Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation gifts $1M to Black Business Hub

The Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation today announced a $1 million gift to support the Urban League of Greater Madison’s new Black Business Hub in Madison, the Urban League announced. The hub, now under development in a four-story building at Park Street and Hughes Place, will be a Black-led enterprise center devoted to incubating, accelerating, and networking underserved entrepreneurs.

In announcing the gift, Rowland stated that from her own experience, she understands the power of an entrepreneurial vision to impact families and communities. Data has shown that only 0.4% of Dane County businesses with more than one employee are Black owned. “The disparity in access to entrepreneurial opportunity in Dane County is extreme, and unfortunately has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Rowland notes. “I am inspired by the Urban League’s vision and pleased that our investment can help bring that vision to life.”

The hub, described as an entrepreneurial ecosystem, will include a variety of spaces for existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, including pop-up vending spaces, retail storefronts, small business offices, coworking spaces, a shared commercial kitchen, and other spaces that support innovation and entrepreneurism. In addition, the Hub Accelerator Program has raised funds that will be given as direct grants and partially forgivable loans to members of the Black Business Hub community.

Urban League CEO Ruben L. Anthony Jr. characterized the extreme lack of local Black-owned businesses as a “staggering disparity” that has flown largely under the radar despite growing awareness of the Madison region’s other extreme racial disparities in health, education, and employment.

“While the hub will be a destination that will serve the entire Madison region, it’s location in south Madison — Madison’s oldest African American enclave — is significant,” Anthony states. “We’re confronting the risk of gentrification and showcasing a new model of inclusive economic development.”

The Urban League of Greater Madison is calling on other individuals, companies, and foundations to help it achieve immediate and future fundraising goals for the hub. For more information, call the ULGM at (608) 729-1208.