Mercado on 5th hires new director Season opener planned for May 24, 2024

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Mercado on 5th is gearing up to reopen in May with a renewed sense of mission and a new leader at the helm.

Frances Williams, a Moline native who spent the last 24 years in Denver, Colorado, was hired in January as Mercado’s new Executive Director. She joins the nonprofit organization as it prepares for what will be the eighth season of the popular Friday night outdoor markets on 5th Avenue in downtown Moline.

“We could not have found a better person for Mercado on Fifth at this stage,” said Maria Ontiveros, who co-founded the organization with her late grandfather Bob Ontiveros, founder of Group O. “Not only will Frances add value to our network of small and minority-owned businesses, she has already demonstrated incredible leadership for our team in her first few weeks.”

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Williams’ work experience includes 3.5 years with Mi Casa Resource Center, one of the largest and oldest Latino-serving organizations in the state of Colorado where she led the only Women’s Business Center in Colorado for the SBA. While at Mi Casa, and serving as Senior Director of Pathways, she managed a team of 25+ employees responsible for direct service of career/workforce development and small business/entrepreneurship support. She was a key member of a transition team brought in to take in-person training virtual and then to a new hybrid model amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My passion is to assist other entrepreneurs in launching their own formalized businesses that can not only build wealth and prosperity for themselves but also future generations. Coming back to the Quad Cities and being able to continue that mission through Mercado is a blessing,” Williams said.

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Prior to Mi Casa, Frances launched three of her own businesses as well as dedicated nearly 20 years of her career in service to the protection and preservation of multi-generational wealth and business for future generations. Of Colombian descent and fluent in Spanish, Frances spent four years prior to COVID expanding her financial planning services to families in the majority of Latin American countries. Her love, pride and passion for culture fueled Frances to find ways to support her Latino community at home and abroad.

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“Becoming a new steward to the mission of Mercado is something I am quite excited and honored to continue,” Williams shared. “Having places where the minority entrepreneurs can get education, support and celebration of who they are and where they are in their journey is key to economic growth and prosperity. Mercado’s place and influence in Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa will continue to grow.”

Since Mercado was launched in 2016, the organization has been building an equitable local economy by supporting small-scale entrepreneurship. Working with its community partners, including Black Hawk College and the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, the organization has helped to start over 60 new businesses, most of which are minority-owned.

“I look forward to continuing to professionalize the organization with systems and processes that will help not only our internal team but also external shareholders and partners like our valued vendors,” Williams said.

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Williams is a graduate of Seton Catholic School, Alleman High School and studied International Business, Finance and Business Administration at Northern Illinois University, Black Hawk College and Saint Mary’s College. Frances is an avid global traveler and enjoys a variety of outdoor activities. She is very family oriented and loves being in the company of her many Midwestern cousins. Due to the sudden loss of her father, Williams transitioned back to the Quad Cities in late 2023.

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