Upcoming leadership conference aims to support Madison’s black community

An upcoming leadership conference in Madison aims to support the black community, providing a platform for connecting and sharing personal success stories.

This year’s conference, titled “Progress, Empowerment & Collaboration,” will run May 18-20 at several locations in Madison.

It’s put on by Sabrina ‘Heymiss Progress’ Madison, a motivational speaker, poet and event coordinator. She is the creator of the Black Women’s Leadership Conference, The Heymiss Progress Show, and the Black Business Expo. She also founded The Conversation Mixtape — a social group that focuses on healthy, loving relationships between black men and women.

Her unique name is a throwback both to her personal history, and to the context in which she defined her poetic voice.

“So my dad used to refer to me as his little progress,” she told a Madison meeting of the national entrepreneurship group 1 Million Cups. “He… just had a really, really rough life, even though he had like three degrees, a pretty great job in Chicago. And so when I started the Poetry Slam, I went back to using that name: Miss Progress, and folks would always yell out to me ‘Hey! Miss Progress!’”

She was recognized in 2016 by In Business Magazine as a Greater Madison influencer, and was named one of the most influential African Americans in the state by Madison365.

She is also a featured speaker for the American Family Insurance DreamBank, giving motivational talks at its offices on the Capitol square in Madison.

Next week’s conference will take place at the Overture Center, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and Edgewood College. It will feature an opening reception, visual artists, live music, panel discussions and power sessions.

Last year’s conference, titled “Redefining our Power,” was held at Winedown in Madison, and was attended by about 125 people. Those attendees learned about finances, health and wellness, and how to better connect with the black community.

Madison leverages her personal brand to generate revenue in several ways. She does speaking engagements and holds workshops; anything she sells a ticket for, she keeps half as profit.

She says she has about 15 sponsors now, including MGE and Husch Blackwell.

“And then there are a few who pay an annual membership due, just for access to me — you know, getting them more exposure,” she said. “And then I actually do some consulting.”

Looking ahead, Madison has big plans for getting folks from her community involved over the next few years.

“So, summer 2017 after Forward Fest, I’ll do some strategic planning,” she said. “I think I have a two week block plan where we’ll knock out a bunch of things. November, we have the Black Business Expo again — we actually have one in July — and 2018, we have the leadership conference which we’ll flip a little bit; it will focus on a little bit of mind/body wellness.”

See an event schedule here: http://www.heymissprogress.com/schedule/

–By Alex Moe