RACINE — Prince Signal, a volunteer and patron at the Hospitality Center, always thought about wanting to start his own business as a personal trainer.
In the past, he has offered a few paid training sessions as a side gig, and has even done some for free. But as far as opening a business, he didn’t know where to start.
After attending one financial seminar hosted by WWBIC and held at the Hospitality Center — a nonprofit resource center for those in need located at 614 Main St., Downtown Racine — Signal’s wheels have begun to turn.
“My first paycheck, I was able to save it using some of the tools they gave us,” Signal said. “Financial stability, saving more, owning my own business — these are the things I see in my future that I’d like to do.”
Socioeconomic barriers, like race/ethnicity and access to financial education, have kept many adults from being financially literate. The barrier can also be just as simple as a parent not passing down financial knowledge.
For example, Wisconsin only began adopting academic standards for financial literacy and incorporating instruction into the curriculum in grades K-12 in 2017, with Act 94.
There is also a racial gap in financial literacy. According to Investopedia, in a series of six questions asked meant to assess basic financial literacy, whites and Asians were able to answer over half of those questions correctly while Latinx and Blacks answered less than half correctly. Less access to wealth and education and higher unemployment rates contribute to that gap.
To help bridge that gap, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) — a nonprofit organization providing business and financial education and mentoring to small business owners — partnered with the center and began hosting the seminars in 2019. Topics covered include budgeting, managing credit, banking and entrepreneurship.
The seminars, which are free for the center’s patrons, halted due to the pandemic but returned in mid-August for the first time with a classroom of 14. The plan is to host the seminars monthly, and patrons can attend as many sessions as they want.
Heather Lux, senior project director for WWBIC, said she has seen people become “uplifted” as a result of taking the seminars.
“I’ve seen that impact of when people have free resources that they can access, they can create jobs and income for themselves to help themselves be financially empowered,” Lux said.
The Rev. Seth Raymond, executive director of the Hospitality Center, said the seminars are a big help for patrons who are often working with limited or no income. Not everyone who visits the center is homeless, but many are struggling with their income.
“They learn couponing, financial planning, strategies for utilizing their income in a beneficial way,” Raymond said.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the City of Racine has a 21% rate of persons in poverty as of 2019.
Carl Fields, director of community engagement, said the center wanted to bring WWBIC and its seminars to its patrons because of the world it can open up.
“Financial literacy can provide a seismic shift in terms of quality of life,” Fields said.
Signal has only attended one seminar so far, but he said the information has helped him think about how he can make his passion profitable and how he can share it with others.
Of his interest in personal training, Signal said: “From being overweight, to almost dying, I just wanted to live a healthier life.”
WWBIC seminars are just one of the financial literacy opportunities available in Racine.
Last December, the city announced its Financial Empowerment Center, offering financial counseling and coaching for families with low to moderate incomes as a municipal service. The Hospitality Center also works with the FEC.