Kat Perez, who runs a production company, plans to use her prize money to hire an assistant, buy additional video equipment and market her company on social media. Photo credit: Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

May 4, 2023

NYCHA Resident Entrepreneurs Awarded Via FJC-Administered Program

New York, NY – NYC Boss Up announces the first nine businesses to win the NYC Boss Up Entrepreneurship Program, which provides $20,000 grants to help entrepreneurs living in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residences to build and grow their businesses. NYC Boss Up is a new philanthropic program committed to creating permanent positive change in New York, administered through a Scholarship & Award Account at FJC.

The nine entrepreneurs were awarded an initial $5,000 grant and an additional $15,000 grant upon completing business development classes. The grants may be used to build and grow the winners’ businesses.

See New York Times coverage of the program launch: How These Budding Entrepreneurs Won $20,000 for Their Start-Ups (May 4, 2023)

“This is how philanthropy is supposed to work: a policy outfit like Center for an Urban Future identifies a need, an imaginative donor like Ron gets inspired, and then FJC helps execute on the vision.”

Sam Marks, CEO of FJC

The nine NYC Boss Up grantees are:

  • Sarah Adams West Indian Foods

Creates Caribbean-style, sugar-free, low-carb, vegan pastries and cakes.

  • Michael Watson Fable Jones Studios

Provides customers with incredible art, highly sought-after merchandise, professional art instructions, and engaging digital content.

  • Michelle CovingtonLiyah Michelle Collections

A luxury hair company that sells wigs and extensions for women that vary in cut and color and aim for diversity.

  • Valeria MartinezConnectoDigital

Creates and prints fully customizable smart digital business cards.

  • Katherine PerezKat D Productions

A New York City-based freelance videographer and video editor specializing in producing, filming, and editing promotional videos for non-profit organizations.

  • Loria and Legacy ClemmonsLegacy’s Flavors LLC

Seeks to bring a health revelation to icy carts in NYC, providing families with healthy options and making lasting memories

  • Tamika WalkerBlac Beuty No9

Creates unique skincare solutions utilizing fruit butter and cold-pressed oils from the Amazon rainforest.

  • Jaquay WilderATB Party Supplies

Provides clients with event décor rental items needed for events such as weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, and more.

  • Herbert WoolDigital Design Trusted Technologies

Offers software and hardware beta testing and quality assurance services.

“I felt like I finally had the foundations for my business to grow, but I didn’t have the capital or the resources,” said Ms. Perez, 25, who lives with her mother in the Bronx. With the prize money, Ms. Perez plans to hire an assistant, buy additional video equipment and market her company on social media, she said.

From the New York Times article, How These Budding Entrepreneurs Won $20,000 for Their Start-Ups (May, 4, 2023)

The winners were selected from a pool of 279 applicants. Boss Up applicants submitted proposals about their businesses and plans for growth to a Boss Up Panel for evaluation. The panel selected the strongest submissions using a standardized rubric to guarantee fairness and consistency in the selection process. The seven-member selection committee, formed in consultation with FJC, includes:

  • Ayanna Oliver-TaylorManaging Director, L+M Development Partners
  • Kitty Chan –  Chief of Staff, New York City Small Business Services
  • Eli Dvorkin –  Editorial and Policy Director, Center for an Urban Future
  • Maud AndrewFormer Director, Brooklyn Public Library Business and Career Center
  • Diana Perez –  Vice President for Home Based Childcare Services, WHEDco
  • Lourdes ZapataPresident and CEO, SoBro
  • Lisa TalmaVice President for Philanthropic Initiatives, Deutsche Bank Community Development Finance Group

Focusing on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) entrepreneurs, the program seeks to foster positive and enduring change in the region and help individuals and families build generational wealth. The program is open to New Yorkers living in NYCHA residents and individuals who receive Section 8 vouchers through NYCHA.

“I was inspired to hear a range of great ideas from applicants — and not only our winners. I hope this public-private-nonprofit partnership can grow, but also serve as a model for similar programs in other cities.”

Ron Moelis, Donor

The technical training components of the program are provided by Brooklyn Public Library Business and Career Center, Centro, and Bocnet. These organizations offer various courses, including business resources through the library’s Business and Management program, financial modeling, building business credit, a business plan boot camp, and one-on-one coaching sessions. The training took place between March 23 and April 13, paving the way for the future success of NYCHA entrepreneurs.

