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First Look: Inside new African American Chamber of Commerce co-working space

Posted: 5:35 PM, Feb 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-20 20:04:04-05

MILWAUKEE — The African American Chamber of Commerce is inching closer to opening up its new co-working space on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The Legacy Co-working and Innovation space will have private office spaces, co-working spaces, conference rooms and more. They hope this space will help those in the African American community get the opportunity to start their own businesses.

"The lack of funds prevents entrepreneurs from solidifying their business," Ossie Kendrix, President & CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce said. "Having access to capital, having access to certifications needed, licenses, permits, just knowing how to navigate the system."

Kendrix says there can be many hurdles for people trying to start a business. Simply navigating the system can be enough to prevent someone from pursuing their dreams. He says those hurdles are even higher for members of the African American community. So, in a city known as one of the most segregated in the country, this co-working space is a vital step in reaching a more equitable Milwaukee.

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"One of the things my grandmother instilled in me is, if you can't find a job, make a job," Kendrix said. "So I began doing just that and designing my destiny. I want to help neighborhood entrepreneurs and African Americans to design jobs. What better way to assist than to have a space that's for us, by us and in support of us, growing and building entrepreneurial economic development in the heart of Milwaukee."

Inside the building on this cold February day, there are some metal poles and other construction equipment strewn about. It's far from the finished product, slated to open on June 1st, but it's enough for Tina Gladney to see her vision for her private office.

"When I first walked in, my desk there," Gladney said, pointing to the corner of the office with no real walls or working electricity.

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She began her journey as an entrepreneur coach in 2005. It's a bit of a full-circle moment for her to be moving into the Legacy Co-working and Innovation space.

"To right here in the community, doing what I love and to be able to just share whatever resources I have, whatever information I have, connecting those entrepreneurs," Gladney said. "But also, being able to go ahead and draw and learn from those experts here, I'm really excited."

Gladney has spent the last 15 years working out of her home. For meetings, she has had to bring clients to casual settings for meetings; libraries, coffee shops, any place with relative silence and, most importantly, free. Now, she can afford the low cost of a private office in the building and can tell her clients to meet her here.

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"To be able to be here in a physical space, it's almost validating," Gladney said. "It does validate you as an entrepreneur a little bit more. It also gives you that security to know, I believe I am here."

The space is unique in that it has a working kitchen space for chefs and bakers to practice their craft.

"Spaces like this are quite expensive," Kendrix said. "We wanted it to be big enough so it can provide all resources as far as cooking equipment an entrepreneur needs to get started but also small enough so that it's manageable enough for us. Having a space that's nominal, cost-effective, where they can come in and do the work they need to have done, take those products and distribute them."

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The building is located at 1920 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Bronzeville.

"It's symbolic," Kendrix said. "To be on King Drive, we have one of the best King Drives throughout the United States. To be in Bronzeville, where entrepreneurial synergy once existed and bringing it back as well. There were less than 20 throughout the US."

For more information on cost and availability on the Legacy Co-Working and Innovation Space, visit the African American Chamber of Commerce website.

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