MKE Black board member Ayrton Bryan honored with SBA Business Champion award

SBA Great Lakes regional administrator Geri Aglipay; SBA Wisconsin 2023 Minority Small Business Champion Ayrton Bryan; and SBA Wisconsin District Director Eric Ness. Photo courtesy Small Business Administration.

His journey to help small businesses started in 2020 when he felt the need to be more involved following the death of George Floyd. Now his dedication to uplift small businesses has paid off as Ayrton Bryan has been honored as the Wisconsin Minority Small Business Champion of 2023.

One of 11 entrepreneurs and business leaders in Wisconsin awarded by the federal Small Business Association, Bryan has earned a prestigious award for his work to create a more inclusive and equitable environment for small businesses in Milwaukee. The award Bryan received is meant to celebrate the efforts in supporting BIPOC owned businesses.

Bryan was honored for his work as one of the leaders of MKE Black, a nonprofit organization that promotes Black businesses in greater Milwaukee, as a connector and fundraiser. The events Bryan holds with MKE Black and the connections it fosters is what he credits for the award.

“The marketplaces and then also the educational events, that we call Pitch Black, the outcome is that there are simply people meeting more people,” Bryan said. “Sometimes I think a lot of people in business, or that are working for others, can say that something happened just because they met someone. We’re increasing the number of contact points which allows for more opportunity for growth.”

Marketplaces are the cornerstone of MKE Black’s efforts to connect people together. As a connector, Bryan sees these events as a way for BIPOC owned small businesses to achieve growth through facilitating meet ups with other small businesses.

Everything works in full circle for Bryan.  In addition to his work with MKE Black, he is employed full time at Rockwell Automation in sustainability. He feels that his work in sustainability supplements his efforts with MKE Black and how Bryan can help businesses in the long run.

“Not just looking at an immediate response but trying to understand from an ecosystem perspective what some unintended consequences could be — what some actions could be,” Bryan said. “On the flip side of that, it’s also been great education on how you need to move fast in micro ways.”

What Bryan has learned from working in sustainability and with small businesses is the necessity to see the big picture but take it one step at a time. Instead of focusing on the grand goal, the small steps are what gets you there. He urges clients to get comfortable with being uncomfortable as they grow.

He recognizes that not every business has the same needs, but he tries to look at issues through a lens of inclusivity and equitability in how he helps.

“The most important part is that there is a core mission and set of responsibilities that you ultimately find that there is a wide area of need but also there’s a wide area of access of opportunity to try and do something good,” Bryan said.

Bryan was the last of SBA award recipients in this round for the year. He was presented with the award in a ceremony at Sherman Phoenix in Milwaukee yesterday.