Urban entrepreneurs

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

    The phones at the new Urban Entrepreneur Partnership (UEP) office in Milwaukee were just plugged in recently and already they are ringing off the hook.

     UEP is a new federal program that combines private, public and nonprofit sector resources in an attempt to fight poverty by helping minorities start their own businesses, and therefore create jobs, in the central city.

    “There certainly is a need for an organization like this,” said Tina Kelly-Beckett executive director for the Milwaukee UEP center. She formerly worked for Miller Brewing Co. overseeing the company’s minority business supplier relationships.

    The program was launched by President George W. Bush in 2004. It is a partnership of the National Urban League, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Business Roundtable, the Small Business Administration, the Minority Business Development Agency and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

    UEP centers have been established in Milwaukee and Kansas City, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Fla., Baltimore and New Orleans. The UEP centers provide mentors for entrepreneurs and help them access resources for starting and growing their businesses.

    The Milwaukee UEP center is located in the National Urban League’s new Milwaukee office at 435 W. North Ave., and can be reached at (414) 264-2906. The Milwaukee UEP is sponsored by the Metropolitan Business Collaborative.

    The UEP will connect minority entrepreneurs with mentors to help guide them through the process of getting their company established said Frank Cumberbatch, a board member of the Metropolitan Business Collaborative.

    “The UEP will be assigning a mentor or a coach to the individual, somebody who’s been there and done that,” Cumberbatch said. “We have people, local businesspeople who are already coming in saying I want to be a mentor, high level people.”

    Cumberbatch declined to name any of the mentors.

    The UEP will also help minority entrepreneurs obtain financing and procurement opportunities.

    One of the UEP’s most important missions will be helping minority entrepreneurs navigate through a system of disjointed government programs that are designed to help, including SBA loans, state Department of Commerce grants and the city’s emerging business enterprise (EBE) program.

    “There is no cohesive infrastructure that really holds on to these (minority entrepreneurs) and guides them in a proactive way throughout the process,” Cumberbatch said. The UEP will fill that void, he said.

    The UEP will also help prepare minority entrepreneurs for the

    process of seeking assistance from government programs.

    “More importantly than how is when,” Cumberbatch said. “You just can’t go to the SBA and say, ‘Give me a loan.’ It doesn’t work that way. When is the appropriate time? Where should your business be so you go there and don’t get frustrated and think the SBA is working against you?”

    According to the UEP, minority-owned firms represent only about 2.7 percent of total U.S. gross receipts from all firms and only 4.3 percent of all national employment. Only nine percent of U.S. firms with annual revenues of more than $500,000 are minority owned and only five percent of U.S. firms with more than 100 employees are minority owned.

    “Our research indicates that minorities, and African-Americans in particular, are about 50 percent more likely to engage in start-up activities than whites,” said Daryl Williams, UEP national program director and director of minority entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “Yet statistics for business formation reveal that minorities are not as successful in getting their businesses off the ground or in growing them to scale. We are excited to see this UEP office open in Milwaukee to do more to close this gap and empower more minorities to reach their full entrepreneurial potential.”

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