BELOIT—Rock County Jumpstart and the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce have formed a partnership to support Black and Latino owned businesses.

Jessica Cavazos, president and CEO of Latino Chamber of Commerce, and Genia Stevens, founder and executive director of Rock County Jumpstart, announced the partnership during a news conference Wednesday morning at Happy Hooks Fish and Restaurant, a Black-owned business in Beloit.

Wanda Sloan, who was right beside Stevens when Rock County Jumpstart was founded, was there Wednesday to witness the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the two agencies.

“Genia and I would met together at my house for the first couple of months, to come up with the program,” Sloan said.

Jumpstart and the Latino Chamber of Commerce partnership provides training, tools and resources to Black and Latino owned businesses that are just starting out.

This partnership came shortly after both agencies were awarded Diverse Business Assistance grants last month. Rock County Jumpstart was awarded $1 million and the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce was awarded $3.4 million.

This gives both organizations the opportunity to work together to aid “Black, indigenous, and people of color,” or BIPOC.

“We are sitting in one Black owned business and around us are businesses that were affected by the pandemic,” Cavazos said. “Our new motto is scalability, instead of sustainability, to show local business owners what they can do to thrive and weather economic problems.”

Happy Hooks Fish and Restaurant owner Necole Littlejohn was happy to host the partnership announcement.

“I was approached by Stevens, who I worked with a lot through Jumpstart, Littlejohn said. “Genia has been a mentor to me over the years.”

“This was the first time we hosted an event over our two years of operation, but it hopefully won’t be the last,” Littlejohn noted.

Officials from around the area came to support the partnership announcement.

State Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, Milton Mayor Anissa Welch and Vice President of Beloit City Council, Nancy Forbeck all attended and spoke at the event Tuesday morning.

“I am excited to see two groups coming together—the Latino and Black communities—to help each other,” Spreitzer said. “Too often you see groups siloing themselves off and trying to compete.”

“I’m not just here because I am part of the city council,” Forbeck noted. “Supporting the Black and Latino business owners and communities is such a worthy cause.”

Stevens gave more information on the new location for Rock County Jumpstart in Beloit. The estimated move-in date is in August and Jumpstart officials are still discussing leasing opportunities.

“The classes held at the Beloit Public Library will be transferred to the new building,” Stevens said.