Building From Within

Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment (MABEE) founder Eric Upchurch II (left) and MABEE Director of Business Development Courtney Hayward are devoted to helping Madison black entrepreneurs, business owners and professionals connect with critical resources and opportunities. MABEE was launched in late 2016 and is a project of Opportunity Inc. MABEE: Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment (left) Founder Eric Upchurch II (right) Director of Business Development Courtney Hayward Photographed for BRAVA OCT 2018 Issue Photo by Valerie Tobias

MABEE’s Black Enterprise Network

By Rachel Werner | Photographed by Valerie Tobias

Creating a self-sustaining model for black business owners is the goal for Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment founder Eric Upchurch II. And since launching the organization in March 2017, 239 entrepreneurs have participated in MABEE events and been connected with resources and funding worth a total of $20,000.

“I was inspired by my work as the Executive Director for the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce,” Upchurch says. “In a meditation, I saw a vision of an event where we‘d collectively built up our own resources to meet our own needs. This eventually became ResourceFULL for black businesses, featuring our signature HIVE networking activity.”

Held each April and October, ResourceFULL is an integrative evening aimed at fostering strategic connections. All attendees—whether it’s a new startup in need of mentorship or a corporate entity able to provide seed money—are encouraged to initiate conversations with the intent of cultivating beneficial partnerships. Upchurch also stresses that not every fruitful interaction involves a monetary transaction or being awarded one of the MABEE grants. “The point of the HIVE is to work together so everybody comes away with something,” he explains. “Maybe that’s a gift card, in-kind web services or a new business partner.”

The night can be a game changer in terms of bolstering a fledgling operation. ArrowStar Photography owner Shalicia Johnson recalls, “After stating my name and my business, I was to tell the audience how the grant money would be utilized. I shakily announced I needed a new laptop, and that was all I could get out before the sobs started.” With the award she received, Johnson will finally be able to replace the borrowed, 11-year-old device she’d been using to edit photos.

“As a photographer, having a computer is second to having a camera. I have lost hours upon hours of productivity due to error messages, frozen apps and slow rendering speed…the equipment simply cannot keep up with what I have to demand from it, ” she says. “I am incredibly thankful for Eric and his team. I will be able to propel my business forward without the hardship—and for that I will be forever grateful.”

MABEE’s ResourceFULL Black Business Event takes place Oct. 25. For details, visit madisonabee.com.