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Encouraging and Supporting Low-Income Entrepreneurship in Manhattan

Event - November 2020

Encouraging and Supporting Low-Income Entrepreneurship in Manhattan

On November 18h, CUF held a virtual policy forum that explored the opportunity to increase the number of low-income entrepreneurs in Manhattan as a way to help those hardest hit by the pandemic to boost incomes and generate wealth.

Tags: boroughs economic opportunity economic growth entrepreneurship small business

“Encouraging & Supporting Low Income Entrepreneurship in Manhattan”
A Center for an Urban Future Virtual Policy Symposium

Replay of the event 


With Manhattan experiencing an official unemployment rate of 11 percent and few new job openings on the horizon, entrepreneurship and self-employment could become an increasingly important pathway for low-income New Yorkers to earn income and provide for their families during the long road to economic recovery. But while neighborhoods from Washington Heights and Harlem to the Lower East Side have no shortage of highly creative and entrepreneurial residents, many New Yorkers from lower-income communities don’t see business formation or self-employment as a viable path, even in better economic times—and many who do aspire to start a business are stymied by the numerous obstacles along the way.

The third in CUF's five-borough forum series on encouraging and supporting low-income entrepreneurship, this event explored whether low-income entrepreneurship should be among the strategies city policymakers pursue to help those hardest hit by the pandemic boost incomes and generate wealth. It discussed what’s needed to support first-time entrepreneurs from low-income communities in Manhattan, and examined how to ensure that more of the New Yorkers from low-income backgrounds who do turn to entrepreneurship have the tools and resources to succeed. Our forum shined a light on that opportunity, featuring a panel of Manhattan-based entrepreneurs from lower-income backgrounds in conversation with local and national entrepreneurship experts and city officials. 

Speakers included:

  • Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President
  • Ydanis Rodriguez, Council Member, NYC Council
  • Karen Bornarth, Head of Workforce Development, Hot Bread Kitchen
  • Shanna Castillo, Director, Office of Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
  • Jennifer DaSilva, Executive Director, Start Small Think Big
  • Ralph Jardine, U.S. Head of Inclusion & Culture, HSBC Bank USA
  • Gina Ramcharan, Program Director, The Lillian Project, Harlem Business Alliance
  • Kaaryn Marie Nailor Simmons, Director, Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center
  • Diane Tinsley, Founder, Kids Dance Revolution 

A video of the full discussion is available here.

This symposium is made possible through generous support from HSBC. We are also grateful for general support from The Clark Foundation and the Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, and ongoing support from a number of other philanthropic funders.