These Young Business Owners are Closing the Mentorship Gap in Red Hook, Brooklyn


1 in 3 young people will grow up without a mentor in the United States, but that gap is closing in Red Hook, Brooklyn, because of a group of young entrepreneurs with a social mission.

This summer 17 young people took our youth entrepreneurship program, Start an Empire, in partnership with Red Hook Community Justice Center.

Participants shared their personal stories with violence, incarceration, drugs, and deferred dreams, and also expressed that if they had access to more mentors in Red Hook their stories would have taken a more positive direction. 


After studying the problem more closely, they decided to do something about it, and launched, INTRO, a youth based business dedicated to highlighting and recruiting local mentors in Red Hook. 

In just 6 weeks, the young business owners, received business training, created a business plan, designed a product, and executed a local interactive popup shop, showcasing the mission of their brand to their community. 


Through their business and popup shop, INTRO: 

1) Highlighted 4 local role models in Red Hook who are currently making a difference in young people's lives. 


2) Recruited over 35 new mentors and connected them to 4 youth organizations in Red Hook, including, Red Hook Community Justice Center, Red Hook InitiativeThe Miccio Center and The Alex House Project.

3) Captured the stories of 10 residents who had role models growing up in Red Hook and how it positively impacted their lives. 

4) Made over $1,600 from selling their first branded t-shirt, and donated a portion of their sales to mentorship programs in Red Hook.   


Unlocking the full potential in every young person in Red Hook is dependent on connecting them to mentors, as studies show that young people with mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, 90% are interested in becoming a mentor and 130% are more likely to hold leadership positions.


Kudos to all 17 founders of INTRO on bringing positive change to Red Hook and beyond!


NYC Artists Are Taking Back Their Independence Through Entrepreneurship

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What would NYC be without performing arts and entertainment professionals? 

Actors, dancers, musicians, makeup artists, stage managers and more provide NYC with character and value. 

Because of the episodic nature of their work, low wages, and the rising cost of living, many artists are finding it increasingly challenging to afford to live in NYC, and as a result, they relocate, leave the industry all together, or find alternative sources of income through sideline jobs.

To ensure that artists have the means and flexibility to continue to do what they love in NYC, Progress Playbook teamed up with The Actors Fund to design The Creative Entrepreneurship Project, a program that trains performing arts and entertainment professionals on how to increase their income and independence through business ownership.

Over the last 3 years we have trained over 100 performing arts professionals in NYC to start and grow their own business.

We recently graduated our 6th cohort of artist entrepreneurs, which included health coaches, teaching artists, photographers, graphic designers, chefs, fashion consultants, e-commerce brands, editors, journalists, and more. 

We celebrate their accomplishments and will continue to provide support to the performing arts community because life without the arts, especially in NYC, would be no life at all. 

Brownsville Youth Changing the Narrative of their Neighborhood through Entrepreneurship


If you google Brownsville, Brooklyn you will find that 9 out of 10 media outlets primarily highlight negative stories about the neighborhood, which perpetuates stereotypes, creates shame and unworthiness for many residents.

To change the narrative, 3 teenagers in Brownsville, Brooklyn took our Start an Empire youth entrepreneurship program in partnership with BCJC, and created their own brand called, The Strive, to highlight the positive stories from the people that live and work in the neighborhood.

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Over 3 months, Noel, Iyani, and Jahceti learned about entrepreneurship, community development, cooperative economics and were tasked with doing something to help solve the problem they identified.


The founders of The Strive designed their own t-shirt under their brand with the Brownsville slogan, “Never Ran Never Will”, created a local pop-up shop experience in Brownsville and asked their customers to share a positive experience that they had in the neighborhood.

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Here are some of the stories that we heard:

  • “My growth, development and love for community was birthed in Brownsville”

  • “I raised 3 successful children in Brownsville”

  • “Brownsville’s story of resilience and perseverance inspired hope in me”

  • “Brownsville equals family for me. It’s where I’ve met some of the best people”.

In just a few hours the students in our Start an Empire program brought the community together, created a sense of pride, and made over $1,500.

We are excited to see Brownsville take ownership of its story and inspire change.

Brene Brown said it best, “If you own your story you get to write the ending”.


Win $15,000 to start your business in NYC with SIBL

powerup competition

There are more than 15 business plan competitions that take place in NYC every year, that offer entrepreneurs, startups and business owners sizable cash prizes to fund their business ventures.

One of the upcoming business plan competitions in NYC is the Science Industry and Business (SIBL), Startup! competition. The Startup! competition is for Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island based entrepreneurs who will have the opportunity to win $15,000 to start and grow their business in NYC.  

What is the grant prize?

  • Grand prize: $15,000

What are the qualifications for the grant?

  • You must live in Manhattan, Bronx or Staten Island

  • You must be 18 years or older

  • Attend a New York Startup! Orientation to learn more about the program

  • Meet with a business advisor

  • Attend at least 3 out of 4 business classes offered through the program  

  • Submit a business plan

When is the deadline?

