21 entrepreneurs graduate from Launch MKE program

Participants hope to start businesses in Sherman Park, Bronzeville

The spring 2018 Launch MKE graduates.

Twenty-one entrepreneurs graduated this week from the Launch MKE entrepreneurship training program.

The spring 2018 Launch MKE graduates.

Launch MKE targets innovators in underserved Milwaukee neighborhoods, helping them learn the skills and meet the people to succeed in launching and growing a business. Its nine-week business academy focuses on hands-on training in business planning and operations. Milwaukee entrepreneurship assistance organization BizStarts also provided one-on-one business coaching services.

The entrepreneurs who completed the program this week are:

  • Diane Williams, Howard Williams Enterprise: Professional services in business development, personal development and workforce youth development.
  • Rikki Fields: Opening a group home and transitional living facility to help those recently released from prison transition back into the community.
  • Vickie Watts Gaines, Dream Big Realty LLC: Rehab properties for buy and hold, or for sale. Plans to buy mixed-use commercial/residential building to house craft/art studio and retail space.
  • Emerald Mills, Diverse Dining/Mantle: Youth entrepreneurship training, development and placement in restaurants and other industries.
  • Rochelle Buchanan: Plans to provide housing and services for transitioning inmates re-entering society.
  • Karen Ford: Provide academic support to students in K-12 during the school year, skill building during the summer, parental guidance to strengthen support of children’s academic performance, kindergarten prep services, and Spanish language instruction.
  • Jacarrie Carr, Jacarrie Kicks for Kids: Existing nonprofit that offers assistance and support via established programs, including a Shoe Program that works to enhance self-esteem of underprivileged youth.
  • Erin-Kelly Sykes, Lil’Kay’s Kloset or Kay’s Kloset: Plans to create a store for boys between elementary and pre-teen.
  • Carmenetta Malone, dance studio: Plans to open a dance studio for youth.
  • Vernestine Carr, Tina-N-Tots Children’s Academy
  • Latoya Myrick, BodiedByToya LLC: Fitness training
  • Gina Green-Harris, Lifestar Consulting and Training: Consulting and training for universities, corporate and nonprofit businesses on teambuilding, and inclusivity and diversity in the workforce.
  • Muriel Horton, MP Family Services: Home health care staffing agency.
  • Albert Robbins, recycling: Plans to offer recycling materials for resale.
  • Celaneese Landon
  • Brieanna Harris: Plans to offer entertaining characters and activity facilitation at private, community and corporate events.
  • Kathi Rodgers, Heavenly’s Hands: Spa services including hand and foot care, skin care, body treatments and waxing.
  • Tierra Norton, The Daiquiri Shop: A retail store selling slush daiquiri drinks New Orleans-style.
  • Patrice Robinson, Sankofa Calendar: A historical calendar with packaged educational curriculum for teachers, with plans to eventually offer tourism component in link with calendar, and develop a trivia game.
  • Bon Xioing, Indigo Assisted Living Center: Assisted living centers for the multi-ethnic community.
  • Annette Amphy: Income tax assistance.

Jay Mason, president of Launch MKE, said most of the entrepreneurs have committed to moving forward with their ideas, some of which have launched as official businesses already. This is the second cohort of the program Launch MKE has completed, and was targeted to the Bronzeville and Sherman Park areas.

“We concentrate on low-wealth neighborhoods in Milwaukee and we try to make it a neighborhood-driven initiative as opposed to a Milwaukee-wide initiative,” Mason said. “It’s pretty apparent in Milwaukee and every other city that entrepreneurs that are high-tech, high-growth have lots of choices, which is good. But Main Street businesses and microbusinesses, particularly ones that are located in low-wealth neighborhoods, oftentimes do not have the resources to start their businesses.”

Launch MKE, which in January received a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. grant to help fund its services, hopes to offer the next semester of the program in the fall.

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