Each One Teach One 

If you are or have shopped with a small, woman-owned or BIPOC business in Madison you have probably heard of the UJAMAA Business Network. If you are familiar with Peer Support Specialists, you have probably heard of EOTO, LLC (Each One Teach One). Both are the love children of Tara Wilhelmi and are a product of her life experience and desire to be her own boss.

Tara Wilhelmi describes herself as an adopted bi-racial Black girl, raised by two white parents who grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin. Her family moved to Madison when racial tensions began to surface in Burlington as she was entering middle school and her brother was in high school. While in Burlington, her father, a Polish immigrant, was the Chief of police of the township and her mother, English German, was a journalist for a newspaper affiliated with the United Methodist Church in Sun Prairie. Her grandparents owned a print shop and her grandmother commanded respect in a space where men were normally in charge. Wilhelmi credits both the women in her life for planting the seed that women could be bosses.

During her early years in Madison, Tara had experiences that shaped her life in ways that would inform her future work. Madison being a larger city than Burlington, provided opportunities to connect with the Black community and to give and receive support from people who looked like her. This had a profound impact on her choices moving into adulthood and as the mother of five children. Some of those experiences led her to learn more about the Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPSS) program in Wisconsin. 

A Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) is a non-clinical professional who utilizes their personal lived experience to provide support to others and demonstrate that recovery is possible. Tara had already begun her journey into entrepreneurship by collaborating with others to create a community market at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center. In response, she created the UJAMAA Business Network, where small businesses could sign up to sell their products at the community market for a small fee. Eventually UJAMAA grew and would provide pop-up opportunities for vendors to show up across the city. Using her networks, Tara created an umbrella organization called EOTO, LLC (Each One Teach One.) With her newfound skills as a Certified Peer Support Specialist she found a niche by creating events where she could address many of the issues that adults and youth in the community were experiencing, by incorporating mentorship opportunities and connecting the community to mental health and other resources. 

As she was launching EOTO, LLC, she created events for Kwanzaa, using the UJAMAA Business Network as a vehicle to highlight the many principles of Kwanzaa, UJAMAA, which the network is named for, and means: To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. Using that same foundation, she created the Juneteenth Soul Food Brunch, which focuses on Black fathers and combines Juneteenth with Father’s Day to raise the contributions of Black men to the fabric of the community.

Under the EOTO umbrella, she created BYAYA (Black Youth and Young Adults) which hosts events aimed at youth and young adults and features vendors from UJAMAA and adults who are Certified Peer Support Specialists. With BYAYA, Tara partnered with Lesswork Local Lifestyle, founded by Breyon “Oneofmani” Summerville and Akiya Alexander, better known as K.I.L.O, a celebrated local rapper. Tara would eventually train Breyon to become a Certified Peer Support Specialist and using their valuable assets of lived experience and music they collectively created events that would bring music, food, vendors, and peer support to youth and young adults.

It’s important to note that Tara entered Peer Support to be trained, but quickly found her sweet spot. She would ask “Where are the other Black people in Wisconsin who are doing this? How do I get trained to become a trainer?” She says, “I kept picking at that thread with our state peer support program. Over time I have ensured that the people in charge know me and we created a relationship that then turned into my being invited to the next train-the-trainer event and creating a contract with the peer support program. That was the foundation for me to move away from working for other people.”

In July, EOTO, LLC will launch EOTO CPS (Certified Peer Support) and will provide direct peer support services. They will train and employ peer specialists to provide mental health, substance use and trauma recovery support. The BYAYA program will enter a new phase as more Black men have become involved in the work therefore providing the capacity to expand to mentoring other Black men who will lead the Black Men’s Wellness group and support the work of BYAYA, which will also incorporate opportunities for paid youth internships that support local Black owned businesses. 

Always the goal setter, Wilhelmi set a goal to get over her fear of public speaking and partnered with Breyon to create a morning radio show featured on WORT Public Radio Wednesdays at 8am. Together they discuss issues relevant to the Black community, bringing in guests and taking calls from the community.  Looking back at Tara’s journey from Burlington to Madison, a new way to describe her would be “Tara who loves Madison and who is helping to change the complexion of the nonprofit world and creating opportunities for those with lived experience to step in and step up.”