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Jun 29, 201711:50 AMMosaic Marketplace

with Deborah Biddle — A blog for diverse business enterprises in and around Madison.

Dr. Ruben Anthony on the state of black business

(page 2 of 2)

DB: So, you have this partnership with MadREP. Is that just for the Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit, or do you partner on other projects?

RA: We’re in partnership with them through the Madison Region Economic Development & Diversity Summit to help with continuing education and to encourage the crossroad between diversity and economic development. Throughout the year we continue that as we talk to businesses that are developing and help organizations get their diversity and inclusion efforts together. It’s not just a one-time deal. It’s a philosophy that both organizations have adopted and have agreed upon to work together to help change things.

For example, our board member, Nia Trammel, and Mayra Medrano of MG&E are working with A Greater Madison Vision to develop a 20-year plan for the region that is inclusive — not just in word, but also in deed. We’ve got diverse groups around the table developing that plan, which involves talking to churches as well as community leaders with the goal of gaining input about transit needs and other areas that impact our eight-county community. The approach incorporates the perspectives and feedback about what is important not only to Caucasians, but what’s important to minorities, what’s important to seniors, what’s important to those who ride bikes, and so on. It’s a mixed vision that talks about diversity and inclusion from the start.

DB:  Who is going to manage this, or whom does it get presented to?

RA:  It’s managed by the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission.

DB:  Will it become an actionable document?

RA: It will become a document that will be the basis for city, county, and regional planning that people can look at and say, “Well here’s a plan that really took into consideration what’s needed in this region and across a bunch of different demographics.”

DB: So, if you are thinking about the future, what is the most optimistic thing to you from a business standpoint?

RA: The most optimistic thing is that young people are uninhibited. Millennials are uninhibited. They’re not afraid and they are risk takers. They jump into this new economy and they’re not afraid to try new things. I really like Ja’Mel Ware of Intellectual Ratchet. And again, I think about Sabrina Madison. Those two aren’t afraid to go into this new 21st-century economy to find their way. Both of them have left jobs, which is major.

In the past, I stayed on a job for 24 years. These young people are not going to stay on a job that long — not most of them. Most of them are in this new frontier. They’re social media savvy. They’re very articulate. They’re bright and they are unafraid. They are justifiably unafraid because they’re prepared. Many of them have got the skills that are necessary, whether it’s IT or public speaking skills — it’s a different group and I like what I see in that boldness.

DB:  What’s the biggest challenge?

RA:  The biggest challenge is economic instability in terms of the national safety and security, and international trading having a multiplier effect that adversely affects us locally. The biggest risk is isolating ourselves from the global economy. Right now, America and the world have changed to become a global economy. There’s no going back. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. We are a global economy. Technology has evolved to put us in a global market space. Our businesses have to keep up.

DB:  For all of the people who are thinking about starting a business, or those who’ve already started and are struggling a little bit, what advice would you give them?

RA:  My advice to anyone thinking about starting a business would be to not only pay attention to what that business would produce, but also how to manage that business   administratively. A lot of times people who start and operate businesses don’t have the skills to manage them. They don’t know how to do the accounting or the marketing. They’re a good carpenter, plumber, or salesperson, but they don’t have the skills to do business management. Having the skills to do business management is important. Find out what resources are out there. Organizations like WWBIC, SBA, and SBDC may be able to help you do what is needed to effectively start and run your business. Make sure that you have enough money. Don’t leave a job until you have the cash flow to actually run your business and you’ve got enough money to run that business for six months or so.

The one thing that I’m finding is that we put a lot of emphasis on business start up and not enough emphasis on business retention — helping those existing businesses to stay around and scale up. Right now, it’s all about helping minority businesses start up, but the lost effort is on how we should be encouraging those existing businesses to survive, scale up, and become successful and larger businesses.

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Jun 30, 2017 08:34 am
 Posted by  Clara Hurd Nydam

A resource for coordiinating efforts which was not mentioned is the Small Business Advisory Council of the Madison Chamber. I would seek out Zach Brandon's advice to find a way to get a seat on the SBAC for each of the three African American business groups mentioned in this article. The SBAC provides its members an ear and a voice in with the Mayor's office as well as the larger chamber. It is also an avenue for greater collaboration across all lines. Thank you, Deborah, for a thoughtful and well written article.

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