Advocate Aurora, WWBIC deploy loans to support two Milwaukee businesses’ growth

Advocate Aurora, WWBIC deploy loans to support two Milwaukee businesses' growth
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Attorney Milwaukee Aurora Health headquarters in Walker Point.

In late 2019, Aurora Health Lawyer announced A commitment of $50 million over five years To address disparities affecting health outcomes in the communities of Wisconsin and Illinois.

While the healthcare system in Downers Grove, Illinois, and Milwaukee works to meet patients’ physical and mental health needs, part of its investment strategy in recent years has focused on supporting small businesses, recognizing the relationship between income and health outcomes in the community.

Lawyer Aurora has found a partner in Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.It supports entrepreneurs from under-represented groups and under-resourced communities.

As part of its $50 million initiative, the health system implemented a $1 million loan agreement with the Community Development Financial Corporation, which in turn distributed funds to support two growth plans for two Milwaukee companies: The Pink Bakery, a maker of allergen-free bread mixes, and The Milwaukee Times, a A black-owned weekly community newspaper.

Vincent Lyles, vice president of community relations for attorney Aurora, said WWBIC President Wendy Bowman was the health system’s first call when planning began to distribute the funds.

“Their approach is a very comprehensive one,” Lyles said. “It is not just about giving someone some money; it is also about making the business strong, which in turn can facilitate growth.”

Lyles noted that WWBIC is also in a position to release funds quickly.

“The need is real,” he said. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all how the world can be turned upside down. The fact that we’re able to scale up some of these companies that have been struggling throughout the pandemic and now have a more solid foundation is all about health outcomes as well. All the research is talking about (how) a richer society is a healthier society.”

Bowman said attorney Aurora’s investment also represents a new opportunity for WWBIC. Traditionally, the organization has borrowed from federal and local government entities, financial institutions, foundations and authorized individual investors.

“Why I was interested in Aurora…is the piece of the company that comes in and says, ‘We also feel like we can invest in our communities.’” “In Aurora’s case, it’s a very powerful community health and wellness mission, which is defined as economic health and wellness. It’s cutting edge and strategic,” she says, referring to Advocate Aurora and Spectrum, both multi-million dollar investors who are the first institutional partners to make capital investments with loans from During WWBIC.

The goal, Lyles said, is for Advocate Aurora to deploy and recover its investment by 2025, at which point it will reallocate those dollars.

“We see this as a cycle of opportunity,” he said.

Pink Bakery opens an allergen-free facility

Nubian Simmons, owner of Pink Bakery in Milwaukee

pink bakery Lyles said the mission to serve sweets to people with serious food allergies aligns with Advocate Aurora’s focus area for tackling food insecurity.

A WWBIC loan allowed owner Nubian Simmons to purchase and convert a former office space in Miller Valley into a manufacturing facility dedicated to producing her line of bread mixes, which use certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and fair trade ingredients.

Simmons, who grew up in Milwaukee and suffers from serious food allergies, began experimenting with recipes a decade ago in hopes of making allergen-free muffins, cookies, and cookies that would taste as good as regular baked goods. The Pink Bakery was officially established in 2014.

“It took me about five years to get my own blends as I felt like I was going to let someone else taste them,” she said.

Simmons moved to Memphis in 2016 to work at St. Jude Children’s Hospital and went on to build the baking business. When it was a week away from closing a land purchase deal to build a manufacturing facility, the results of an environmental test revealed that the land was toxic. Simmons took it as a tag and decided to go back to Milwaukee.

In the fall of 2020, she found the building in the Miller Valley she now occupies. In early 2021, Simmons, who had just started at the company, completed loan paperwork with WWBIC, her first commercial loan.

“The WWBIC loan came at the time I needed it,” she said.

Renovations to the space were completed in October; The facility is free of 14 allergens.

Simmons said it has prioritized minority companies on the project, directing about two-thirds of its budget to minority contractors.

“There have been a lot of black companies that have closed because of COVID. I looked at this as an opportunity: If I had these dollars, let me see how much I could try to help keep the business going,” she said.

It now plans to hire about four jobs, including production staff. Simmons said the company is finalizing an undisclosed deal that will allow it to expand.

The bakery does most of its sales online, but its blends are also available for purchase at Plantonic Café in Hartford and Wellness for Life Clinic in West Bend. In the future, Simmons envisions getting a contact to sell her baked goods with an airline or on a sports field.

“If someone put something like that in any of those places, I feel like more of us would come out because we feel like this organization cares about us enough to try and engage us,” she said.

New ownership in the Milwaukee Times

Milwaukee Times office at 1936 N. King Drive.

As one of the city’s three black newspapers, Milwaukee Times He’s able to reach audiences, particularly those who live on the North Side, with important information and resources other news outlets can’t, Lyles of Advocate Aurora said.

“We’ve spent almost the last two years talking to people about COVID, and we need vehicles like the Milwaukee Times so we can share that message,” he said. “…the fact that this paper is able to communicate those messages in ways and reach people wherever they are, we thought, was really important.”

Owner Reverend Harold Turner used a WWBIC loan to purchase the 40-year-old newspaper from former owner Linda Jackson Conyers, with plans to grow her printing press.

In addition to publishing a weekly community newspaper, The Times also provides printing services to small businesses in the neighborhood, with products including obituaries, church bulletins, business cards and invoices. In its early days, the Milwaukee Times mainly published news related to the church and continued to expand its coverage.

Turner has been a pastor for 50 years and has worked in insurance, and he brings many of the current relationships with area funeral homes to the company. He said he plans to make investments in equipment to expand the printing business and possibly hire an additional employee or two. The business currently has four employees.

“We’re going to go beyond the norm and continue to make it No. 1,” Turner said of the paper. “…we will make it come alive.”

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