First 5 Public Market vendors unveiled!

After 15+ years of community feedback, planning, and preparing, the Madison Public Market Foundation in partnership with the City of Madison, has made significant progress in making our Public Market a reality. With the architectural design plan complete, $3M raised in philanthropic funds, the site at the City’s Fleet Building secured, and the recent Mayor’s budget that maintains the $7M needed for the project, the Madison Public Market project moves into the next phase towards completion.

Recently, another significant milestone for the Madison Public Market project was accomplished. MarketReady, the project’s flagship program, completed its first phase with resounding results. Launched in 2017, the MarketReady program was created for two important reasons:
1) to ensure that the Madison Public Market is truly diverse and welcoming to all people and;
2) to build equity in our community through supporting entrepreneurial opportunities within communities of color. Of the 30 entrepreneurs who have participated in this program, 83% are people of color, 62% are women and 33% are first generation immigrants.

Mike Miller, City of Madison Business Resources, oversaw the MarketReady program. “MarketReady was designed as an entrepreneurial training program, connecting entrepreneurs with resources that can help them pursue their dream of owning their own business.” The City of Madison funded the administration of MarketReady through the Northside Planning Council.

The program was designed for entrepreneurs who either had a small existing business (food carts, catering, etc.) or had a strong idea for starting a business. MarketReady provided connections to resources, coaching, and business mentors with the goal of preparing many of these business owners for a successful launch in the Public Market.

Over the last three years, these 30 business owners have sold their first products, invested in equipment, designed logos and websites, launched brick and mortar locations, and expanded product lines. Collectively, participants added 15 jobs over the course of the program, paying these employees a median rate of $12 per hour. Perhaps most importantly, these entrepreneurs built relationships with one another and with partner organizations that will continue to support their business development in the months and years to come.

At the completion of the program, 18 participants submitted detailed business plans for how they would like to operate in the Public Market. A group of community leaders, including representatives from the Black and Latino chambers of commerce, the Madison Public Market Foundation and the City of Madison’s Public Market Development Committee, evaluated these plans and selected 5 participants to receive $19,000 each to support their successful operation in the Public Market.

Today, the Madison Public Market Foundation announces the recipients of the grants and welcomes these entrepreneurs as our first official vendors of the Madison Public Market. Congratulations to Caracas Empanadas y Más, Little Tibet, Melly Mell’s, Perfect Imperfection, and El Sabor de Puebla. (Learn more about these vendors below).

Through MarketReady, the Public Market will be an important incubator for starting and accelerating businesses, with a strong focus on minority-owned enterprises, who are too often left out of the start-up conversation.

“The success of MarketReady has exceeded our expectations and is playing a key role in ensuring that our Public Market is diverse. More importantly, MarketReady and the Public Market address the serious equity challenges we face in Madison by supporting and promoting entrepreneurship among communities of color and women,” said Jamaal Stricklin, Madison Public Market Foundation Board Chair.

Stricklin shared that the Madison Public Market will continue the next phase of the Public Market by providing coaching and mentorship support to the MarketReady vendors and other diverse entrepreneurs who launch in the Market when the doors open in 2022. Additionally, the Madison Public Market Foundation will identify a new cohort of multicultural entrepreneurs to begin the MarketReady program.

“The Public Market is meant to be a business incubator that serves as a steppingstone in the journey of entrepreneurship. While some businesses will become beloved, permanent merchants at the Market, many others will accelerate out of the Market as their businesses grow and prosper. The ongoing MarketReady program will ensure that there are always new, multicultural entrepreneurs ready to launch and grow in the Market,” explains Stricklin.

For the remaining MarketReady participants who were not announced today and for other entrepreneurs hoping to call the Madison Public Market home, there will be plenty of upcoming opportunities to participate in the Public Market. Next year, the Madison Public Market Foundation will begin the Market’s vendor selection process to select the 25 additional permanent vendors for the Market. Once the Market is open, there will be opportunities for daily, weekly, and monthly temporary vendors, likely offering vending opportunities to 100+ entrepreneurs every year. For visitors this means that there will be new, unique treasures to find at the Market during every season.

