June 18, 2024

One of the terrariums created by TerrartNYC, a landscaping company dedicated to making self-sustaining terrariums. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library’s 18th annual PowerUP! Business Plan Competition awarded $40,000 to aspiring entrepreneurs at a virtual pitch competition and awards ceremony Wednesday night hosted by Joe Connolly, business anchor for WCBS NewsRadio 880. 

Dime Community Bank presented the $20,000 grand prize to Charly Uzcatequi, Timothy Chu and Henger Ydrogo for TerrartNYC, a landscaping company dedicated to making self-sustaining terrariums in New York City.

A judging panel of business owners, nonprofit leaders and academics selected TerrartNYC from a field of over 350 entries, most of whom had no previous business experience. 

“PowerUP! celebrates Brooklyn’s long legacy of creative and determined entrepreneurship,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “Our business and career librarians and partners at Dime Bank ensure that the next generation of local business owners have the skills and funding they need to pursue their dreams and strengthen their communities.”

Danielle Chéry of DMC Original Art, winner of the contest’s “audience favorite” award, with some of her creations. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

A second-place prize of $10,000 was awarded to Jeffrey Jacque, the founder of CeeBak, a new safety device that helps prevent bike, board and scooter accidents. A third place prize of $5,000 was awarded to Lali Honey Wine founded by Samra Ghermay, Naz Habtezgh, Selam Negatu and Aden Fisseha.

Five participants were recognized with merit awards and $1,000 of seed money. The merit winners pitched their ideas to the live audience on Zoom who voted for their favorite. The winner was Danielle Chéry for DMC Original Art. Chéry got an additional $1,000 for winning the audience favorite award.

The other merit winners were: Temika Walker for B4 UR SKN, a vegan, plant-based skincare brand; Alice Forbes Spear and Jenny Kim-Jacobson for Open Care Acupuncture, providing low-cost acupuncture and herbal medicine to all New Yorkers via a sliding scale; Lerone Savage for Soon Forward, an e-commerce shipping platform for local exporters transporting goods to the Caribbean; and Daniel Sheehan and Matthew Sloan for AutoCEQR, a software platform automating the generation of standard analyses, data, and maps required by the New York City Environmental Quality Review for environmental planning consulting firms and land use attorneys.

“Dime is once again proud and honored to be the leading sponsor for the Brooklyn Public Library’s PowerUP! Program this year. As the lead sponsor, we enjoy participating in the program and watching the new entrepreneurs here in Brooklyn looking to make their big break. This program highlights the spirit of Brooklyn and our great state. And, as a keystone of the community and financial partner to all sizes of businesses here in Brooklyn for over 100 years, we are excited to watch this next wave of entrepreneurs take flight and create success that others can follow,” said Kevin O’Connor, CEO of Dime Community Bank. 

Jeffrey Jacque of CeeBaK, wearing his safety devices designed to prevent bike, scooter and skateboard accidents. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

PowerUP! first began in 2003, to provide businesses a helping hand after 9/11. Since then, the PowerUP! contest has provided $440,000 to nearly 200 entrepreneurs across the borough. Many successful Brooklyn businesses launched with help from PowerUP! including Bogota Latin Bistro, Island Pops, Green in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Tea, Tinsel Experiential Design, DogSpot and Greenlight Bookstore. 

All participants attended classes on subjects like marketing, business finance and the utilization of library resources. They also received one-on-one business plan assistance from successful entrepreneurs and business experts. 

BPL’s Business & Career Center is supported by Dime Community Bank, lead funder of the PowerUP! Business Plan Competition, Dr. Beverly S. Jacobs, Ridgewood Savings Bank, Con Edison, Reference Solutions, Elizabeth Crowell & Robert Wilson and Signature Bank.

$40,000 awarded to Brooklyn entrepreneurs by BPL’s business plan competition