Common Wealth Congratulates Sarah Hole!

Andy Miller Announcements, Business Incubators, Events, Uncategorized, Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood Leave a Comment

It is our honor and privilege to announce that Sarah Hole will be leaving Common Wealth Development, effective July 31, to enjoy her retirement. Over the past 22 years, Sarah has been instrumental in Common Wealth’s success as well as being an integral piece of Madison’s economy as the Facilities Director for Common Wealth’s two business incubators, Madison Enterprise Center and Main Street Industries.

Prior to her arrival at Common Wealth, Sarah earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from Earlham College and a MBA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Sarah joined the Common Wealth family on September 1, 1995, and has been an ambit of growth and development for our economic development efforts ever since. Through Sarah’s stewardship and support, the Common Wealth incubators have supported the growth of over 100 businesses including the 28 current incubator tenants (since their inception Common Wealth incubators have served 137 total businesses). Some of the successful incubator graduates include: ShopBop, Virent Energy Systems, Filament Games, Etes-Vous Pret, Artful Home, Broadjam, Full Spectrum Solar, Applied Tech Solutions and Just Coffee.

In 2007 Sarah worked with MG&E Facility Director on coordinating MEC building renovations that included insulating all exterior walls, installing new energy efficient windows and installing new high efficiency HVAC units. In 2010, she successfully applied for a Business Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP) application for $100,000 ($50,000 grant and $50,000 no interest loan) for energy improvements at Main Street Industries. BEEP provided funding for the installation of a 10kW solar electric system, replacement of 22 aging HVAC units with high efficiency units and upgrading of common area lighting.

Currently, Sarah is at the helm of a $1.5M rehabilitation of Main Street Industries, setting the incubator up for continued success for the years to come. There is no doubt that the overall success and upkeep of the Common Wealth business incubators are largely due to her dedication and commitment to the building and the economic development efforts of Common Wealth.

Madison is fortunate to have people such as Sarah Hole counted amongst its citizenry, whose dedication and commitment to the mission of Common Wealth has served to establish economic opportunities that will benefit the community for many years to come.

Please join us in congratulating Sarah on October 25 from 5:00 pm – 7:00pm at Old Sugar Distillery.

Common Wealth welcomes Tiffany Vanphravong to the Youth Programs team!

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Common Wealth is excited to welcome Tiffany Vanphravong to the Youth Programs team! Tiffany is a native Madisonian who was born and raised on the East side. When she graduated from East High School in 2010 as a P.E.O.P.L.E. Scholar, she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tiffany focused her education on Human Development and Family Studies and graduated in 2016. After graduation, she worked with both Madison Schools & Community Recreation (MSCR) and the Urban League of Greater Madison before coming to Common Wealth this month. At MSCR, Tiffany ensured that day-to-day after school programs ran smoothly at O’Keeffe Middle School, and even created and led a baking club for students. With the Urban League, she trained volunteers, tutored, and monitored the effectiveness of other volunteers.

As a Youth Employment Specialist, Tiffany will be running the Youth-Business Mentoring Program sessions at Memorial and Sun Prairie High Schools, while also mentoring teens and connecting them with supporting job opportunities in the community. Tiffany shares that she’s “excited to work with an awesome team of people and make a difference in a kid’s life.”

To learn more about our Youth Programs and meet Tiffany and other Common Wealth employees, you are invited to attend the Commonalities Event on Wednesday, May 17th. Register online to reserve your spot!

An Art Show by Women Artists comes to the Common Wealth Gallery

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On May 19-24, from 12 noon to 6PM, there will be a show by women artists on display in the Common Wealth Gallery. Additionally, an opening reception will be held from 6:00-9:00PM on May 19th.  The Common Wealth Gallery is a community art gallery located in the historic Madison Enterprise Center at 100 S. Baldwin Street on Madison’s near east-side. Learn more about our gallery at



Commonalities Event Series – Night Two: Youth Programs Focus

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Common Wealth Youth Programs has positively affected youth in the Greater Madison area since 1991. By providing employment training and job placements for program participants, Common Wealth has helped over 8,500 youth develop valuable employment skills, connect to employment opportunities, and benefit from quality mentoring relationships.