The NYC Boss Up entrepreneurship competition was founded by the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation. The Foundation, which is providing $1 million toward the program, is heavily focused on supporting social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and this initiative falls squarely in line with that mission. FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds administered the program through a specialized Donor Advised Fund account that enables awards to individuals that are consistent with U.S. charitability regulations.

The NYC Boss Up initiative was inspired by a report from the Center for an Urban Future, “New York’s Untapped Entrepreneurship Opportunity,” which identified a remarkable 472 percent jump in the number of NYHCA residents reporting business income – 286 residents in 2012 to 1,636 in January 2021. Yet, despite that growth, the report showed that just 1 percent of NYCHA residents reported business income in 2021, suggesting enormous growth opportunities remain.

Ron Moelis, Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation: “Even if you have a great idea, getting a successful business off the ground is incredibly challenging, and this program is designed to provide some of our city’s budding entrepreneurs with a boost by helping them financially and strategically. I was inspired to hear a range of great ideas from applicants — and not only our winners. I hope this public-private-nonprofit partnership can grow, but also serve as a model for similar programs in other cities. I am excited to watch our winners pursue their business plans and encourage many more residents to apply to the program for its next round. Thanks to the New York City Housing Authority, the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York City Small Business Administration and FJC for their collaboration and dedication to making this idea a reality.”

Sam Marks, Chief Executive Officer of FJC: “This is how philanthropy is supposed to work: a policy outfit like Center for an Urban Future identifies a need, an imaginative donor like Ron gets inspired, and then FJC helps execute on the vision. We love to bring together funders and partners from the private sector, nonprofits, and government to improve people’s lives in a meaningful way.”

NYCHA Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt: “NYCHA is thrilled to be a part of NYC Boss Up, a business proposal competition for public housing and Section 8 residents who are working hard to grow their small businesses,” said NYCHA Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt. “We are grateful to the Moelis Family Foundation, as this initiative represents our collective commitment to connecting residents to opportunities in financial empowerment, business development, career advancement, and educational programs.”

Brooklyn Public Library CEO Linda E. Johnson: “Connecting entrepreneurs living in NYCHA to training, networking opportunities, and funding not only strengthens small businesses — it strengthens Brooklyn’s communities. Programs like Boss Up and PowerUP! provide a national model for meaningful social and economic empowerment on the hyper-local level.”

Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of the Center for an Urban Future: “There is an entrepreneurial streak running through every NYCHA building. The Boss Up competition is a fantastic way to unleash that entrepreneurial spirit and help a lot more NYCHA residents become business owners. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone living in NYCHA, for some starting a business is a great opportunity to boost incomes and build wealth.”

About the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation

Ron Moelis started the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation with the aim of helping to encourage social mobility. Ron is the Co-Founder and Chairman of L+M Development Partners, a unique firm that goes beyond just building by collaborating with community partners to create neighborhoods that take into account the unique needs and lifestyles of the people living in them and actively look to enrich residents’ lives through the use of private and public spaces. L+M Development Partners has successfully partnered with NYCHA on development projects. Ron Moelis also founded the New York State Association for Affordable Housing and serves as Co-Chair of the Board of Building Skills NY and as a trustee of Montefiore Hospital and the Tenement Museum. His passion for entrepreneurship led him to sponsor the Wharton School’s MBA Impact Investing Network Training (MIINT) Competition. As a judge on the competition’s panel, he seeks to support impact investing students to inspire future business students to embody socially responsible business practices. NYC Boss Up is a natural extension of Ron’s life’s work and allows the Foundation to support even more under-represented adults in realizing their entrepreneurial potential.

About FJC

FJC –A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds (FJC) is a boutique public charity that offers a diverse menu of philanthropic services to a range of stakeholders. With over $380 million under management, its over 1,000 accounts include Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), fiscal sponsorships, collective giving accounts, and many other philanthropic vehicles. FJC acts as an intermediary between the financial services sector and the nonprofit sector, enabling nonprofit organizations and their supporters to focus on their missions rather than be burdened with the details of operations and compliance.

About the Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library is among the borough’s most democratic civic institutions, serving patrons in every neighborhood and from every walk of life. Established in 1896, BPL is one of the nation’s largest public library systems and has more than 850,000 active cardholders. With a branch library within a half-mile of the majority of Brooklyn’s 2.7 million residents, BPL is a recognized leader in cultural offerings, literacy, out-of-school-time services, workforce development programs, and digital literacy. In a borough of wide economic disparity, where the costs of basic necessities often take priority over spending on cultural enrichment opportunities, BPL provides a democratic space where patrons of all economic standings can avail themselves and their children of cultural and educational programs in a broad range of disciplines.