For the fourth year, Cap Times reporters have asked several Madisonians to share "bright ideas" they have for the coming year. We will publish the 2017 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the next week.
If Madison is truly going to be a startup city, it has to seriously think about how it is going to open up pathways to entrepreneurship for marginalized mothers: single mothers, mothers in poverty, teen mothers, mothers with criminal histories, etc. It should create accelerator programs for them. It should create funding options and packages that speak to their realities. It should create sponsorship and mentoring programs that are meant to take into account the complexity of what it means to mother under these conditions while trying to become an entrepreneur.
As a society, we often blame this very same group of women for poverty. Yet, we only imagine them in positions of low-wage labor and charity. We see them as being only good enough for entitlements like Wisconsin Works and FoodShare. But why not imagine them as being capable and worthy of so much more? Why not imagine them as CEOs and founders of companies? In my book project, more than half of the 22 women explored entrepreneurship. I had no idea this was going to be the case. It just worked out that way. What that tells me is that the business impulse is there. It's not just the impulse to make money, but the drive and passion to address a need, solve a problem.
As a community, why not start taking these women seriously? Why not create pipelines and mobilize the kind of support that can actually result in the creation of a business that supports not just a household, but a community? An investment in one of these mothers is an investment in just that — a community.