To learn about Common Wealth’s Youth Programs, join us at Old Sugar Distillery from 5:00-7:00PM on Wednesday, May 17, for the second night in our Commonalities Event Series. At this free event you’ll get to learn about Common Wealth’s youth programs while mingling with Common Wealth staff, board members, and other great folks. There will be free food by Underground Food Collective and a cash bar including a signature cocktail (with $2 from each drink going to Common Wealth) by Old Sugar Distillery. Space is limited, so please register for the event by May 12th.

Register at

Common Wealth continues our mission in 2017 with longstanding and innovative programming initiatives. Our flagship program, the Youth-Business Mentoring Program, is an intensive 3-week job training program that serves 151 youth every year. From each public Madison and Sun Prairie High School, student participants are recruited to voluntarily participate in employment skill and financial literacy development. Program participants are then matched with a local business partner for seasonal or long-term employment. Mentorship plays a key role throughout our programming is it allows for constant communication, problem solving, and job coaching all while contributing to soft skill development.

Common Wealth also provides an opportunity for local youth to develop their pre-employment skills and financial literacy through our Employment and Financial Education Workshops. We partner with various schools and community groups every year to help over 100 youth in middle and high school build the skills they need to be successful in the workplace.

The Wanda Fullmore Youth Internship Program is Common Wealth’s latest programming effort. Partnering with the City of Madison and the Mayor’s Office, in two years, Common Wealth has provided over 80 students with paid internships in various City of Madison departments. On pace to add another 50 student participants in the summer of 2017, Common Wealth continues to help underserved city residents gain exposure to local government and build connections to their community while providing a platform for student success.

Through these programs, Common Wealth uses employment and financial literacy as vehicles to teach teens life skills and to give them the opportunities and the power to change their lives. Our program participants develop self-esteem, leadership and conflict resolution skills, and interpersonal competence. In 2017, we will help over 300 youth develop and apply employment and money management skills, explore careers and higher education, and have access to employment opportunities, earned income, and supportive relationships with adult mentors.

Again, we hope you’ll join us at Old Sugar Distillery from 5:00-7:00PM on Wednesday, May 17, to learn more about our exciting work with area youth. Space is limited, so please register for the event by May 12th. Register at


Common Wealth Board of Directors Congratulates Marianne Morton

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Many in the community are asking about a party for Marianne Morton in honor of her retirement from Common Wealth. It was the Board’s and staff’s fervent wish to celebrate her legacy with a community-wide event to mark her commitment to the work of Common Wealth and to note the major milestones Common Wealth has achieved since she started in 1981. However, Marianne prefers to not be in the limelight and instead speak with people individually. We look forward to marking her legacy when we welcome our new Executive Director in an event that will look both at our history and forward toward our vision for the future.

If you wish to reach out to Marianne or make a donation in her honor:

Email congratulations to Marianne Morton (

Make a tax-deductible donation to Common Wealth in honor of Marianne’s legacy.

During the many years of Marianne Morton’s participation and leadership, Common Wealth has accomplished many remarkable things.  Among the many highlights of the last 35 years are:

  • The development of Yahara River View Apartments, a public/private partnership that created 60 new units of affordable housing adding to our already robust housing offerings in the increasingly gentrified Williamson-Marquette neighborhood.
  • The partnership with Madison Gas & Electric on Madison Enterprise Center, an office and light industrial business incubator that serves start-up and expanding small businesses.
  • The purchase and remediation of the old Greyhound bus terminal and its redevelopment into Main Street Industries, a thriving business incubator in the heart of what has become Madison’s entrepreneurial/tech corridor.
  • The expansion of our Youth-Business Mentoring Program to all Madison high schools and Sun Prairie.
  • Innovative work in the Meadowood neighborhood, providing decent, affordable housing, and job development services, partnering with Joining Forces for Families and Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ.

The Board of Directors extends its profound gratitude to Marianne for her many years of unwavering commitment to Common Wealth and its work for social justice, decent housing, job creation and youth development.  We are humbled, challenged and inspired by the legacy she leaves behind and will continue to live up to the high bar she set for integrity, courage and innovation in our pursuit of social equity for all.


