A small group of entrepreneurs has formed the Business Development Partnership, an association that plans to be a resource hub to help ethnically diverse entrepreneurs grow their small and micro businesses.
Launched in March, the association held a kick-off event recently at Bucketworks, 706 S. 5th St. The event provided an opportunity for community members to promote the association and recruit new members.
“Milwaukee is a hyper-segregated city, and nothing has been done about that,” said Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez, a founding board member of the Business Development Partnership. “We want to use our diversity as a strength.”
“We have noticed through research and experience that there are some gaps in how other groups work with entrepreneurs,” said Jacqueline Ward, a founding board member of the Business Development Partnership and managing director at North Avenue/Fond du Lac Marketplace BID 32.
The BDP has set out to complement existing business associations and chambers of commerce, such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, African American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce, Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
“We don’t want to duplicate services that already exist or are working well,” said Ward.
The association caters to entrepreneurs with small or micro businesses, but is interested in pursuing partnerships with other businesses throughout the greater Milwaukee area, according to Rodriguez. He said the group wants to help entrepreneurs access financial resources, receive technical support and become informed about legislation that affects their businesses.
Additionally, the BDP plans to promote and train its members in e-commerce and global business as well as encourage members to do business with each other.
Steve Adams, owner of Community Development Management Partnerships and public involvement and outreach manager at The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), said he is especially interested in doing business with other members. “That’s why I’m here, and that’s what we need in order for our businesses to grow.”
The BDP has a 501(c)(6) status, which allows it to lobby for issues that are important to members.
The association currently has 11 members, including four board members — Rodriguez, Ward, Wendy Montes de Oca and Hugo Alarcon. Current board members are all black or Hispanic, but the board plans to grow and diversify its membership by recruiting members of other ethnicities from different areas of the city, Rodriquez said.
BDP membership costs $125 per year.