Black businesses face unique struggles to survive in the United States and in Madison. Unfortunately, statistics for success for black-owned businesses too often pale in comparison to white-owned businesses.
The Madison Black Chamber of Commerce helps to promote the economic and social development of the African American community by facilitating access to capital and empowering black business owners to build and expand. The Chamber helps young businesses to network and grow and assists entrepreneurs and businesses with the information and knowledge they need to succeed.
“The purpose of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce is to give black business owners a chance to network with like-minded business owners,” says Joseph Roy, president of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) “We give them the opportunity to get the professional training that they might otherwise not have access to. We help them prepare their finances, their taxes, and any other business professionals areas they need to focus on. We make sure that they are aware of all of the things they need to be doing as business owners.”
The MBCC helps with all of the things that are often the difference between a successful and unsuccessful business. “There are so many things that people need to be doing that they often take for granted that will make themselves successful in the business world,” Roy tells The Madison Times in an interview at Qdoba Restaurant on University Ave. “We want to be able to provide expert advice to different people in different areas. We provide that important support.”
Roy himself is a technological entrepreneur as the owner of RoyTek Website Designs, which provides design, training, and consulting services in web development and also sets up networks for businesses, agencies, clubs, organizations, home or personal usage. Roy is also the web administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Division of Business Management.
As a black businesses owner himself, he knows the complicated issues that they face.
“Right now, one of the biggest issues for not just black business owners, but all business owners, is financing. Where do we get the money? How do we get a loan? How do we manage our finances? What do we do about taxes? Those questions come up all the time,” Roy says.
MBCC hosts many different training opportunities for business owners with partners like Summit Credit Union, Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) and other organizations.
MBCC will give you the training and knowledge, Roy says, but will also help you get your name out there. “That's important in business. People need to know who you are,” Roy says. “Another thing that we like to do is to recommend. People call us all the time and ask, 'Where can we find a good barbershop? Where can we find a good restaurant? Were can we find an engineer? A publisher?' We get all kinds of questions from different people and we're more than willing to offer recommendations.”
Last year, the MBCC had a name change from the African American Black Business Association to the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce. The move makes them more powerful, Roy says, as they are no longer just an association of Black business owners in Madison
“Changing our name from a business association to a chamber has gotten us instant recognition of what we do and people understand our purpose better,” Roy says. “We now have more people reaching out to us. We've formed more partnerships that we have in the past and we are building on those partnerships. We plan on doing more things together collaboratively with those organizations.”
The Madison Black Chamber of Commerce has recently formed many important community partnerships including ones with the Urban League of Greater Madison, Madison College, WWBIC, UW Small Business Development Center, Latino Chamber of Commerce, Wisconsin Black Chamber, Madison Development Corporation, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, Dane County Buy Local, Summit Credit Union, McFarland Bank, and Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial. Through these partnerships, they are creating financial, educational, and other networking opportunities that have direct impacts on the growth and success of black businesses in Madison.
Recently, the MBCC partnered with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce for a small business expo. “They gave us a section at the expo where a lot of our businesses were showcased right there with a big banner that they put up that said Madison Black Chamber of Commerce. That was really nice. We hope to continue to partner with them in the future and also hopefully with the Latino Chamber of Commerce.”
One of MBCC's key priorities right now is to let people know who they are and then continue to grow.
They recently had a very good presence at the annual Juneteenth Celebration at Penn Park where, Roy says, they reached out to a lot of people. Over the last couple of months, MBCC has done a series of financial seminars with summit credit unions at the Urban League. “[MBCC Board Of Directors Secretary] Aaron [Perry] and I have been talking about having a healthy food picnic in August,” Roy says. “We're always thinking about possible events that the chamber can do for the community.”
One of the signature MBCC events will be the 3rd annual Weekend Business Retreat that will more than likely be held at the Grand Magnunson Hotel again. Informally dubbed the “Business Boot Camp” this Friday-Sunday affair gives business owners the opportunity to focus their direct attention on incorporating techniques learned at this retreat into their own businesses.
“We have a series of training sessions available for people to help their business financing. We will have somebody from Summit Credit Union there who will talk about how to manage your finances as an entrepreneur and how to get a loan,” Roy says. “WWBIC will be there doing a few sessions for us. There will be plenty of opportunities for networking the whole weekend.”
The retreat will be full of workshops, motivational speakers, and great food. On the last day of the retreat, Roy wants to have a Small Business Expo to give all of the businesses an opportunity to showcase their businesses. “Last year, we had about 45 participants.... this year, we hope to have many more,” Roy says.
The Madison Black Chamber is proud that all of the expenses related to the retreat went to small, locally owned businesses.
“We like to lead by example. At our last Boot Camp we employed 19 different black businesses at that camp alone,” Roy says. “We had a different caterer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the whole weekend. We had vendors there and other people doing presentations. We like to show by example how important it is to circulate the dollars within the community.”
Roy fully understands the power of black spending power. “Too often, however, it goes elsewhere,” he says. “This is about helping these black businesses grow. We're in a society where we need to work together. We're trying to create opportunities that aren't there right now — opportunities that we've been excluded from in the past.”
Although blacks have made significant gains in political and educational venues, the gains have been less than modest when it comes to owning their own businesses.
“Entrepreneurship can be the route that many young black people can take if they wish,” Roy says. “It's important for them to see role models and to have people who can help them along.”
Roy believes that knowledge is the key and that’s why the MBCC's slogan is “Making Smart Black Businesses Smarter. The Madison Black Chamber provides financial, educational, legislative and networking resources to its members and potential members.
“It's a good idea to join the Chamber because it will give you the opportunity to partner with some other like-minded business owners,” Roy says. “It will give you the opportunity to get some training and to learn some things you might not ordinarily know – things that will be helpful to grow your business and for you to make money.
While MBCC is still in its infancy, Roy has big, long-term plans.
“I would like to see growth in the Chamber. I would like to see us get much larger which would put us in a much more powerful position. I want to be able to show off some of our success stories and how some local small businesses have benefited from our help to become stronger and more successful. I want to make sure that there are opportunities for businesses to succeed. You often hear about businesses opening up that don't last very long. I don't like to see that. I want businesses to open up and to thrive. I want us to be the conduit to make that happen.”
Interested in the upcoming 3rd annual Business Retreat or in the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, in general? E-mail email@example.com for more information.