It’s a Tuesday night at Starting Block on East Washington Avenue. About a dozen people sit around a horseshoe of tables, remnants of turkey sandwiches scattered on paper plates.
On the screen in front of the room is a sample balance sheet.
A man in an orange t-shirt says he spends $700 a month on software and wants to know whether that’s an operating or capital expense.
There’s a long discussion on how to account for unpaid invoices, and another on how to forecast when a business is going to be busiest.
This is the third session of the first-ever cohort of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce’s new accelerator program, where nine Black and brown owners of small businesses will spend 12 weeks learning and preparing to take their businesses to the next level – including, in some cases, venture capital.
“Last week, we did goal setting. And we did a mentors forum, and we had some really great support from our communities,” said Dan Guerra, who is coordinating the program. “Today, we’re talking about money. And next week, we’ll talk about financing. We’re talking about getting it done.”
The nine founders chosen for this first cohort include:
- China Moon Crowell, Bartender 608 (event planning)
- Kristina Riley-Rowell, Das Haus Property Management
- Sandra Morris, Ernie’s Homemade Kick Sauce
- Ibrahim Harun, IH Concepts (web development and graphic design)
- Davis Freeman, InTouch Shipping Technologies
- Malik Shabazz, Malik’s Elite Cleaning
- Cle Gray, Prodigal Building Systems
- Sadeca Gullens, SRG Drug Testing Lab
- Bing Liang, US University Pathways (international education consulting)
“I think it’s gone really well. I think that we have a really good mixture of businesses,” said MBCC President Camille Carter. “They’re diverse. Some sell products, some services, some are in construction. I think there’s a lot of cross learning that’s happening. And certainly, they’re enthusiastic about the overall experience.”
Several of the entrepreneurs said they’ve found the accelerator at the right time
“This is exactly what I needed,” said Morris. “I’m grateful for Camille. Without even having to tell her she understood (the issues facing business owners). It’s a great thing. We need this.”
“It’s very practical. They talk about the things that we will encounter day to day,” Liang said. “It is very, very helpful for me.”
“It’s great. We have great educators here who give us a lot of insight for startup businesses such as myself, and those that are already established,” Shabazz said. “This is a great opportunity for us to come in and learn from professionals, the best of the best. Definitely a good experience.”
The 12-week program will help the businesses prepare to seek funding to grow, either through financing or venture capital. About 10 more businesses will join a four-week incubator program on May 1.
MBCC has said they hope to help more than 100 businesses through the accelerator in the next two years.