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Brooklyn Public Library's PowerUP! Business Plan Competition

Brooklyn Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Maud Andrew, Manager, Programs and Outreach, m.andrew@brooklynpubliclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Supporting economic development is the mission of BPL’s Business Library, but residents of Brooklyn were not fully aware of the special library’s services. The Business Library needed a highly marketable and visible program to help promote its excellent services.

Innovation

The PowerUP! Business Plan Competition educates and rewards up-and-coming entrepreneurs hoping to launch a business in Brooklyn. Conceived by BPL’s Business Library Success Council (local businesses and community based organizations that support BPL's mission), it was designed to be an incentive to help local residents pursue their dream of owning a business while providing them with resources at the Library that can impact their real-life needs. The top nine businesses receive cash prizes through a grant from Citi Foundation ranging from $500 to $15,000. Mandatory classes on business plan basics, marketing, financial statements, and presentation skills help the contestants research, write and present their plans. Entrants must have a library card and use Library resources. They are also required to meet with a business counselor to refine their business idea and planning. Representatives from an array of community economic development organizations, many of which are members of the Success Council, serve as competition judges, instructors and business assistance counselors.

Progress

PowerUP! enhances the vitality of the local business community in a number of ways. From its inception to the latest competition in 2009, 25 businesses have already opened, while others are in startup phase. Of the top prize winners, over two thirds are in business. As small businesses in the U.S. are 99% of all employer firms, these establishments will generate new jobs. The winners represent the diversity of Brooklyn; they include minority-owned business such as Bogota Latin Bistro which employs over 40 individuals. The competition has also increased the business skills and acumen of hundreds of business novices. Since 2003 applications for 1594 different businesses have been submitted with over 2000 individuals participating in the competition. A large majority of participants are women and either a racial or ethnic minority, and more than a quarter were born outside the U.S. 349 plans (22% of total applications) were submitted over the six years of the Competition. PowerUP! has distributed over $160,000 in prize money to help 55 residents start a business in Brooklyn.