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Business & Innovation

Milwaukee’s Rooted MKE advances in Pharrell’s Black Ambition Prize

todayJune 26, 2024

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Milwaukee's RootedMKE advances in Pharrell's Black Ambition Prize
Rooted MKE owner and founder Ashley Valentine

Pharrell’s Black Ambition Prize, a non-profit initiative supporting Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, has announced its 2024 Black Ambition Prize Competition semifinalists. Milwaukee’s Rooted MKE was among the 250 exceptional entrepreneurs selected.

Rooted MKE, a Black-owned children’s bookstore and makerspace founded by Ashley Valentine, has been recognized for its innovative approach to creating a literacy destination for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) children in Milwaukee. The store on West Vliet Street offers a curated selection of diverse books, academic support services, and exploration activities designed to nurture BIPOC youth through storytelling and literacy experiences.

As a semifinalist, Rooted MKE will participate in the Black Ambitionist Mentorship Program, a comprehensive 3-month initiative in collaboration with Cinematica Labs. This program will provide strategic connections, specialized programming, and advanced tools to enhance business growth and build resilient networks.

Pharrell Williams, the renowned musician and entrepreneur, is pivotal in founding the Black Ambition initiative. Williams launched Black Ambition in 2020 to close the opportunity and wealth gap by empowering Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. His vision for the initiative goes beyond simply awarding prizes; it aims to create lasting change in the entrepreneurial landscape for underrepresented communities.

The Black Ambition Prize Competition offers substantial financial support, with eligible ventures competing for awards ranging from $15,000 to $1,000,000. This recognition highlights Rooted MKE’s potential for growth and shines a spotlight on Milwaukee’s diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Rooted MKE’s mission to provide representation and inclusive literacy experiences aligns with the competition’s goal of bridging the racial opportunity and wealth gap. By offering a space where BIPOC children can see themselves reflected in literature and explore varied narratives, Rooted MKE addresses a critical need in the community.

The 2024 Black Ambition Prize winners will be announced at the Black Ambition Demo Day in November 2024. As the competition progresses, Rooted MKE has the opportunity to refine its pitch, expand its network, and potentially secure funding to further its mission of nurturing children’s passions through exploration and creation.

This recognition by Black Ambition underscores the importance of Rooted MKE’s work in addressing the underrepresentation of BIPOC stories in traditional bookstores and libraries, contributing to a more inclusive literary landscape for Milwaukee’s youth.


Written by: Tarik Moody

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