The two-month long mentoring program was held in conjunction with the YWCA of Brooklyn and the Women’s Business Center of the Business Outreach Center Network (BOC). Six female aspiring entrepreneurs were connected with experienced Atlantic Avenue-based business owners to learn the ropes of starting their own businesses.
The six mentees were selected from an application pool of 25 female entrepreneurs. BID made its selections based on the quality of their applications and business plans.
Mentors were selected from within the Atlantic Avenue BID, which stretches from Fourth Ave. to the Brooklyn waterfront, and ranged from a gourmet grocer to a gift and furniture shop owner.
Over the course of the program, mentees met with their mentors once a week to receive industry-specific advice on issues they had outlined in their applications. The pairs discussed topics such as marketing, merchandising, location selection and customer relations.
Two additional perks of the program are that the mentees will be invited to participate in business workshops and have been granted year-round access to a business counselor.
Luquana McGriff applied for the program through BOC because she was looking to buy a commercial space for her baking company, A Cake Baked in Brooklyn. She was paired with Luca Arrigoni, who owns a pizzeria on Atlantic Avenue called Sottocasa.
“I appreciate Luca so much and I appreciate being a part of the program,” McGriff said. “Every week we spoke about something different, and what I thought was so special was that we didn’t meet at his business, we met at different cafes along downtown Smith Street. He just showed me how different cafes could be.”
Arrigoni said that he benefited from the program, too.
“It helps the mentor, actually helped me, focus on my own business and have more ideas about my business,” Arrigoni said.
“It’s a great idea trying to put together businesses to help each other instead of competing,” he added.
Congresswoman Nydia Velàzquez attended the graduation and applauded the women and the various organizations’ commitment to their success.
“When we have a level playing field for women in this country, we will do better and America will move forward,” she said, noting that, nationally, a woman makes 74 cents for every dollar a man makes. In New York that pay differential decreases slightly to 84 cents to the dollar.
Congresswoman Velàzquez said she is one of seven female members of Congress working with Nancy Pelosi to develop an economic agenda specifically targeted at women. That agenda will first deal with equity pay for women.
Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna echoed this sentiment.
“When a woman succeeds, our communities succeed, because the woman brings everything along with her,” Reyna said. “It’s important that we see the opportunities to be able to make things happen for you. So thank you for creating jobs, thank you for giving back to the local economy, thank you for making our communities better for it.”
“This group of female entrepreneurs really stands out for their drive and passion for their businesses,” said Josef Szende, executive director of the Atlantic Avenue BID. “The BID is thrilled to be able to provide the expertise of its merchants to help prepare the next generation of female entrepreneurs in Brooklyn.”