A local organization is helping minority-owned businesses with a 12 week course, which teaches the ins-and-outs of entrepreneurship.
Beginning on March 22, the Mangrove Community Business Academy (CBA) will serve as an incubator and accelerator, offering BIPOC business owners the basic tools and training needed for long-term success.
According to a CBA spokesperson, the program teaches members the fundamentals — bookkeeping, marketing, financing, budgeting, and more.
The academy, located in Flatbush Central at 2123 Caton Ave., offers weekly classes, along with independent homework sessions.
For participating businesses in the food and beverage space, the academy gives members access to their shared kitchen, which features seven shared workstations for both hot and cold production.
Other members can take advantage of their Design Studio Workshop, with a video and audio recording studio.
Ashley Marrero, a CBA alum, stumbled across the program as she was looking for a shared kitchen to work out of. With the help of the academy’s courses, she now co-owns Kente Cones — a handmade ice cream pop-up store with her business partner.
“It’s just been like the best decision ever. I went in initially not having any executive summary written, no pitch ready to go, nothing really — just an idea and our ice cream,” Marrero told Brooklyn Paper. “The program really helped us focus on what our goals are and how to be sustainable and just really reconsider the path that we’re going and make sure that we’re on the right path.”
The pair of first generation entrepreneurs launched their small business in May 2022 after completing the course, and now look towards expansion in their first year of operation.
“I definitely think that they helped us get to where we need to be. They are a big part of Kente Cones and just really hitting the ground running especially as a new business, a small business as well,” she said. “Honestly, without them I don’t think we would be where we are. At least not to the level we are at yet.”
Marrero and her ice cream-making partner operate as a pop-up shop currently, going to different festivals and private events. In the next phase of business they plan to have a storefront of their own in Brooklyn.
“Phase two, we’re hoping to be a brick and mortar and it’ll be a speakeasy vibe. The front will be an ice cream shop and the back of the venue will be a lounge vibe,” Marrero said.
In addition to the kitchen and the content creation studio, participants and the academy will get access to online supply chain and business networks, a digital resource library, and various technical programs.
The Mangrove also highlights Caribbean and diasporic cuisine through a dinner and cooking series, featuring different members of the Flatbush Central Marketplace community as they prepare a meal from their home country.
“Each meal brings together Flatbush locals to eat and share stories about their own personal food culture and family history, with plans for the series to be archived as a cookbook,” according to Mangrove spokesperson.
Marrero, who is now a member of the shared kitchen where she was once being taught how to negotiate with vendors and evaluate a cash flow chart, now encourages any Brooklyn business owner who wants to expand to sign up for the program.
“I strongly encourage anyone, no matter what stage in the business planning or idea that you’re in, to sign up,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s been great and the support there has been great.”
According to Abdullah Elias, interim director of Mangrove Flatbush Central, the organization continues to support CBA cohorts even after they graduate .
“Seeing business owners like Ashley graduate from the CBA and become part of our community of entrepreneurs brings us so much joy. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for Kente Cones and are committed to manifesting opportunities and collaborating to support their continued growth at Flatbush Central and beyond,” Elias said in a statement. “The upcoming iteration of the Mangrove Community Business Academy gives us the chance to continue nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit and empowering businesses like Kente Cones to thrive.”
Orientation for the next CBA session begins on March 22, and will meet every Wednesday until June 14 from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. For more information, visit the academy’s website.
Update (Mar. 22, 3:51 p.m.): This story has been updated to include comment from Abdullah Elias, interim director of Mangrove Flatbush Central.