By Karen Stokes
The Greater Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce (GMCC) met on Saturday to celebrate their chamber, their businesses and were introduced to future initiatives to continue their focus on positively impacting the community through successful business ownership.
The GMCC, a grassroots chamber of commerce that consists of approximately 100 area business owners, was created to effectively help address the concerns of startups, micro and small businesses of Milwaukee while promoting business growth in the city. It is committed to driving political and economic strength to help contribute to making Milwaukee a prosperous community.
“We aren’t funded by big organizations and corporations in town, we are a grassroots organization. We encourage business-to-business purchasing with our members in the chamber,” said Nicole Robbins, Vice President of the GMCC. “We provide business-to-business education. We support each other through quarterly lunch and learns and annual events.”
The event was held at Third Space Brewery, 1505 W. St. Paul. The venue had an industrial rustic feel with brick walls and tall ceilings. Add to that fabulous food and a jewelry boutique from member Sarita Felder of Paparazzi, and that’s an example of how this organization does things differently.
The members were excited to reach out and embrace other business owners and the atmosphere had more of a feeling of family than a business gathering.
“We don’t tow the line and do things the same way everyone else does it. What we do is have fun and support each other. One of the reasons why this chamber exists is to help small businesses,” said Kola Alayande, president of GMCC.
The chamber takes pride in the diversity of its members. For example, Alayande is from Nigeria, another member is from Eritrea and many races and ethnicities make up the membership of GMCC.
“This is a chamber that is about being your brothers and sisters keeper, that’s what we’re here for,” said Alayande. “This has nothing to do with race, we are colorblind. I don’t care what’s your race, color or creed, what matters is the greenbucks, the dollar bills. That’s the kind of chamber we have, it’s about helping others.”
GMCC member, Ariam Kesete, president of AK Development, the youngest property development owner in the state of Wisconsin, was born and raised in Eritrea, located in East Africa. Kesete migrated to the U.S. in 1997 to Minnesota, then to Milwaukee to attend University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“GMCC has been a blessing to me,” Kesete said.
Kesete is working on projects in the city which will be helpful to many in Milwaukee.
Alayande refers to Kesete and other young business owner as social entrepreneurs.
“A social entrepreneur is someone who does business for the purpose of changing lives, that’s the best kind of business to do,” Alayande said. “It’s good to make money but it’s even better when you’re making money, helping people and changing people’s lives.”
One way the chamber will help change lives is an initiative to be launched in 2019. An opportunity for dues paying members to receive a grant from the chamber in partnership with Wisconsin Bank and Trust.
“Wisconsin Bank and Trust does a lot of small business lending. They will be receiving a $500-1,000 grant for stating why they deserve the money and why they need that boost for their business,” said Robbins. “Additionally, they will be receiving a free website, accounting and one hour of free legal consultation from my firm, Robbins Law Firm. The total value is approximately $5,000.”
Robbins continued that there are no strings attached. They aren’t looking for a credit report and it will be a way to boost a person to the next level.
“Everyday, I meet amazing people through this chamber,” said Alayande. “People going out there making a difference, doing their thing, changing their community.”