Diversity of applicants to MarketReady program reinforces Public Market’s goals for inclusivity

Through the years, the Madison Public Market concept has gone through many changes. But one important, guiding principle has remained strong: ensure that the Market is a truly inclusive, welcoming place of community for all who reside and visit Madison. From the City of Madison, to the Friends of the Public Market group, to the newly created Madison Public Market Foundation, all supporters working on this project agree that inclusivity begins by ensuring that merchant opportunities are available to any person with a dream of starting their own food-based business. Thus, the MarketReady program was created to Encourage and stimulate the creation and acceleration of businesses owned and operated by women, persons of color, the economically disadvantaged and others in need of a new career path.

MarketReady is funded by the City of Madison and administered by the Northside Planning Council and FEED Kitchens, in partnership with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation and Dane County UW Extension. They are actively working to provide training, supportive services and micro-grants for entrepreneurs interested in becoming Madison Public Market merchants.

Services Offered by the MarketReady Program include:

  • One-on-one business consulting services
  • Invitations to peer networking events
  • Referrals to other educational and financial services
  • Monthly mentorship meetings with a business coach
  • Additional technical assistance
  • Access to micro-grants

The application process for MarketReady closed on July 1 (you can still apply for the waiting list) with 83 applicants accepted for consideration. Extensive outreach to diverse communities was the key to successful recruitment of applicants. Outreach to these communities occurred in Spanish and Hmong and in association with the Urban League of Greater Madison and Centro Hispano, among others. The breakdown of applicant diversity includes:

  • 59% female
  • 29%  first generation immigrants
  • 29% African American
  • 18% Hispanic or Latino
  • 14% Asian

The primary objective is to provide business training and some initial capital to help prepare these new entrepreneurs for a successful launch in the Market in 2019. Thirty (30) businesses will receive direct assistance over a two year period to prepare them to sell at the market. Fifteen (15) will each receive $3,500 to help pay for initial business costs; five of those businesses will receive $13,000 to set up their market space in the Madison Public Market.

What might this variety of vendors offer to the Market’s visitors? Prepared food from Laotian, Tibetan, Venezuelan, Indian, Cajun and other cultural traditions; clothing from Africa and Asia; handcrafted artwork and more.

Watch for updates about the success of the MarketReady program in future blogs.

I’m excited about building a market that highlights Madison’s diverse cultures, offers a space for business start-ups, and celebrates Wisconsin agriculture. Food brings people together and the market will be a vibrant, welcoming space for everyone: a year-round special event! - Anne Reynolds

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