Local entrepreneurs have joined a pilot program to help support small businesses in Milwaukee’s under served communities. By utilizing empty commercial space, people willing to make a bet on their own success have been able to create jobs and stimulate the economy of the area. Last summer, several small business owners were given one month rent free in an empty commercial space to see how their business might do. On the first day that she was open, local entrepreneur Lilo Allen sold $5,000 worth of hand made jewelry.
Nineteen local small businesses were given 30 days rent free in a pilot program designed to create pop-up shops along South Chavez Drive and West North Avenue. To say that it has been a success would be an understatement. When the program ended, several of the business owners saw their success and decided to keep going. Three of the small businesses have combined to form the Bronzeville Collective MKE. This group of women has created a thriving community space for artists to sell their wares to an appreciative public. “At the end of the program, the building would have just been an empty storefront,” Allen said to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “We decided to collaborate.”
Ms. Allen reports that her sales have roughly doubled year-over year, and feels that the Bronzeville Collective can be a model for other overlooked communities.”This is a springboard for other small-business owners to grow for themselves,” Allen said. Milwaukee government leaders are already planning the next iteration of this idea with Brew City Match, a program with $3.5 million in matching funds from major banks. The idea is to revitalize commercial areas that have been vacant in some cases for years.
“Collaboration really does work,” Tomira White reported to the Journal-Sentinel. “That message should be pounded into people.”