Council Leadership, Mayor Soglin Launch New Initiative to Support Diverse Entrepreneurship

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 3:17pm

Madison Common Council President Samba Baldeh, Council Vice-President Sheri Carter and Mayor Soglin announced today the creation of a new City initiative to expand opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs. The Equity Business Initiative (EBI) will focus the city’s existing business development resources as well as a new fund toward communities that have historically faced barriers to accessing capital to start or grow a business enterprise.

The City currently funds several business development programs that provide direct financial assistance to diverse entrepreneurs. Recent successes include using the City’s Healthy Retail Access Program to support Lunas Grocery in the Allied Neighborhood, the newly-launched Kiva Madison Platform, which has led to micro-loans to several Madison businesses, and the MarketReady program which is supporting a culturally diverse cohort of potential Public Market Merchants.

The EBI Program aims to build on these successes and invest carefully targeted resources to support Madison businesses owned and operated by people of color. The first step will be a comprehensive review of all the City’s current business development programs to identify gaps and potential changes. The next step will be to launch the Equity Business Initiative Fund (EBI Fund). The proposed EBI Fund has four tiers.

  • Tier 1: BizReady Program – Modeled after the MarketReady Program, BizReady will recruit a 30-person cohort of early stage entrepreneurs and provide curated and intensive training, technical assistance, business coaching, and small grants to prepare them for launch.
  • Tier 2: Kiva Match – The second Tier will provide a city-sponsored dollar for dollar match to up to 10 competitively-selected Madison businesses upon the successful completion of loans through the Kiva Madison Program.
  • Tier 3: Commercial Impact Grants – This program will provide up to 10 local businesses with up to $50,000 grant to fund interior build-outs of their commercial properties to keep them viable. The focus will be on neighborhood-serving businesses like retail and services.
  • Tier 4: Commercial Downpayment Assistance Program – This program will support existing business owners looking to take the next step of purchasing or developing a commercial building for their enterprise. The program will provide a 0% loan with no payments due unless the property is sold. The program will loan up to $250,000 or 35% of the total cost of the building or development project.

“Having more Madison businesses owned by people of color is key to making our city more welcoming and inclusive,” said Council President Baldeh. “These efforts can help address disparities over the long term.”

Mayor Soglin said, “Over the last several years, Madison has made strides in addressing racial disparities. However, one area I want to focus on going forward is providing more support for diversity in business ownership.” The Mayor continued, “The EBI program will double-down on recent successes like our support for Luna’s Grocery and will tap the potential of more diverse entrepreneurs by providing access to the capital they need to launch or expand a business.”


  • Dan Kennelly608-267-1968