In an effort to improve the city of Madison as it continues to grow in diversity and size, the city is preparing to launch the MarketReady program and draw businesses to the area.

The MarketReady program will provide training and micro-grants to entrepreneurs interested in becoming part of the Madison Public Market. It will cater to businesses in communities of color ho have been historically disadvantaged in starting businesses, MarketReady program coordinator Ian Aley said.

The Madison Public Market, which was approved in the city budget late last year after years of planning and debate, will be a year-round indoor facility, selling and promoting locally-produced items such as food, arts and crafts, Aley said.

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Aley said the new MarketReady program only began its planning two months ago, but people have considered the idea for a long time. The project will be completed in 2019. The MarketReady program will mentor businesses during the two-year process to prepare for the actual market space so they can be as successful as possible.

“During the two-year period we will support new entrepreneurs to put their business plan together and cover everything such as finance and permits, so that they are ready to open when the market is ready to open,” Aley said.

The MarketReady program is currently accepting applications until July 1, Aley said. The MarketReady program will help a total of 30 businesses. Fifteen of them will each receive $3,500 to help pay for initial business costs.

Five of those businesses will receive $13,000 to set up their market space in the Madison Public Market, Aley said.

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Aley said MarketReady will mentor these businesses by providing technical support and guidance. The program seeks to help people in disadvantaged communities so that once people know what they want to do, they can design a method to help fit their needs.

“We are hoping that this can be an ongoing conversation and support, and even if we cannot [directly] help you with the program such as businesses that have been running for 10 years that need support we can, and will, guide them to the right organizations that can help them,” Aley said.

The program has received 17 applications to be in the program and 90 applications to be a vendor in the market, Aley said.

The program will take as many applications as they can and will be a connection with some existing organizations which help support the beginning stages of starting businesses, such as the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County.

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Aley said the ultimate goal of the program is to help improve quality of life for people in disadvantaged communities and help people create a business they can be proud of while strengthening the diverse communities.

Aley hopes the public market will become an area that expands into a range of businesses which draws in people from around the Midwest to do business in the Madison area.

Moving forward, Aley said they want the applicants to bring in their ideas, passion and openness to working on their business plan. The MarketReady team will do their best to help them succeed in their plan, he added.

“Madison has some work to do in terms of healing the divide between different communities, and this will be a place where people can come and share the product they are proud of that respresents their culture,” Aley said.