OSHKOSH, Wi. (WBAY) - An Oshkosh non-profit says it found that business owners of color felt isolated and have difficulty accessing the resources and community support they need.
So Fit Oshkosh, with the help of UW-Extension and Prospera Credit Union, created a new program that’s meant to bridge the gap and foster new entrepreneurs.
The Coworking Space, located off Broad St. in Oshkosh, was originally meant to be a pilot program. It provides entrepreneurs free Wi-Fi, laptops, printers, and a place to network.
Fit Oshkosh, which focuses on anti-racism education and advocacy, decided to create it after conducting research among minority business owners in the region.
“Black and brown business owners are launching businesses at far greater rates than their white counterparts, but that’s not happening here in Wisconsin,” said Fit Oshkosh Director Tracey Robertson.
Robertson hopes the Coworking Space will create a place where those minority business owners can get the resources and community support they need.
“Where people could network together, get to know each other,” said Robertson.
“To create a space of our own empowerment here so that we can learn from one another, help one another,” said Sakile Newsom, the Coworking Coordinator. “Overall, Fit Oshkosh is about inclusion for everybody. We just want to empower those who may not already be empowered.”
The pilot program was only meant to last a week, but an anonymous donor supplied enough funds for it to run about three weeks.
“We were just like okay it’s meant to be,” said Newson. “It’s meant for us to try this at least and see how it goes.”
The hope is that the program will be able to get enough funding to continue long-term. Giving independent workers like Ivy Casarez a whole new network to lean on.
“It isn’t until you’re around different people from different backgrounds, different companies, different areas that you really grow and strive,” said Casarez. “And I don’t know if there’s really any other place like this.”
“We know that representation that really matters,” said Robertson. “And so the opportunity to spend time with people who look like you, have the same goals as you obviously is really important for anyone, and people of color are not any different.”
The space is open for everyone in the community to use, but it can only continue through grants, sponsorships, and donations.
Organizers are working on grant applications. Anyone who would like to sponsor or donate to keep the Coworking Space open can call 920-267-8687.