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Second annual grant competition awards 3

Winners: From left, Cindy Similien-Johnson, Lawrence Lovell, and Paul Celicourt and Richard Sam, stand with their prize money at the second annual PowerUp! Kreyol Business Competition on Sept. 26.
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Haitian entrepreneurs received some considerable funds for their start-ups at the second annual PowerUp! Kreyol Business Plan competition in Prospect Heights on Sept. 26.

The annual competition, which started in 2015, awards three prospective and up-and-coming business owners with funding to pursue their dreams for their start-ups. One of the winning nominees said losing in last year’s competition made her work harder on her ideas to win this time around.

“I was one of participants last year and I’m glad I decided to participate again,” said Cindy Similien-Johnson, founder of Goal Chic and second place prize winner.

“Never ever give up. I decided this time around to hone in on my idea, and work on it day and night. I believe in my dream and I knew I had to work on it,” she added.

The PowerUp! Business Kreyol Plan competition is organized in conjunction with the Brooklyn Public Library and the New York City Department of Small Business Services. The competition invites prospective candidates to take a series of classes on marketing, finance and business counseling, for their respective businesses. Eight judges from the community decide on six finalists to award the first place winner with $5,000, the second with $3,000, and the third place winner with $2,000.

With New York City having the second largest Haitian population in the country, Brooklyn Public Library centered on creating a contest specific to the Haitian community, according to Winnie Siclait, PowerUp! Kreyol community liaison at Brooklyn Public Library.

The competition provides funding opportunities for the underserved community and allows Haitian entrepreneurs to find pathways into business. The competition’s first place winner said winning was a payoff of his hard work, and said centralizing the event for Haitians will encourage more participation.

“It feels amazing — one of the biggest things for me is just the excitement I have from knowing how much time I put into it,” said Lawrence Lovell, a mental health therapist.

“I want to see more programs like this and I’d love to see more funding like this,” he said. “It’s very apparent that when you create funding opportunities like this, those in the Haitian community are going to stand up and participate. We’re willing to do the work. We just need the opportunity.”

Lovell won $5,000 to fund Breakthrough Solutions, a mental health service he is creating that will be based in East Flatbush. He praised the work of the community and wants to see more done.

“It is very important that they’re doing this. It is a very big deal and it allows us to take ideas we may have in a raw form and be able to sculpt and polish it, and make something that is formal and appropriate and presentable,” said Lovell. “They gave me a chance to really polish my idea and put it together in a more comprehensive way. I’m glad that Breakthrough Solutions really just gives us a chance to pour back into the community — that’s what it’s all about.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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