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NYC launches three new mentorship programs to support women, minority-owned small businesses


Moses Kuwema 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Jonnel Doris announced on Thursday, three new mentorship programs, ‘Small Business Mentors NYC,’ ‘BE NYC Mentors,’ and ‘M/WBE Mentors,’ which will provide industry experts as guides for current and aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to start and grow a business in a post-COVID era. 

These programs are expected to serve 1,500 businesses in 2021. SBS’ first mentorship program, WE Connect Mentors, has engaged women mentors to work with over 1,700 women entrepreneurs since 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every small business in our city – but our Black entrepreneurs and Minority and Women-Owned Businesses have been hit especially hard,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“These businesses will be the beating heart of our economic recovery, and New York City is committed to giving them the guidance and advice they need to succeed in this pandemic and beyond.”

"Small businesses are vital to the fabric of New York City and serve as the cornerstones of our communities," said J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and Co-Chair of the Racial Inclusion and Equity Taskforce.

“Our economic recovery depends on the ability of small business owners to succeed, and the City is helping to ensure we recover with equity by providing critically important mentorship programs to those in underrepresented and hardest-hit communities who need them most.”

“Mentorship, especially from business owners who have faced similar challenges, is a key component of business success,” said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

“Our growing list of mentors come from a range of industries including food, professional services, and financial services, and are ready to guide minority and women owned businesses, entrepreneurs recovering from COVID-19, and emerging entrepreneurs launching the businesses of tomorrow.”

“Networks are a crucial ingredient of small business success, and all too often, entrepreneurs of color lack access to the insider advice they need to get ahead,” said Sideya Sherman, Executive Director of the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion. 

“Through these new mentorship programs, entrepreneurs of color and those in the communities hardest-hit by COVID-19 will have access to industry experts who can offer technical assistance, practical advice, and encouragement as they work to adapt and grow their businesses in the wake of the pandemic.”

“Our landmark survey of over 1,500 Black entrepreneurs showed that less than 40% of respondents had sufficient access to mentors and supporters to help launch and scale a business,” said Ken Ebie, Executive Director of Black Entrepreneurs NYC (BE NYC).

“BE NYC Mentors seeks to solve this problem by connecting talented entrepreneurs with experienced mentors in various industries, positioning them for long-term success.”

Small Business Mentors NYC is a mentorship program for existing storefront business owners in underrepresented communities seeking to grow their businesses.

The program, introduced by the Mayor’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity, will provide these businesses with specialized guidance and professional networks.

The City has worked with 14 entrepreneurs who have successfully pivoted their businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, and who will mentor storefront business owners in New York City. 

BE NYC Mentors is New York City's inaugural business mentorship program for Black entrepreneurs in the pre-startup and early stages of operating their business. 

The program aims to increase the number of new Black-owned businesses in high-growth industries, with a programmatic focus on pre-startup and newly formed businesses. 

The growing list of Black entrepreneurs and industry leaders that will mentor emerging Black entrepreneurs in New York City includes:

M/WBE Mentors is the first peer mentorship program for NYC’s certified Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs). The program will help M/WBEs to further build their professional networks and expand their access to resources and contracting opportunities. 

People hoping to learning more about the mentorship programs can visit nyc.gov/businessmentors.

"Investing, shopping and mentoring other black businesses is imperative for the economic health of all New Yorkers," said Gayle Jennings-O'Byrne, BE NYC Cabinet Member, BE NYC Mentor, and Co-Founder of the WOCstar Fund. "I am honored to do my part as a mentor for the BE NYC program to advance black entrepreneurship in New York City."

“Business mentorship is crucial because in times of uncertainty, knowledge is power. Mentors can help you avoid making mistakes that could cause serious consequences for your business” said Maria Iglesias, owner of Corazon de Mexico Restaurant & Bar.

“Mentorship is important because it’s paying it forward,” said Barbara Armand Kushner, M/WBE Mentor and President of Armand Corporation. 

“If a Minority Owned Business or Woman Owned Business comes to me with a business challenge and I can share some knowledge because I’ve had that problem in the past, I pay it forward by mentoring that business about how to plow through that challenge.  When I do that, then I’ve done my job as a Mentor.”

“I’m excited to see the BE NYC Mentors program paving the way towards a better future for Black businesses in New York City,” said Sekou Kaalund, Head of the Northeast Division for Chase Consumer Bank and BE NYC Cabinet Member. 

“Sharing tools, resources and advice with Black entrepreneurs will help ensure that they are positioning their businesses for success and creating legacies of wealth for future generations.”

“As an entrepreneur, mentorship has played a pivotal role in the success of my business,” said Jeff Lindor, BE NYC Cabinet Member and Founder of The Gentlemen's Factory Inc.

“The launch of BE NYC Mentors is a great addition to the black business ecosystem in the City of New York. It will help strengthen the current entrepreneur community and help usher in the next generation of innovators.”

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