In an effort to advocate for Milwaukee’s African American-owned business community, father-daughter team Curtiss Harris and Lynn Harris Farmer have launched a digital directory of black-owned businesses in the area.
The directory, called Milwaukee Black Business, debuted in March and can be found at mkeblackbusiness.com. It includes relevant details like contact information, maps, photos, events and in-depth profiles, while providing business owners with an advertising and networking outlet. Owners can list their companies for free, and purchase other services, while users can create profiles to rate and review the businesses.
Harris and Harris Farmer hope to put a spotlight on talented black entrepreneurs and provide an economic boost to the African American community.
According to the pair, African Americans make up almost half of Milwaukee’s population, but just 22 percent own and operate businesses.
Harris helped advocate for and arrange minority participation on some of the state’s largest projects, including Miller Park and Camp Randall, and is the former interim executive director of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. Harris Farmer is a business consultant and former Fortune 500 marketing executive who currently serves as chief executive officer and chief marketing officer for Milwaukee Black Business.
“If African American businesses in Milwaukee are not properly marketing themselves to the community, neither the business owners nor their target consumers will benefit,” Harris said. “It’s a loss on both ends if goods and services are not being exchanged.”
“This is taking an old idea of a business directory and using new and modern tools to reach consumers,” Harris Farmer said. “We want to be accessible to the next generation of consumers through all the technology that’s available with a heavy emphasis on social media.”
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy and Dr. Eve Hall, president and CEO of the African American Chamber, expressed support for the initiative.
“A vibrant African-American business community is critical to improving Milwaukee’s prosperity,” Sheehy said. “New tools to help connect, showcase, and grow these important businesses will pay dividends to this community.”
“With this new website/firm also being a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce, we look forward to strategically working together to continue to increase visibility and support to our business owners and entrepreneurs,” Hall said.