The nine winners of the NYC Boss Up Veteran Entrepreneurship Program were announced at a ceremony at Gracie Mansion yesterday by James Hendon, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS), who was joined on stage by NYC Mayor Eric Adams.
The program is administered through a Scholarship & Award Account at FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, with funding by the Ron and Kerry Moelis Foundation, in partnership with DVS and the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS). The application process yielded dozens of applicants, and finalists participated in a juried pitch competition. Each winning small business owner will receive a $20,000 grant, and enrollment in SBS’s small business mentorship program to help build and grow their businesses.
NYC Boss Up is a philanthropic program committed to encouraging excellence in entrepreneurship across New York City, and this program follows the successful NYC Boss Up Entrepreneurship Program partnership with the New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) that provides $1 million in grants over five years to budding entrepreneurs living in NYCHA residences.
The winners of the veterans competition are:
- Analiza Quiroz Wolf – Women of Color Rise
Women of Color Riseis a mission-based organization with the goal of elevating diverse leaders—especially women of color –to positions of power. CEO Analiza Quiroz Wolf served in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of Captain. Analiza intends to use her grant as startup money to expand her organization’s reach.
- Ron Holloway – Woofbowl
Woofbowl was started as a food truck for neighborhood dogs and has since expanded to work alongside other institutions ranging from the MLB to the Brooklyn Museum in a shared mission of building community. Owner Ron Holloway is an American disabled-Veteran who served in the U.S. Navy from December 2001 through June 2010. Ron plans to use his grant to take Woofbowl nationwide with a new subscription system.
- Nick & Joelle Lynch – Tree ARMY Co.
Tree ARMY Co.is a Bronx-based tree removal, tree-pruning, planting, and tree-emergency response business that hires transitioning veterans and dependents. Owners Nick and Joelle Lynch both served in the U.S. Army. Nick and Joelle will be investing their grant money in new specialty machinery and equipment that will allow them to hire more Veterans with disabilities.
- Dan Rossi – AJM Business Service, Inc.
AJM Business Service, Inc. is a food vending service once described by the New York Times as “the New York Hot Dog King.” Owner Dan Rossi is a service-disabled Veteran of two tours of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps. Dan will use his grant to build a new cart with all-new “Hot Dog King” branding.
- Marlin Yinet Santos – Mariachi Mexican Cantina
Mariachi Mexican Cantina is California-style Mexican restaurant on Staten Island. Owner Marlin Yinet Santos served in the U.S. Army, including a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. Marlin will use her grant money to purchase a conference bike that will allow her to bring customers directly to her business from the Staten Island Ferry while also giving historical tours of Staten Island’ North Shore.
- Sergio Rodriguera, Jr. – Straylight Systems
Straylight Systemsis an artificial intelligence company that helps commercial and government entities operationalize data by analyzing thousands of disparate information streams across various file types. Co-Founder Sergio Rodriguera, Jr., served in the U.S Navy as a Naval Intelligence Officer. Sergio will use his grant as seed money to foster additional growth and service more customers.
- Vance Gorman, Jr. – Vanso Visual Imaging
Vanso Visual Imagingis portrait photography studio and design service. Owner Vance Gorman, Jr., served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Vance is planning to use his grant to scale up his studio and expand.
- Tsikata Apenyo – indeHealth provides a comprehensive healthcare management platform that functions as an intermediary between students and university campuses. Owner Tsiktata Apenyo served as a Fulbright Fellow in China, and as a Medical Corps officer in the U.S. Army. Tsikata will use his grant to scale up his business operations after recently securing a contract with Yale.
- Serghio Adams – Brothers Building Blocks
Brothers Building Blocksis a cohort-based educational enrichment program designed to empower youth and promote interest in STEM career paths. Founder Serghio Adams served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Seoul, South Korea. Serghio plans to use his grant to expand his business’ after school curriculum and reach more mostly BIPOC students in LMI communities.
“FJC is thrilled to be helping expand the groundbreaking NYC Boss Up program to provide philanthropic awards to these dynamic veteran entrepreneurs,” said Sam Marks, Chief Executive Officer of FJC. “Programs like NYC Boss Up epitomize the best of philanthropy in bridging the gap between imaginative donors and powerful community partnerships. By bringing together government agencies, nonprofits, and private philanthropy around a common goal we are delivering vital new support to New York City’s veterans.”