New $25M beauty manufacturing and innovation hub for Black- and women-owned businesses coming to Brooklyn Navy Yard

Mayor Eric Adams, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic, and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer, and Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation President and CEO Lindsay Greene and AYO Labs founder Francilia Wilkins Rahim.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is set to be home to a new $25 million state-of-the-art manufacturing, incubator, and accelerator facility focused on helping Black- and women-owned health and beauty businesses launch and grow in New York City.

Mayor Eric Adams officially announced the upcoming opening of AYO Labs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at a Thursday press conference, which he says will put money back in the pockets of Black and Brown entrepreneurs, especially women of color.

Once phase one of the project is completed next year, it will deliver a 26,000-square-foot, $12 million manufacturing ecosystem to support over 100 entrepreneurs annually as they develop and scale their companies. Phase two is expected to be completed by 2026 and will expand the facility to bring an additional 14,000 square-feet of manufacturing space online.

R.F. Wilkins Consultants was selected to develop and operate AYO Labs, which is expected to create over 900 direct and indirect jobs in the first five years of operation.

“Our administration believes we have a critical role in helping small businesses turn their big dreams into a reality. Today, I am proud that R.F. Wilkins Consultants, a Black woman-owned-and-run firm, is seeing their dream come to life,” said Mayor Adams. “While the beauty and wellness industry continues to boom by serving Black and Brown people, that wealth has not come back to those same communities. With this announcement, New York City is taking a stand, putting money back in the pockets of Black and Brown entrepreneurs, especially women of color.”

Francilia Wilkins Rahim, founder and CEO, R.F. Wilkins Consultants and AYO Labs.Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Francilia Wilkins Rahim, founder and CEO, R.F. Wilkins Consultants and AYO Labs said the space will help businesses streamline and scale their products while serving as a state-of-the-art contract manufacturing and innovation hub for nationwide brands of all sizes.

“Small businesses are the lifeline of New York City,” said Rahim. “We all know someone mixing shea butter, beard cream, lip gloss, and a plethora of other products in their home. This project is a groundbreaking step towards supporting the BIPOC entrepreneurial ecosystem — an ecosystem that, in turn, nourishes and empowers all New Yorkers.”

During the March 7 press conference, Rahim stressed that while a lot of funds for the project have been raised so far, phase two is still on the table: “I do not want this to be another check in the box. We are not there yet, we are not finished, we need your support.” 

“If you are an investor in this room, talk to your banks, talk to your equity partners. We want you to participate in creating economic access and opportunities for diverse businesses throughout New York. Be a part of this moment, be a part of this economic hub, be a part of this change,” she added. 

According to AYO Labs, the facility will support product formulation, small and large batch manufacturing, and packaging services for small businesses. It will also provide programming for early-stage entrepreneurs and access to tech-driven back-office support, instructors, hands-on training, technical assistance, mentorship, networking opportunities, as well as access to capital.

On top of that, the space will also serve as a manufacturing hub to some of the nation’s largest wellness brands in an effort to strengthen New York City’s position as a leader in the $450 billion health and beauty industry — only 2.5 percent of that revenue can be linked to Black-founded or -owned beauty companies, according to a 2022 McKinsey report. 

“Expanding opportunities for Black- and women-owned businesses to succeed is critical for our communities and local economy,” New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said Thursday. “The new AYO Labs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard will support local entrepreneurs seeking to make their mark in the growing wellness and beauty industry.”

Meanwhile, local Council Member Lincoln Restler took to X, formerly Twitter, to criticize he and Council Member Crystal Hudson’s exclusion from Thursday’s announcement, calling it “quite a governing strategy” given Adams was flanked by Queens Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, among other elected officials. 

“Crystal Hudson & I worked with the Speaker to invest $3.5M in this project 2 years ago,” Restler posted. “Brooklyn Navy Yard is in my district and across the street from her – yet he refuses to include us on the very projects we champion that serve our communities.”

Representatives for Adams did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Restler’s claims.