Cap Times: Let’s Eat: Curtis & Cake’s Southern-style confections ‘dress for the occasion’


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March 10, 2019. It’s an experimentation day for Monica O’Connell. Melted butter and whiskey bubble on the stove as she drizzles brown sugar butter rum caramel syrup on a vanilla rum bundt cake, then pulls a chocolate bundt out of the oven.

“Today I am a woman on a mission,” said O’Connell, founder of Curtis & Cake. “It’s time to get these cakes settled.”

O’Connell started Curtis & Cake in 2015, making small-batch, celebratory cakes and sweets with a strong Southern influence. As part of her New Year’s resolution, O’Connell decided to master the art of creating beautiful and boozy bundt cakes. In the 1960s-style kitchen inside the old Friedens Church in Fort Atkinson, O’Connell is on her 12th round of trials.

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MarketReady 2018: By the Numbers and the People Behind the Numbers


Special thanks to our guest blogger, James Shulkin, member of the Madison Public Market Advisory Council!

It’s been just over a year since the inception of the MarketReady Program, an effort to prepare a number of talented chefs, makers and other entrepreneurs with the skills needed to create successful businesses. Funded by the City of Madison and launched in partnership with North Side Planning Council, FEED Kitchens, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation and Dane County University of Wisconsin Extension, MarketReady provides business training, mentorship, and start-up capital ($37,500 in 2018) to a diverse group of thirty area merchants. The goal has always been that, with the right kind of encouragement, these individuals might some day become successful vendors at the highly anticipated Madison Public Market.

As 2018 comes to a close, we look back on the resounding success of both the MarketReady Program and the individuals that have contributed so much to these efforts.

The MarketReady vendors are a special group. They are mostly women (63%) and people of color (83%). Thirty three percent (33%) are first generation immigrants. In fact, MarketReady focuses on supporting communities that face structural barriers to business ownership. Specifically, the 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.

The majority of these businesses offer food products, with some selling textiles, artwork, body care products or other services. You may be familiar with some of the more visible vendors such as Laurel Burleson (Ugly Apple Café), Josey Chu (Madame Chu), Luis Dompablo (Caracas Empanadas), Jasmine Banks (Perfect Imperfections), Donale Richards (Off the Block Enterprises) and Monica O’Conell (Curtis & Cake), to name a few. All of the MarketReady merchants can be found here.

Led by Ian Aley, MarketReady Coordinator, and Michael Miller, City of Madison Business Assistance Specialist, the organization’s staff provides and arranges for training of all kinds, providing financial services, technical assistance, referrals and access to micro-grants.

“The MarketReady staff and I are humbled and inspired by the group’s hard work, sense of humor, and willingness to share ideas,” says Aley. “We facilitate connections, but so much of the creativity, experience, and strength comes from within this group of entrepreneurs.”

During the first year of the MarketReady program, direct services to the vendors included:

  • educational events and workshops (1,046 hours)
  • direct business consultation (585 hours)
  • business coaching (181 hours)
  • peer-to-peer support sessions (29)

Partnerships with the University of Wisconsin Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, the law firm Boardman & Clark and Heartland Credit Union have provided consultation and coaching to participants.

The MarketReady vendors have also given back to the community, including directly to those future Public Market visitors particularly anxious to sample product offerings. To date, more than 2,000 people have attended three “Taste of the Market” events featuring many of the vendors. In addition, 14 MarketReady participants offered 37 classes at Meadowridge Public Library, providing an opportunity to test recipes, make sales, and connect with neighbors across the city.

“We look forward to the opening of the Public Market,” adds Aley. “In the meantime, this community of vendors will continue to develop new product lines, hone their business plans, and build relationships with customers and each other. There is a strong sense in the group that the success of one business in the Public Market will be tied to the success of their neighbors. We will continue to build capacity and connections. When the Public Market opens, we will be ready.”

MarketReady Merchants Shine This Holiday Season


Many of the Madison Public Market’s MarketReady merchants are already up and running, ready to make your holidays shine!

You don’t have to wait for the Market to open to experience the unique, high quality products and gifts these businesses have to offer this holiday season. Support small, local businesses right here in Madison and you’ll find unique gifts, catering, and more.

(The MarketReady Program is designed to prepare multicultural entrepreneurs who have dreamed of starting a food-based or craft-based business for success in the new Market through business training, mentorship, and/or start-up capital.)

Featured above: Holiday Cookie Box from Curtis & Cake

Holiday Party Catering

You bring the guests, they’ll bring the incredible food! These MarketReady merchants provide quality catering for corporate or private events large and small.

  • La Joe Bla, LLC
  • dZi Little Tibet
  • Madame Chu Delicacies
  • Melly Mell’s Catering
  • The Ugly Apple

Gifts for Everyone

Find unique gifts for everyone on your list while supporting our local economy and strengthening our communities.

  • Artesan Fruit
  • Curtis & Cake
  • Madame Chu Delicacies
  • Madre Yerba
  • Off the Block
  • Perfect Imperfections
  • QB’s Magnetic Creations
  • SuperCharge! Foods
  • Tortillas Los Angeles
  • Wisconsin Mujer

Holiday discounts

Many MarketReady merchants are offering special products and discounts for the holidays. Check out the MarketReady Holidays page for all the details.

 

MarketReady Program Participants in the Media Spotlight


Previous blogs on this page have described the activities of the MarketReady Program. Sponsored by the City of Madison and administered by the Northside Planning Council on behalf of the Madison Public Market, MarketReady provides training, supportive services and micro-grants for entrepreneurs interested in becoming Market vendors. Program recipients are typically individuals from groups facing historic barriers to entrepreneurship, including low income, immigrants, women, displaced workers, veterans and LGBTQ individuals.

MarketReady staff provide hours of individual and group-based guidance, mentorship and other hands-on support to the new business owners. Many are becoming successful beyond their dreams, and the local media is taking notice. During the last month or so, MarketReady vendors were featured in print, online, on television, and in podcasts.

Kristina Abasso and her Abasso Market Deli venture was featured in the Capital Times Bright Ideas of 2018 series. The article Bright Ideas 2018: Open a vegan Native American deli describes her public market plans for a plant-based deli featuring tribal sourced ingredients.

Donale Richards was also featured in the same series. Bright Ideas 2018: Listen to kids, especially those facing barriers describes his upbringing in Madison as well as his journey through UW and current role with Mentoring Positives. This organization is the driving force behind Off the Block Salsa, a local favorite and potential Public Market vendor.

SuperCharge! Foods, located across First Street from the proposed Madison Public Market site, was written up on the Capital Times front page and featured in a podcast. Read about their success in The Big Squeeze: Madison juice bars get in on cleansing kick. The Corner Table podcast with Jamaal Strickland, SuperCharge! sales director, is also a fun listen. SuperCharge! Foods is now providing goods to a juice bar vendor in the Milwaukee Public Market. This will help them get a sense for future demand at the Madison Public Market.

Jasmine Banks and her Perfect Imperfections body care products company was the subject of the Isthmus article Perfect Imperfections presents a healthy alternative in body care. The current product line includes deodorant, lip balm, body oil, natural scrubs whipped body butter and more.

Monica O’Connell of Curtis & Cake takes the cake with a double whammy in media attention. Her wedding cakes were showcased in Brava Magazine and she also enjoyed a Wisconsin Life feature video produced by Wisconsin Public Television.

Please reach out to these and other MarketReady participants to wish them well. Even if they have not received media attention recently, they deserve your encouragement and support.

Thanks!