standard More than $30,000 Awarded to Startups at Brooklyn Public Library

11th Annual PowerUP! Business Plan Competition
Vander Carter, creator of JestGreen, took home the first place prize (Photo by Gregg Richards / BPL)

Vander Carter, creator of JestGreen, took home the first place prize (Photo by Gregg Richards / BPL)

Brooklyn Public Library celebrated the finalists and winners of the 11th annual PowerUP! Business Plan Competition Tuesday evening. The event aims to enhance the borough’s economic development by incubating small businesses and supporting Brooklyn’s creative community. The competition has helped launch more than 50 Brooklyn-based startups in the past 10 years.

“The Brooklyn start-up community regularly showcases its aptitude for innovation and creativity,” said Linda E. Johnson, President & CEO, Brooklyn Public Library. “In our 11th year of hosting PowerUP!, BPL is once again thrilled to provide aspiring business owners with the mentorship and resources to positively impact the borough.”

The 2014 1st place award of $15,000 went to Vander Carter for JestGreen, a new street food vendor featuring locally sourced greenery and juices. Second place awards of $5,000 apiece went to Mina Marsow for Prospect Gymnastics, which offers developmental gymnastics classes for children ages 18 months to 4 years old, and Shaun Jaffier for Droplet, a mobile application that is part audio recorder, part photo gallery, and part social network.

The competition was designed by the Business Library’s Success Council to promote the number of free and accessible services, information, and resources at BPL, while supporting innovative business growth. This year, 519 teams with more than 650 individuals participated and submitted a combined total of 91 business plans, competing for the first place cash prize of $15,000. Funding was provided by the Citi Foundation, a charitable arm of Citigroup.

“Citi’s partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library in supporting this competition for more than ten years is a great example of the Citi Foundation’s commitment to promoting entrepreneurship opportunities worldwide,” said Eileen Auld, Director, New York Tristate Market, Citi Community Development.

A diverse group of contestants comprised this year’s PowerUP! Competition. Participants represent every zip code in Brooklyn. 26% are immigrants or were born in a different country and more than two thirds are women.

“Small businesses create jobs, vibrant neighborhoods, and serve as a path to the middle class, and it’s important that we do all we can to help small businesses in NYC start, operate, and thrive,” said Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

All participants—50% of whom are using BPL for the first time—attended classes at the library focused on creating effective businesses, marketing plans and financial projections, and met with business advisors for free. Since the competition’s inception, more than 3,500 teams have applied to participate, generating more than 790 business ideas. As of this year, 100 participants have received a cash award and more than 60 businesses have been started with the financial support of the competition.

Photos courtesy of Gregg Richards / Brooklyn Public Library: