Jazmynn Appleton: An Inspirational Leader Who Found Her Voice to Empower Black Entrepreneurs


Laura Paisley Beck

Laura Paisley Beck

Freelance Content Creator

We change-makers move mountains, so when Sabrina Madison, aka Heymiss Progress, told me to write an empowering story, I set up the interview immediately. Standing tall next to her proud mentor, Jazmynn Appleton emulated confidence, enthusiasm, and success. She’s currently the Manager for Entrepreneurial Opportunities at the The Progress Center for Black Women (PCFBW), and her superpower is uplifting women who otherwise don’t have a voice. Little did we know that she used to be the quiet one.

Thriving Out Loud

Jazmynn showed up to the interview excited, open, and with an easy connection energy, like we were cousins who spent every holiday together. It’s no doubt Jazmynn’s strong relationship skills and incredible resiliency earned her a recent:

She’s only 27-years-old. 

“I practice showing appreciation, even for where I am right now in life. So I speak out loud. And I’m very big on not talking negatively to myself, even in my mind, because I feel like that plays such a big part in the outcome of what happens in your life,” said Jazmynn with a grateful grin on her face. 

It’s working.

Sabrina Madison and Jazmynn Appleton pose together at an event in The Progress Center for Black Women in Madison, Wisconsin.

Against All Odds

Speaking out loud was not Jazmynn’s forte in her early years. She grew up as a quiet, studious child in an apartment building her parents managed in South Madison. Afraid to get into the slightest trouble, she kept herself active. When she wasn’t helping her family clean rooms she participated in athletic programs, like basketball, soccer, and karate. By 9th grade she had an internship at CUNA Mutual Association.

“So I had a pretty good work ethic and job experience from a young age.”

Her responsibilities changed dramatically when she turned 18.

“I was literally eight months pregnant with my son at my high school graduation.”

Let’s put this in perspective. When Jazmynn was 18-years-old, she was a single black woman raising a child on her own. The odds are and will always be stacked against her. Racial and gender disparities exist and persist in nearly all socioeconomic indicators, including income, education, and health.

Jazmynn Appleton speaks at the Fem-preneur panel with five other women business leaders in Forward Fest 2024 in Madison, WI.

She found her voice.

When going to college and working various retail jobs didn’t work out for her, she doubled-down on work experience. Starting at age 19, Jazmynn quickly moved up the ladder at St. Mary’s Credit Union, constantly building her skills and connections through every training workshop and conference she could attend. In just a couple years she became a supervisor and a financial counselor. She found her voice.

“That’s when my public speaking started. I started doing financial literacy presentations out in the community for YWCA Wisconsin Women’s Network and lunch-and-learns at the hospital.” 

One of the most influential conferences she attended was the Black Women’s Leadership Conference in 2019 through the Upstart program with Katie Rice

All the black women in the room! They were so beautiful and happy, and I’ve never been around that because any other job that I’ve had, I’ve always been the only person of color. So to see that was really amazing.”

She found her purpose.

That is where she met Sabrina Madison, whom she reached out to when she lost her job due to the pandemic. Sabrina knew that Jazmynn had experience starting a cleaning business and running side hustles, including selling out of candles at a Juneteenth celebration. In 2021, she created a part-time position for Jazmynn called Creator of Entrepreneurship Opportunities at PCFBW. After only six months, Sabrina promoted Jazmynn to the full time position, Manager of Entrepreneurship Opportunities. She found her purpose.

In this leadership role, Jazmynn co-created the brilliant business incubator program, F.O.C.U.S., with Sabrina. PCFBW invites black women who are early stage entrepreneurs into the program, providing:

  • personalized guidance, 
  • networking opportunities, 
  • advocacy support,
  • comprehensive training,
  • a supportive Madison business community,
  • valuable start-up tools, equipment, and supplies, 
  • a chance to win prize money for the best business pitch, and
  • access to essential resources often hidden from black women for growth and success. 

PCFBW’s F.O.C.U.S. program infuses Dane County, WI with highly supported, motivated, thriving businesses, owned and run by black women. Graduates of F.O.C.U.S. are getting plugged into the networking scenes with refined communication and referral skills, opening and expanding storefronts, acquiring necessary seed money, and launching new products/services.

Reality DEI

Consider how important this is to our socio-economic health. The more success stories Jazmynn and her colleagues generate out of TPCBW, the more we can erase stigmas and truly realize the value of celebrating diversity, embracing equity, and practicing inclusion. This is how we end generational poverty.

“I’ve always envisioned myself, even as a young girl, as this bossed up, happy, peaceful woman who just lives her purpose. I definitely want to give back to single mothers because I am a young single mom. I definitely want to give back to people who have battled cancer because my mom has battled cancer.”

Jazmynn leads with her heart. Her purpose is to help other black women find the resources and confidence to earn their own purpose-driven success. She believes if you do what you love, you shouldn’t have to follow the money.

Jazmynn Appleton sits on the back steps of a house with her son, who may be her future business partner.

Building Future Generational Wealth

Passion for black women entrepreneurs, and drive to create a future for her son, helps her overcome any obstacles in her path.

“The last five years have been very difficult. My mom was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and then she had a lot of health issues along the way. Just dealing with that, I had severe anxiety to the point where I’ve ended up in the hospital.” 

Now she is learning how to balance self-care and leadership. Jazmynn sees her Future Self as a thriving, multi-talented entrepreneur, maintaining her leadership role at PCFBW because she loves it so much. She’s well on her way. Currently she’s working towards a life coach certification to advance her support to F.O.C.U.S. participants. To feed another passion of hers and create a legacy she hopes her son grows into, she also started her own private chef business, Chef Jaz

Growing in Gratitude

Every morning Jazmynn gives thanks to God and says her affirmations. 

“I tell myself I am abundant and I am prosperous. I am peaceful. I tell myself that every day.”

“My mom was a huge role model for me. Seeing my mom overcome so much throughout my life, she was always a very strong, independent woman. I have so many positive people in my circle right now as far as family, friends, and mentors that I know that I can get there with their help. I have a good support system.”

“Yes. I really applaud myself for sticking through it. And despite everything I’ve had to deal with along the way, I really am proud of myself for working so hard and getting to where I am without a college degree.”

Your Turn

Change-makers move mountains. May Jazmynn’s story inspire and motivate you to lead with your heart. Grow missions to uplift the underserved and underrepresented. Tell yourself out loud that you are abundant and you are prosperous. You are peaceful. Be like Jazmynn – help build a thriving community despite monumental obstacles. Support each other and lead by example. And I dare you to do it as well, or with as much heart, as Jazmynn Appleton.

Follow Jazmynn on LinkedIn and The Progress Center for Black Women for more ways to support the black women in Dane County.

About Laura Paisley Beck

Laura Paisley Beck sharpened her copywriting skills as a serial entrepreneur and corporate trained salesperson for decades. Her sales and business experience + writing skills = copywriting super powers to help uplift businesses and organizations she believes in. She started Wa’am Writes, LLC to finally live out a happy, healthy, comfortable life as a writer. When she is not writing and networking, Laura enjoys long walks with Janis Pup, dancing, cooking, silent sports outdoors, seeking Wow (Woods or Water) and dreaming of digital nomad life in Portugal. Want a colorful, experienced, successful writer for your content? Schedule time with Laura Paisley Beck today!