Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Second Round of Black and Brown Business Owners Win Financial Backing

Brew City Match announces second cohort, begins accepting applications for next group.

By - Jul 10th, 2020 05:45 pm
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Former Tower Theater at 27th and Wells. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Former Tower Theater at 27th and Wells. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Thirty-eight small businesses or buildings, 97 percent of which are owned by entrepreneurs of color, were named winners in the second round of LISC Milwaukee‘s Brew City Match program.

The program, backed by a $3.5 million grant from Chase, is focused on small business development and commercial property revitalization in the city’s historic commercial corridors.

In total, the 38 winners span four different programs focused on everything from developing business plans to finding space and improving properties. Of the participating businesses, 97 percent are run by entrepreneurs of color and 77 percent are owned by women. Most of the businesses are small entities that Brew City Match will help get off the ground. But others are established or emerging firms that Brew City Match will partner with to rehabilitate vacant or underutilized commercial properties.

“Brew City Match is connecting dots between small business, commercial real estate development, and the small business development ecosystem. LISC and our partners are working to reimagine how to be relevant and responsive in order to build a more inclusive economy at the neighborhood level,” said Beth Haskovec, Program Officer at LISC Milwaukee. “This program is a long game, which invests in both business start-ups and commercial property developments in a step by step way to better ensure sustainability and success.”

Brew City Match, launched in 2019, is focused on supporting and creating main street businesses in the Clarke Square, Near West Side, Lindsay Heights and Historic King Drive neighborhoods.

The first round of winners was announced in October 2019. LISC pivoted the program in May of this year to provide grants and loans to support businesses struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cetonia Weston-Roy‘s Niche Book Bar was part of Brew City Match’s first cohort of winners. Weston-Roy’s vision is to create a space where Black authors and literature can be celebrated. 

“Black literature is wider than pain or trauma-based work,” said Weston-Roy. “Books can and should be as versatile as the black experience, which is inclusive of nuance and joy.”

Weston-Roy received Business Planning Track support in the first cohort and completed a business-planning course through WWBIC in Fall 2019. 

“The class helped focus the plan for Niche Book Bar, which was a broad concept when I started. It gave me a deeper understanding of what was necessary to implement from idea to reality,” Weston-Roy said.

This time she’s won support through the SPACE Track which will help her establish a physical location.

Applications for a third cohort are now being accepted.

Business Planning Track

Winners receive a free business planning course from WWBIC.

SPACE Track

Winners receive support finding available commercial space in focus neighborhoods. 

Cash Track

Winners gain access to financing and mini grants to fund startup costs.

Building Owner Track

Winners receive predevelopment and development grants and access to finance. We also work with property owners to match their project to commercial tenants when applicable. 

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