help them in whatever direction they were going," Ruben Hopkins, the Black chamber's CEO, said.

In order to get the post-camp money, participants have to score 90% or better on a series of evaluations based on the camp's different topics. Despite having been in business for more than a decade, the Lockwoods went through the camp last year.

"I always would say we've been winging it since '07 because we were new business owners," Tina Lockwood said. "We didn't know what we were doing."

Another opportunity for assistance will come Friday. The Black & Diverse Business Showcase runs from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It'll be held at the Baird Center, formerly known as Wisconsin Center. There will be a market where existing retailers can sell their goods while prospective business owners can sit in on sessions on topics like working with the government and receive "speed coaching" between 1:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. 

To learn more about the Black chamber bootcamps and to sign up, click here. 

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