Beyond the Struggle: Brooklyn Library Finds a Way to Finance Small Business Owners

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Omar ForresterOmar Forrester, 26, of Gotham City Motorsports, a high-performance automotive parts and accessories store in Brooklyn, won one of the top three prizes at the Eighth Annual PowerUP! Competition on January 10, 2012. “I’m still waiting to receive the cash prize of $5,000. I am thankful for the opportunity and look forward to opening up the shop!” Forrester says.

Brooklyn Public Library has found a way to help support new business owners. The PowerUP! Small Business Plan Competition Program provides essential resources and funding to support business owners. Brooklyn residents are eligible to win funds to start a new business. Three of the top business proposals that won were affiliated with the Women’s Brooklyn Enterprise Center (WBEC), a division of the Local Development Corporation of East New York (LDCENY).

“During the competition, participants get to attend coaching workshops and seminars, conduct research at Brooklyn Public Library’s Business Library, and get tips from business counselors to write a business plan,” explains Forrester.

In addition, finalists have the opportunity to compete for a grand total prize of $15,000 and an additional $5,000 in business assistance services, which will help the winners turn their dreams into a reality. There were also two second-place prizes of $5,000, three Merit Awards worth $750 each and an honorable mention worth $500 awarded to other finalists. The event was sponsored by the Citi Foundation.

“After one of the training programs at Brooklyn Library, I was approached by one of the reps from LDCENY/WBEC who offered to help me fine tune my business plan. At this point, I was participating in the competition for the third consecutive time and felt I would be more prepared with their help,” says Forrester.

WBEC has taken part in every competition and every year it has at least one finalist. In 2006, they also had three top winners.

“I’m so grateful for the support and assistance of the WBEC,” says one of the grand prizewinners, Rebecca Parker. Parker and Elizabeth Bishop, co-founders of Brooklyn Open Acupuncture, a low-cost, community clinic, were the top prize winners, receiving the $15,000 cash prize.

According to WBEC director Elisa Balabram, “Omar Forrester attended the WBEC 15-hour Power Up Your Business Plan Summer Series co-taught by Santos Morales and me. He also worked closely with Santos to develop his business plan.” She continues, “WBEC provides rigorous one-on-one business credit building and financial literacy counseling, workshops, money management and business development training to aspire entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

LDCENY is a community economic development organization funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the NYS Empire State Development Corporation, and the New York Women’s Foundation RISE-NYC! Initiative.

“This competition takes place every year. Sometime in March 2012, PowerUp will begin orientation. Hopefully, we can encourage others,” Balabram says.