Connor Sabatino, on behalf of the Board of Directors of Common Wealth

Common Wealth Announces Justice Castañeda as its next Executive Director

Andy Miller Announcements 4 Comments




Friday, January 13, 2017

Madison—Common Wealth is excited to announce that Justice Castañeda will be its next Executive Director.  Justice brings a blend of qualifications, experience, and a life story that embodies Commons Wealth’s goals.

Growing up in the City of Madison with a volatile childhood, Justice personally encountered many social justice organizations in our community.  Upon graduation from Madison’s East High School, Justice enlisted in the Marine Corps where he served two four-year terms before an honorable discharge as Staff Sergeant.  Returning to Madison a veteran, but without a college degree, between terms Justice experienced several barriers in our community including a difficult job placement environment.  Determined to overcome the obstacles in his way, Justice enrolled in college after his honorable discharge.

Justice holds a Master’s degree in Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from Stanford University, a Master’s degree in City Planning with a concentration on Housing, Community and Economic Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California – San Diego.

In his professional career, Justice has served in multiple roles in government, non-profit, and educational settings, and has held several leadership and management roles in organizations and initiatives in cities and communities throughout the United States.  His work has explored the intersections of housing policy, economic development and children and family health, looking at the role these intersections play in creating connected thriving communities. Justice’s professional experience has encompassed a host of issues including equitable community and economic development practices, land use planning, innovation in affordable housing development, business development, and curriculum construction in youth and adult learning settings.

Justice’s breadth of experience aligns with the breadth of programming by Common Wealth.  Founded in 1979, Common Wealth is uniquely diverse in its mission to build a connected community for all in Dane County through affordable housing, youth and adult job support and training, business incubation and engagement.  Common Wealth’s programming includes affordable housing for people with limited incomes, employment and financial education for low-income and at-risk youth, operating the Madison Enterprise Center business incubator, and Common Wealth owns and operates the Main Street Industries business incubator.

With over a decade of professional experience, Justice is excited to bring his talents home to Madison and start a new chapter in life by leading a new chapter for Common Wealth.  The social justice initiatives of Madison non-profits buoyed a difficult childhood for Justice.  He is now humbled and grateful for the opportunity to give back to our community through his leadership as Common Wealth’s new Executive Director.

Justice takes over for longtime Common Wealth Executive Director Marianne Morton, who is retiring after over 35 years with the organization.  Justice has already begun transitioning into the new role, will begin full time with Common Wealth later this month, and will take over as Executive Director effective February 1, 2017.

Contact: Connor A. Sabatino, Board President, Common Wealth, 608-258-4283

The Cargo Bike Shop opens retail spot on Willy Street

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Common Wealth Development welcomes a new business to 1404 Williamson St.

Tim Staton has his garage back and Williamson Street has gained a new niche retailer aimed at families looking for an alternative way to cart around their young children, groceries and other packages.

Think of The Cargo Bike Shop as a dealership for two-wheeled, eco-friendly versions of the minivan.

For the past two years, Staton has been selling cargo bikes through word of mouth and online…click here to continue reading at

Bike-focused coffee shop opens on Willy St.

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A new small business is opening up on Willy St. in one of Common Wealth’s buildings.

By Samara Kalk Derby — Wisconsin State Journal

A bike-centered coffee shop opened Saturday next to Batch Bakehouse on Williamson Street.

Dan Coppola opened Cafe Domestique, decorated with bicycles, at 1408 Williamson St. The Cargo Bike Shop is getting ready to open next door, specializing in cargo, family, utility and electric-assist bikes. 

The cafe is using coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters and sweet and savory bakery from next door…click here to continue reading at


photo by Cafe Domestique


Diana, Madison West High School

Youth Programs alumni testimonial: Diana’s story

Liz Machesney Youth Programs 1 Comment

Diana’s story is one that impeccably captures the goal of Common Wealth’s Youth-Business Mentoring Program (YBMP). Now a junior at Madison West High School, Diana completed YBMP during the first semester of her sophomore year; she was hired at TJ Maxx within a month of successfully completing the training and has now worked there for over a year. While she started the 3-week training a little quiet and timid, she immediately demonstrated maturity and an eagerness to learn and work. From a facilitator’s perspective, it has been beautiful and humbling to watch her eagerness and maturity increase and to see the timid side of her fade away as her first part-time job shone light on the confidence we always knew she had.

