The Brooklyn Public Library launched its annual PowerUP! competition this week, offering Brooklyn’s aspiring entrepreneurs free courses in business and the chance to win a grand prize of $20,000 in seed money.
PowerUP! began in 2003 to provide businesses a helping hand after 9/11. Since then, more than 1,000 business plans have been submitted, and the contest has awarded $450,000 to more than 125 entrepreneurs.
Last year’s winners included Megan Meza, found of Bandida cold-brew coffee; Ephrem Kitoyi for KG’s Bagel Chips, Celeste Weins and her A Plus Party Bus, a converted school bus; Vanessa Dixon and Ashanti White for Sylvia’s Community Kitchen, offering healthy cooking classes for families in East New York; and Andrew Vogel and Jack Rafalsk for Big Bad Evil Gaming, a 3-D printing service that produces high-quality miniature action figures.
Online orientation sessions will be held throughout the month, with entry applications accepted through April 30 at 11:59 p.m. During the summer months, applicants will meet with a business advisor and attend classes in marketing, business planning and finance. Participants will submit final business plans in September, and the winners will be announced in a ceremony and pitch competition on Nov. 19.
PowerUP! reflects the diversity and variety of Brooklyn, with participants coming from every zip code in the borough. Eighty percent of the applicants have never been in business before. More than two-thirds are women, and many are immigrants.
Some of Brooklyn’s best-known small businesses launched with help from PowerUP! including Bogota Latin Bistro, Island Pops (an ice cream shop), Green in Brooklyn (a shop offering eco-friendly goods), Brooklyn Tea, Argyle Yarn Shop, Tinsel Experiential Design (an event planner), DogSpot, Mermaid’s Garden (a seafood market in Prospect Heights) and Greenlight Bookstore.
“Small businesses will revive our city’s economy and its spirit, and Brooklyn Public Library is here to help them succeed,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “With the help of Dime Community Bank, PowerUP! will equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills, mentorship, and seed funding they need to launch businesses that will change their lives and their communities for the better.”
Dime Community Bank is the lead sponsor for the program.–>
“Dime is honored to be a sponsor of the Brooklyn Public Library, and the PowerUP! Program for our fifth year. The program provides a unique opportunity to showcase the next generation of dreamers and entrepreneurs, ready to cast their light on Brooklyn. In a borough where over 85 percent of all businesses are made up of 20 employees or less, we see the tenacity, perseverance, and drive of those small business owners seeking to create something great every day,” said Dime Community Bank CEO Kevin O’Connor.