The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has announced a new initiative to support local women of color as they launch and grow small businesses.
Starting on March 15, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-owned businesses will be able to apply for the BK Entrepreneur Academy, a mentorship program aimed at enhancing equality for entrepreneurs of color in the borough. The first class of BEA mentees will be comprised entirely of BIPOC women.
According to a chamber spokesperson, BIPOC business owners can often face career hurdles like a lack of access to financial or educational resources and mentorship opportunities. The three-month Academy will provide an intensive crash course on business basics, like marketing and basic legal knowledge, and will connect mentees one-on-one with experienced, established business owners.
“Our BIPOC academy accelerator will help Brooklyn’s Black business owners get back on their feet and share in both the City and Brooklyn’s comeback” said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Economic opportunity is critical to breaking down systemic racism.”
BEA is a partnership between the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; the Brooklyn Alliance, a program that provides financing to under-served minority business owners; and the TD Charitable Foundation, the humanitarian branch of TD Bank.
Vanessa Raptopoulos, owner of Awesome Brooklyn, an eclectic gift shop located in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, said the chamber’s resources will benefit the next generation of small shop owners.
“I think the chamber is great. Everything they do is great,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “People just don’t know about enough about the resources they have but I think once people get locked in, it’s very helpful.”
According to Stevenson Joseph, director of the Brooklyn Alliance Capital, the inaugural cohort will help bring economic balance to Brooklyn’s small business scene.
“The efforts of the BIPOC Brooklyn Entrepreneur Academy will help secure equitable economic momentum in Brooklyn among BIPOC business owners, and we are so grateful for the help and support of TD Bank as we set out to provide unbiased economic outcomes among some of our most underserved communities,” Joseph said in a statement.
BEA will wrap up with a pitch competition, where participants will come in front of a panel of experts to propose a potential business or project. The Academy will still provide regular check-ins an assistance for a full year after the end of the program, including an in-depth assessment on each participant’s business and their plans for the future.
Applicants for the new program must meet a list of criteria including living in Brooklyn, having a specific idea for a new business or having launched a business within the last year, and previous work experience. Prospective participants must also have done some initial market research for their desired brand.
Update (Mar. 22, 3:54 p.m.): A previous version of this story attributed Stevenson Joseph as a member of the Brooklyn Alliance Capital. We regret the error.