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NYCEDC announces winner of Third Annual Competition THRIVE to support immigrant entrepreneurs

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New York (Jan. 14, 2015): New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College, in cooperation with the Western Union Foundation and the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, today announced that South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO) has won the third annual Competition To Help Reach Immigrant Ventures and Entrepreneurs (THRIVE). SoBRO, a not-for-profit community organization that has provided adult education, workforce training and financial assistance to businesses and residents in the Bronx since 1972, received a grand prize of $100,000 to further implement and develop the United Business Cooperative, a newly-formed restaurant retailer’s cooperative  representing immigrant restaurant owners who are working together to centralize buying, delivery and business operations to realize cost savings and provide healthier options to Bronx residents and visitors.

“Immigrant entrepreneurs often face difficult and unique hurdles when trying to start and grow their businesses, and with programs like Competition THRIVE and this week’s launch of IDNYC, the City and EDC are demonstrating our commitment to supporting the immigrant communities and business that are vital to a sustainably growing economy," said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball.  "SoBRO has an extremely strong track record of helping immigrant small businesses start, grow and flourish in the Bronx.  Congratulations to them and to all of the finalists, and I look forward to watching them continue to provide economic opportunities and increased potential to all New Yorkers."

Competition THRIVE challenges community groups, businesses and other organizations from the public and private sectors to develop creative proposals that support entrepreneurialism in immigrant communities.  Immigrant entrepreneurs, who comprise approximately 52 percent of all self-employed workers in the City, often face serious challenges to starting, operating and expanding their businesses in New York City. These challenges include access to credit, financial management, language barriers, and access to business networks, and Competition THRIVE provides seed funding to incite solution oriented thinking to these obstacles. A panel of judges comprised of business, non-profit, academic leaders, and representatives from New York City government selected SoBRO from a group of five finalists based on the utility, scalability and sustainability of their proposals.

"Our City is at its best when sister agencies work together," said Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal. "We have been thrilled to work the EDC and Baruch on Competition THRIVE and look forward to supporting SoBRO and other finalists in their work with immigrant entrepreneurs."

"As the daughter of immigrants I personally understand that immigrant entrepreneurship is not only critical to the City's economy and character, but also provides a pathway to the middle class for so many New Yorkers. Through programs like THRIVE and the Immigrant Business Initiative, the City is working together with community-based organizations to address the unique needs of immigrant entrepreneurs as they start and grow their business in New York City," said Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. "Congratulations to SoBRO on winning this year's THRIVE competition, and thank you for the important and innovative work you are doing to help strengthen immigrant entrepreneurs in New York City."

“I found this year’s Competition THRIVE finalists unique and exciting, engaged in innovative projects that focused intensely on collaboration, cooperation, and partnership, said Thomas S. Lyons, Ph.D, Lawrence N. Field Family Chair in Entrepreneurship at Baruch College. Among these collaborative efforts were worker cooperatives, a restaurant-owners’ purchasing cooperative, and small contractor teaming. I think this is reflective of our society’s increasing awareness that the economic and social challenges we face are too big to be addressed by a single entity; they require the efforts of multiple individuals and organizations working together.”

“With seed funding from Competition THRIVE, SoBRO helped 40 Bronx-based immigrant-owned restaurants form a cooperative allowing them to centralize operations to realize cost savings and receive technical assistance to strengthen their businesses,” said SoBRO’s Senior Director of Business Services Jamila Diaz.  “We are excited about the opportunity to continue to work with them to put together a model that can be replicated in other sectors where similar sized and scoped immigrant businesses exist, in New York City, and nationally.”
 
Earlier this year, five Competition THRIVE finalists were each awarded $25,000 of seed funding to pilot their program for six months in communities across the city.  The remaining finalists and their programs were:  
 
Business Outreach Center Network: BOC Network combined training and networking activities to support immigrant-owned construction businesses by creating a cohesive support system that promoted the concept of teaming to immigrant-owned businesses, providing necessary skills and specialized support.
 
National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC): NCRC blended bonding opportunities with technical assistance through the Bond Portal, a unique web application that serves immigrant entrepreneurs by addressing two key components of growing their businesses: access to capital and local business connections.
 
Urban Justice Center/Street Vendor Project: The Street Vendor Academy provided comprehensive training to build food-cart vendors compliance strategy, financial, technological, marketing and customer service skills.
 
The Working World: The Worker Owned Rockaway Cooperatives project launched a six-month fellowship program to strengthen existing cooperatives and support immigrant leadership. Worker cooperatives represent an innovative and creative alternative to more traditional business structures. All members of a cooperatively-run business share the labor, decisions, responsibilities, profits and ownership shares.  
 
New York City’s immigrant population has more than doubled since 1970, from roughly 1.4 million to 3.1 million, and immigrants now represent approximately 37 percent of the City’s population and 44 percent of the City’s labor force. Immigrants have a strong record of opening businesses in New York City, but a greater proportion of immigrant business owners shut down operations within 12 months compared to their non-immigrant peers. Factors such as limited capacity to plan for long term growth, lack of trust in government programs, fragmentation of resources, immigration status, and language constraints often serve as additional barriers to growth for immigrant entrepreneurs.

NYCEDC launched Competition THRIVE to support immigrant-owned businesses, and since its inception, the program has significantly grown, collectively distributing $825,000 to 15 organizations across the five boroughs, reaching more than 700 New Yorkers. The 2013 winner, Brooklyn-based CAMBA, introduced an intensive hands-on program that teaches immigrant small business owners to integrate mobile technology into their daily operations to better manage data, improve efficiency, and boost sales. The 2012 winner, Queens Economic Development Corporation, expanded its foreign language contractor training program, which provides assistance to immigrant home improvement contractors preparing to take the Department of Consumer Affairs licensing test in their native language. Both programs are still underway, and have reached hundreds of immigrant entrepreneurs with the support of the competition.