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‘THRIVE’ competition to support immigrant entrepreneurs

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, Garfield Foundation, and the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College on Friday, Jan. 11 announced the second annual Competition To Help Reach Immigrant Ventures and Entrepreneurs (THRIVE).

Competition THRIVE seeks to generate proposals for programs to assist immigrant entrepreneurs in starting, operating, and expanding their businesses in New York City. Community groups, businesses, and other organizations from the public and private sectors submit proposals for programs that address challenges faced by immigrant entrepreneurs, which commonly include access to credit, financial management, language barriers, and access to business networks. Proposals are reviewed by a panel of judges comprised of business and non-profit leaders, representatives from New York City government and academics. The panel will select five finalists to receive $25,000 of seed funding to pilot their program for six months. After the six month pilot, the judges select the winning program based on scalability and sustainability. The winning program receives $100,000 to further implement their program.

The first year of the competition was such a success that the Maytree Foundation’s Cities of Migration initiative has recognized Competition THRIVE as part of an international showcase of excellence and innovation in urban integration practice. Due to its success last year, the competition has been renewed for a second year. While the first year of the Competition was primarily focused on soliciting ideas from Community Based Organizations, in the second year, NYCEDC intends to broaden the applicant base by conducting significant outreach to organizations including banks, industry groups, chambers of commerce, foreign diplomatic organizations, tech companies, and private sector organizations and businesses.

“New York City has long gained strength from its immigrant population, and the purpose of Competition THRIVE is to ensure the City’s immigrant entrepreneurs will continue to contribute to our economic growth,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “Thanks to the success of last year’s competition, we have redoubled our efforts and expanded the competition for a second year. I look forward this year’s program and the opportunity to solicit new and innovative ideas from the private sector that will support the next generation of immigrant entrepreneurs in New York City.”

“The first round of Competition THRIVE demonstrated that investing in our City’s immigrant entrepreneurs and small business owners is a smart way to fuel economic growth and create more jobs for all New Yorkers,” said Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Fatima Shama. “Immigrant-owned enterprises make up nearly half of all small businesses in New York City, and they are a fundamental component of our City’s prosperity and competitiveness. Round two of Competition THRIVE will provide an exciting opportunity to build on this initiative’s proven success and enhance the offerings available to the newest New Yorkers as they pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship.”

“The Queens Economic Development Corporation was honored to be the first group awarded $100,000 for Competition Thrive in 2012,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “With these funds we have expanded out Home Improvement Contractor Training program, which has helped over 125 contractors, prepare, take and pass the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Home Contractor Licensing Examination. As licensed businesses they can take on larger projects, hire more employees and expand their companies. In essence, they are now part of the mainstream business community and are adding value, expertise and improving the economy of our city.

“Deutsche Bank looks forward to continuing our partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to foster innovative ideas that support immigrant businesses,” said Gary Hattem, president of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation. “The format of the program has proven to be a successful tool in helping to strengthen and diversify New York City’s economy.”

“Immigrant businesses play a critical role in many cities across the country, but despite their importance, providing effective services to this important sector has been challenging,” said Orson Watson, director of Community Revitalization Programs at the Garfield Foundation. “Because of its history and the diversity of its immigrant population, the Garfield Foundation believes that New York City is an ideal place to seek out and test innovative supports for immigrant business sectors that can be replicated in other parts of the country.”

“After last year’s success, the Field Center is thrilled to continue working on Competition THRIVE,” said Monica Dean, administrative director of the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship “As an institution that prides itself in attracting a diverse population, including a great number of first generation students, we are excited to participate in a project that fosters immigrant entrepreneurship.”

New York City’s immigrant population has more than doubled since 1970, from roughly 1.4 million to 3 million, and immigrants now represent nearly 40 percent of the City’s population and 43 percent of the City’s labor force. Immigrants are a significant and important piece of the City’s entrepreneurial economy: immigrants make up 49 percent of all self-employed workers in the City compared to 25 percent in New York State and only 12 percent in the U.S.

Despite their large numbers, immigrant businesses face serious challenges. While immigrant populations have a strong record of opening businesses here in New York City, a greater proportion of immigrant business owners shut down operations within 12 months compared to their non-immigrant peers. Factors such as limited capacity to plan for long term growth, lack of trust in government programs, fragmentation of resources, immigration status, and language constraints often serve as additional barriers to growth for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Competition THRIVE was launched in 2011 after a year of round-table discussions with community members that made it clear New York City needed to do more to assist immigrant entrepreneurs. In the first year of the Competition, The Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) won the grand prize of $100,000 to expand their pilot foreign language contractor training program, which provided assistance to immigrant home improvement contractors preparing to take the Department of Consumer Affairs licensing test in their native language. The Business Outreach Center (BOC) Network was named the THRIVE runner-up, and received an additional $25,000 matching grant from the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation and $25,000 from Capital One for their program to increase immigrant entrepreneurs’ access to financing. The BOC Network utilized Competition THRIVE pilot funds to create an online business resource and lending platform using mobile devices, which made the resources and expertise of the BOC Network instantly available to immigrant entrepreneurs in their own neighborhoods. The three other finalist organizations, ACCION USA, Make the Road NY (MRNY), and Washington Heights and Inwood Development Corporation (WHIDC), each received $25,000 in seed funding for their pilot programs.

All organizations with ideas for facilitating entrepreneurial business and better serving the immigrant community are encouraged to enter a proposal. Organizations will be able to submit their proposals to the competition between Feb. 1 and March 7, 2013. There will be an information session for potential applicants on Feb. 7, 2013.Organizations and potential applicants can learn more about Competition THRIVE and download proposal guidelines at www.nycedc.com/THRIVE. For further information about Competition THRIVE contact Lendynette Pacheco-Jorge at immigrantcompetition@baruch.cuny.edu or 646-312-4799.

Competition THRIVE was one of three new initiatives announced in March 2011 by Mayor Bloomberg to support immigrant-owned businesses. The other two initiatives, also being implemented this year, include a new series of free NYC Business Solution courses in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Russian; and a business expo to showcase locally-based manufacturing businesses and link them to customers nationwide.

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