By Nyesha Stone
Launch MKE hasn’t been out for a year and they’re already impacting lives in Milwaukee. According to their website, Launch MKE is here to encourage sustainable urban business ventures, which will, in turn, create the flourishing of all neighborhoods and communities in Milwaukee.
Through Launch MKE, aspiring and established entrepreneurs can take a 10-week Business Academy course which provides them with the tools they need to move forward in their business ventures.
On Dec. 11th at DOC’s Commerce Smokehouse from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Launch MKE held their first graduation ceremony.
Milwaukee lacks local businesses yet we have many residents who have motivation and ideas to start a business they just lack the tools and, sometimes, knowledge, which is where Launch MKE comes into play, according to Chairman of Launch MKE Larry Waters.
“[The program] includes a lot of resources from mentors to intellectual capital,” said Waters.
Launch MKE was established in spring of this year and with the success from their first course, they plan on continuing their efforts.
Over 40 people attended the graduation to celebrate their loved ones’ accomplishments. Many of the entrepreneurs had an existing business before entering the training, but they enrolled in the program to enhance their knowledge and gain connections.
Sharan Fifer owner of Laugh RX: a mobile comedy company, and now alumni of Launch MKE’s training, says one of the best things about the program is that you’re not done once you graduate. In most programs, once you graduate that’s it but with Launch MKE graduates receive two extra years of mentorship.
“You can’t pay for connections,” said Fifer. “These people are committed to working with us.”
When Fifer first entered the program, she wanted to buy an actual building for her business, so people can come to her for comedy. Yet, Launch MKE suggested she do her research and contact people who are already in the business.
She had a business meeting with a comedy club owner where they discussed his troubles with the business, numbers and what steps Fifer should take. According to that owner, in comedy clubs, the real money comes from the food aspect and alcohol, but Fifer isn’t interested in food and she refuses to sell alcohol.
It should be stated, Fifer does Christian comedy meaning no cussing or foul jokes, so without food, alcohol or dirty jokes, the best option for her business was to be on wheels.
“I don’t have to sit back and wait for people to come,” said Fifer. And by being mobile she’s accomplishing one of her goals: spreading laughter to as many people as she can.
Business owner Ariam Kesete and one of the facilitators of Launch MKE’s training classes believes this program is a major success. If you’re going to start a business or even already have one, Kesete suggested connecting with Launch MKE.
“People have to be willing to take that risk,” said Kesete. “What do you have to lose?”
After over 16 individuals attainted their diplomas, American Politician Jason Fields ended the ceremony by telling the graduates this was one of their first steps towards success and that there are many more steps to take from here.
“If you want to be successful then do what successful people,” said Fields. “Surround yourself with other CEOs.”