Create an account and submit an entry form on the NY StartUp! 2019 site on the FluidReview by Thursday, January 31, 2019

Submit your business plan by no later than 12:00am, May 30, 2019.

How do I apply?

You can learn more about the program and apply here

On average less than 100 people actually submit a business plan for this competition in a city with over 8 million people. The odds are in your favor.

Remember you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take, so enter for your chance to $15,000 to finally start your business.

Guard and protect your vision at all cost


As entrepreneurs we all have gifts, talents and abilities that we were given to design the business, life and world that we love. It is our duty to protect our gift from distractions, negative thoughts, discouragement, haters and everything else standing in the way of our vision.

Protect your gift by connecting with your support group of mentors and encouragers. Protect your gift by taking time to encourage and take care of yourself. Protect your gift by refining your skills. Protect your gift by staying focused and never giving up. By all means, protect your gift.

The City of NY is giving grants up to $90,000 to help NYC businesses thrive

Love your local

The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) is awarding 20 small businesses up to $90,000 grants to help them thrive in New York City (NYC) through the second round of their Love your Local program.    

“We’re dedicated to helping longstanding businesses navigate an ever-changing city because we recognize the valuable role of local businesses in our neighborhoods,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services.

What are the grant prizes?

  • An in-depth assessment of your business

  • One-on-one business consultations

  • Grant of up to $90,000 to implement recommendations from experts

What are the qualifications for the grant?

To be considered for a Love Your Local Small Business Grant, applicants must, at least, meet the following criteria:

  • Must operate a commercial business

  • Must not be in violation of any applicable federal, state, or local law, rule or regulation

  • Food businesses subject to inspection by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene must have an A or B letter grade

  • Must have been operating in the City for a minimum of three (3) years prior to the date of the application

  • Must not operate a franchise, except franchises that the Small Business Administration has determined to be small businesses may be eligible

  • Must rent current location of operation from an entity or individual that is not affiliated with the applicant

  • Must not owe any federal, state or city taxes and must not be delinquent in payments owed to resolve judgement or liens

  • All required licenses or permits relating to the business must be current

  • Must document that it has experienced at least a 5% increase in costs directly related to operating in rented commercial space within the prior 10 years. Documentation may include, but need not be limited to: lease(s), utility bills, property tax bills, or cancelled checks, which reflect increased rental costs, an increased burden relating to payment of property taxes, or increased utility costs at its current location

When is the deadline?

The deadline to apply has been extended to February 3rd, 2019

How will SBS decide who wins the grant prizes?

You can learn more about how SBS will decide the winners here

How do I apply?

You can learn more about the Love Your Local program and apply for the grant here

Do whatever it takes to win


Some entrepreneurs play small, while others play to look good and never achieve their goals. Those that play to win, are committed to the process and are willing to do whatever it takes to design the business, life and world that they love.

Everyday and sometimes every second of the day you must reaffirm your commitment to your vision because without it you will surely fail. Commit today!

Cricket Wireless launches a $25K Business Grant for NYC entrepreneurs


Cricket Wireless announced the launch of its business grant competition for NYC entrepreneurs and small business owners in celebration of Black History Month. Three entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to win one of three cash prizes from $5,000 to $25,000.

“With the launch of our Cricket Cares Capital Grant contest, we hope to help three entrepreneurs grow their business and alleviate some of the challenges they face when applying for funding.” said George Cleveland, vice president of channel operations, Cricket Wireless.

What are the grant prizes?

  • 1st Place: $25,000, Free Nokia 3.1 Plus smartphone with 1 year of Cricket Wireless Unlimited service

  • 2nd Place: $10,000, Free Nokia 3.1 Plus smartphone with six months of Cricket Wireless Unlimited service

  • 3rd Place: $5,000, Free Nokia 3.1 Plus smartphone with three months of Cricket Wireless Unlimited service

What are the qualifications for the grant?

The contest is open to residents of Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Memphis, Miami, New York, St. Louis and Washington, DC.

When is the deadline?

Online submissions are being accepted now through Feb. 8, 2019 at 11:59 pm. 3 Finalists will be announced in mid-February.

How will Cricket Wireless decide who wins the grant prizes?

Upon completing the grant application, the judges of the competition will choose 3 finalist based on:

  • Entrant’s current demonstrated commitment to improving his/her community through his/her business;  

  • Entrant’s clarity and creativity in sharing his/her business story; and  

  • Entrant’s answer regarding his/her plan to use the prize if selected as a winner.

The judges will then select 3 finalist and with the help of Cricket Wireless must create a video about their business and how they will use the grant money. The 3 winners will be judged based on:

  • Finalist’s social media engagement efforts related to his/her video;  

  • Finalist’s Video performance;  

  • Finalist’s current demonstrated commitment to improving his/her community; through his/her business;  

  • Finalist’s clarity and creativity in sharing his/her business story; and  

  • Finalist’s answer regarding his/her plan to use the prize if selected as a winner

How do I apply?

You can learn more about the program and complete their online application here