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By Oona Mackesey-Green
Northside Planning Council

The Northside Planning Council and FEED Kitchens will administer a new training program to prepare vendors for the Madison Public Market in partnership with Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, and Dane County UW Extension with funding and other support from the City of Madison. The MarketReady Training Program (MRTP) is designed to provide business training services and micro-grants to low income populations, people of color and other populations that face historic barriers to starting businesses, including displaced workers, women, veterans and immigrants. MarketReady Coordinator and new Northside Planning Council staff person, Ian Aley, will lead the program.

The two-year program began in March after nearly a year of planning. With construction for the Public Market slated for 2018, MRTP aims to cultivate a diverse cohort of startup and small businesses to vend in the Market when it opens in 2019.

Services offered through MRTP include business training, technical assistance, business coaching, peer support and micro-grants. Thirty applicants will enroll in the program and receive one-on-one consultation, referrals to educational and financial services and invitations to peer networking events; half of these participants will receive additional mentorship and access to city-funded micro-grants. At the end of the program, this cohort of 15 will present their business plans to the City’s local food committee, which will select five participants to receive additional funding to operate in the Madison Public Market.

Space in the market will not be limited to MRTP participants, however, and a parallel vendor intake process will extend beyond the training program. “If someone isn’t ready to go when applications for the training program are due, they can still vend in the market,” said Aley. “This will be an ongoing process of support; we’ll still walk with people and support them along the way, because we want everyone to be successful.”

The planning process for the MRTP included dialogue with community partners, who will participate in program outreach and implementation. MRTP has served as an opportunity for local organizations working to increase access to entrepreneurship to share challenges and brainstorm solutions; the program aims to build on resources already embedded within local communities and expand existing supportive networks.

FEED Kitchens Manager Adam Haen coaches startup and small food businesses, walking budding business owners through the complex processes of licensure, business planning, financing and marketing. Haen emphasized the need for a program like MRTP that directs additional resources towards communities often disenfranchised.

“We aim to work with everyone, but especially with communities that have the hardest time accessing resources, financial and educational, to start a business,” Haen said. “This program will provide a roadmap to success using supportive structures that are available in the community but not well known, as well as by creating new ones to take advantage of the knowledge of community leaders and organizations.”

MRTP collaborators envision the program as an investment in an equitable food system that may prove a model for future projects.

“This program is going to establish systems that others will be able to use down the road. This infrastructure building is not a short-term process but is team building and community building that will help future entrepreneurs beyond the two-year program,” explained Haen.

As the MRTP launches and Madison Public Market development continues, Aley looks forward to strengthening local connections through entrepreneurship. “The market is an incredible opportunity. It’s an opportunity for Northsiders, Madisonians and people in the broader region to make a livelihood creating products that are unique to our area and to connect with neighbors. I see the market as a place for people from many different backgrounds to be in their strengths together in the same place.”

Applications will launch on April 3 and close on July 1. More information is available at www.marketreadymadison.org and by contacting MRTP Coordinator Ian Aley at marketready@northsideplanningcouncil.org.