Raising hopes

New coworking space provides minority entrepreneurs with all they need to “B” successful.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

The name Richard Brown might be familiar to many around town. Brown ran for Madison mayor in the last election, and years ago his association with Genesis Development Corp., a minority business incubator, didn’t end well for either Brown or the center, which eventually closed.

Those who know him know that his heart is in the right place. He has an insatiable desire to raise people up.

These days, when he isn’t at his day job as system accountant for Dane County, or serving as a property manager, business entrepreneur, or high school football coach, it’s likely he’s at B Virtual, a coworking space in Fitchburg that he’s been working on for more than a year. Brown says his goal in 2017 is to create 25 businesses and 50 to 75 jobs at B Virtual, which is targeting primarily, though not exclusively, minority entrepreneurs.

Jack Soceka, landlord, building owner, and realtor, is providing the space, office equipment, and a “fair” rental fee. Soceka has known Brown since 1992. “I really believe in him,” Soceka says. “He’s brought to the black community
a sense of ‘let’s bring ourselves up.’” Dr. Gerald Thomas, a psychologist and long-time friend of Brown, is also a partner in the B Virtual vision and rents office space there.

At its core, Brown wants the incubator to be comfortable for people who are not regular entrepreneurs so they can become entrepreneurs. “We want to take away all the barriers,” Brown explains. “We don’t want people coming into something they feel is over their head.”

With a total of about 2,300 square feet on two levels of the building, B Virtual is an attractive space with cubicles, private offices, a business center, conference room, and even a media room where entrepreneurs can record their best elevator pitch.

“For $150 a month you can get a dedicated workstation downstairs. It’s yours. Nobody will use it. You can lock your stuff up,” Brown promises.

The price also includes eight hours of business center usage per month, internet, and a Google Voice phone number. If someone does not own a personal computer, they can check one out in the business center.

“We hope that the companies that grow here will give back,” Brown says. “That’s part of the plan. We tell them they’re setting the groundwork for people who will come up behind them, so they have to make it work for us.”

Clearly, Brown is trying to spring minority entrepreneurs into action. “There are a lot of people sitting idle saying, ‘We don’t have $3,500 for a computer or desk to even think about this,’ but for $150 they can afford it. We’re not here to drain you dry. We’re trying to get you over the hump,” he says.

(Continued)

 

Brown describes B Virtual as perfect for the person who may have lost a job, has no career, or just doesn’t fit into the day-to-day job mold but has a good idea and a desire to run a business. “I think it’s important for the African-American community to create more nonprofits and tenant resource centers because they understand the problem that’s out there,” he says.

While B Virtual is just getting its legs, Brown says a recent seminar held there focused on starting a business on a shoestring budget. “We want people to know that you don’t need [a lot of] money to start a business. You just have to not be scared. The fear of jumping off holds people back, so we provide the parachute so it’s easier. But the best way to have a business is to be in business.”

It all comes down to motivation, Brown notes. “Motivation breeds motivation. There are failures but you can’t give up. If you don’t have anything, it seems that would motivate you!

“It’s all very simple,” he continues. “For me, [B Virtual] is not about money. It’s about teaching people how to fish.”

B Virtual
608.285.9100
2976 Triverton Pike Drive
Fitchburg, WI 53711

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