By Hywania Thompson | Photo: Camille Carter, photographed by Hillary Schave
The Madison Black Chamber of Commerce will continue to strengthen its organization and its advocacy for Black-owned businesses in Dane County, thanks to a $3.6 million grant from the state. The funds will help the Black Chamber, which has more than 700 Madison and Dane County Black-owned businesses as members, fulfill its mission to build and support Black businesses in the community.
“We want to make sure that we’re leading [our members] to the right opportunities and connecting them with the resources to help them grow,” says president and CEO Camille Carter.
The Black chamber offers several services and resources to the community and its members, including compiling the Black Business Directory and offering technical assistance to business owners (QuickBooks and financial clinics, for example). Carter says the Black Chamber also recently secured a digital upscaling partnership with Grow with Google.
The Black Chamber also puts on annual signature events, including Black Restaurant Week in the summer and the recently sold-out Madison Black Gala, held on Feb. 23. This year’s gala theme was ‘An Evening of Celebrating Black Excellence in Business and Community.’ Tied in with this year’s event was a Black Wall Street Marketplace in which the public could browse local Black businesses and vendors, as well view a traveling display of “The Official Black Wall Street Exhibit,” on loan from the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum.
The $3.6 million dollar grant, awarded by Gov. Tony Evers in March 2022, was part of more than $86 million in funds given to businesses and organizations disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Carter says the grant will allow the Black Chamber to infuse more resources into the programs and outreach they have now.
“Our primary goal is to connect our businesses with opportunities, and this grant will definitely allow us to expand in that work,” she says. “We’re looking at increasing our capacity, which has always been our limitation. So, with this grant we’re able to do that.”
One of the programs the Black chamber is looking to rebrand and grow is the Black and Brown Entrepreneur Center (B2EC). The business incubator supports entrepreneurs of color through training and mentorship. “We have programs that are not fully leveraged,” Carter says, “so next year we’ll look at expanding or adding some new programs.” The chamber also will use grant funds to expand its team with a mix of staff and independent contractors.
In addition to all of these changes, the chamber is moving its operations to the Black Business Hub, a center on Madison’s southside that will house and support Black entrepreneurs. Carter says they’re excited about the move, which will happen when the Hub opens this summer.
“We are really looking forward to having our offices there and being a resource within that ecosystem to support businesses there but also again continue our availability for businesses throughout the region. We’ve got a pretty big mission, so our hands are full, but we are very excited about our future,” Carter says.