Along with start-up organizations, the Public Market will also feature two to four anchor restaurants/cafes/brew pubs that will be long-time established businesses to provide financial stability to the overall Market business plan. Currently, over 200 businesses, large and small, mature and start-up, have submitted formal interest in having a space in the Market.

With 500,000 visitors annually and delicious, unique cuisine and handmade artisan crafts that will reflect the culture and best of our community, the Madison Public Market will soon be a treasured destination for Madisonians and tourists alike. The City of Madison will break ground next year, with Madison’s first public market opening in late 2022.


First five Madison Public Market vendors (all MarketReady participants):

Little Tibet

Little Tibet is an original, family-owned restaurant offering authentic homemade Tibetan and Himalayan tribal cuisine! With two food carts and a restaurant in the Tenney Lapham neighborhood, Little Tibet is a gathering spot for east side neighbors, our local Tibetan and Himalayan region community, and a destination for tourists and locals where they share information on Tibetan food, culture, religion, and life. When the Madison Public Market opens in 2022, we hope to expand our business and open a second location in the Market, adding more jobs as well. The menu will feature traditional Tibetan and Himalayan food with quality ingredients sourced locally.

Perfect Imperfections

Jasmine Banks, CEO of Perfect Imperfections, is a 5th generation Madisonian and she still lives in the home she was born and raised in. Perfect Imperfections is Jasmine’s natural handcrafted body care line that uses quality and local sourced ingredients. She empowers women to appreciate life daily and care for themselves with safe, chemical-free body products. Prior to the Madison Public Market, Jasmine’s dream for her business never included having a brick and mortar because it didn’t seem attainable.  Being a part of the Market Ready program has shown her that with the right people, resources, training and determination that anything is possible… and that includes having a space inside of the Madison Public Market.

Caracas Empanadas y Más

If you’ve never had an empanada, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Empanadas are a staple food in many Latin American countries including Venezuela. In 2010 Luis Dompablo opened his first food cart Caracas Empanadas, featuring some of the very same recipes his mother prepared for him as a young boy. For the past ten years, Caracas Empanadas has gained a reputation as one of Madison’s most popular food carts. Luis named the cart after the city he grew up in, making Caracas Empanadas Madison’s first Venezuelan food cart. Through the MarketReady program, Luis has grown his business and expanded his product line to now include arepas. Luis looks forward to accelerating his business by having a counter/restaurant in the Madison Public Market and bringing more delicious flavors of Latin America to the greater Madison community.

Melly Mell’s

Carmell Jackson, owner of Melly Mell’s makes healthy home cooked food with a southern flair from recipes passed down through generations. “Feeding you fills my heart. I also offer healthy options to keep your heart and body healthy!”

Carmell is a successful caterer with her soul food being in high demand at events and celebrations across the Madison region. Carmell envisions Melly Mell’s being an integral part of the Public Market, bringing warmth, big smiles, and laughter that resonates throughout.  Her soul food will be available to eat at the Public Market or take home to “heat and eat.”

The MarketReady program gave Carmell a new start. She shares that the program helped her in so many ways to build her business and help make it the best that it can be. Carmell plans to use her Market business as an opportunity to train youth and inspire other children of color to become entrepreneurs. Carmell believes the Market will give small business a place to thrive.

El Sabor de Puebla

For several years, Reyna Gonzalez Torres and Waldo Olguin, a wife and husband team, have successfully owned a tamale production business that distributes their incredible tamales to grocery stores and eateries across Madison, in addition to owning and operating a restaurant on Madison’s near east side.

At the Madison Public Market, Reyna and Waldo will develop a Puebla style cocina (kitchen) and juice/ smoothie bar.  The business will be called: Antojitos, and it will be connected with El Sabor de Puebla, their successful restaurant. If you’ve ever had the Torres-Olguin family Mexican cuisine, you know that it will soon become a favorite at the Public Market. All products will be made from natural and organic ingredients when possible.

“After being involved with the MPM planning for over a decade, I could not be happier for city leaders and staff, and more importantly the entrepreneurs that will make it special, that this project is inching its way towards reality. The Madison Public Market will be a unique center of excellence serving the Madison Region in the agriculture, food and beverage industry. It will also anchor the Cap East District, making it even more dynamic. Kudos to all those involved.” - Michael Gay, Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Madison Region Economic Partnership

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