In her own words, Diana shared that her experience going through YBMP was “pretty cool” and “made [her] grow for sure.” The fact that we “assured a job at the end” was what initially motivated her to apply for our program, and she particularly enjoyed learning new job skills and meeting new people. Some topics covered during the 3-week training aspect of Common Wealth’s YBMP include applications, motivation to work, interviews, on-the-job skills, and financial literacy. When students successfully complete the training, they are paired with one of the co-facilitators as a mentor. Through regular communication with the students and employers, Common Wealth supports our students as they navigate the first four months of their part-time job.  Diana describes the mentoring aspect of YBMP as giving her a “sense of security, knowing [she] could rely on [us],” and felt as though we offered more than just job advice.

Considering how mature and respectful Diana was from the get-go, it was no surprise that she was extremely successful at TJ Maxx. From the professional side, she gained independence in her ability to manage her time and money, and her demonstrated commitment led her to be considered as the “go-to girl” when a shift needed to be covered. In fact, she budgets her money well enough to pay for her own food, cell phone, and braces, while also managing to save some for emergencies and big expenses.

A unique aspect of Diana’s success story is her Mexican-American identity; she was born in Madison, but also spent time living in California and in Mexico, where most of her family lives.  Now appreciating the strength and skills she learned from moving and experiencing two unique cultures, Diana did and does face struggles; in Mexico, her American accent made other students pick on her, while in America she feels torn between maintaining ties to her Mexican roots and also wanting to blend with groups who are more diverse.  She shared that at times she feels frustrated trying to balance the two cultures, but overall she appreciates the growth that resulted, and she is thankful for how close she has remained with her family.  Diana’s ability to budget and save her money provides a sense of relief, as she focuses on saving enough money to visit family in Mexico a couple times each year.

Diana’s unique cultural experience, paired with the skills and development from working have made her start “to think about what [she] really wants.” After high school, she plans to move out of state for college to “start a new chapter.” She is considering locations like Michigan, Washington DC, Seattle and Manhattan, and hopes to pursue a career in the medical field or with children. Through methodically saving money and managing her schedule, Diana has learned that she really enjoys planning things, which lead her to take charge in coordinating an event for a school club. She said that despite the stress of that experience, she “enjoyed being behind all the coordination.”

Considering the strength Diana has gained in her personal and professional life, we at Common Wealth have no doubt that she will meet extreme success in her future. Students and stories like hers continuously motivate us to do what we do. We are tremendously thankful for the opportunity to work with Diana and all of our students. If you know of students ages 14-16 who are looking for an experience like Diana’s, please view our website to learn more about YBMP:, or contact me at 608.256.3527 x21 or

Rachel Darken

Rachel Darken, 2016 M List with Madison Magazine

Andy Miller Uncategorized 1 Comment

Rachel Darken, Common Wealth’s Youth Programs Director, is one of 32 mentors and teachers who made the 2016 M List with Madison Magazine.

“I’m honored to be included in this group of people dedicated to improving the lives of youth in our community,” said Rachel. “Being a part of this year’s M List isn’t just about one person, though – this honor should also extend to all of the employees on Common Wealth’s Youth Programs team (past and present), our dedicated volunteers, the businesses who employ the youth in our programs, and everyone who has been a part of supporting this vital work.”

According to her M List article: Rachel is motivated by the “privilege of being able to witness and support” the growth and success of the students she mentors. She says she recently received a card from a former client who was promoted to a manager and is starting college. “It’s incredible to walk in every day knowing you’re helping people prepare for their future,” Rachel says.

Rachel began her work at Common Wealth in 2012 as a Youth Employment Specialist, and was promoted to Youth Programs Director in 2014. She manages a team of five, including two AmeriCorps PASS members, who serve 235 students per year by providing financial literacy training, mock interview practice, and employment placement. To learn more about how to volunteer with Youth Programs, email Rachel. To become a supporter of Youth Programs, click here to donate online or by check.

Madison Magazine’s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its fourth year, the M List recognizes those making strides as mentors and teachers.