The Dream Big Foundation Rewards Entrepreneurship in the Inner City

Posted by
Elana Krasner
LivePerson Contributor
Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - 13:45

We all know that start-ups (and the brave entrepreneurs behind them) face infinite risks and challenges.

Entrepreneurs are also essential to the growth and development of our economy.

Now, imagine having a dream for a business but the extra burdens that come with living in an underserved community in a major city as well — with little-to-no access to the immense resources and connections needed to make your plan a reality.

These are a just a few reasons why our CEO, Rob LoCascio (@RobLoCascio), founded the Dream Big Foundation in 2001. Since then, the busy nonprofit has launched an Entrepreneurship Training Program in addition to its long-standing FeedingNYC initiative.  

In one of the foundation’s most recent undertakings, Dream Big opened an entrepreneurial resource and incubation center for the underserved Brownsville community in Brooklyn, New York.

Move over, Silicon Valley!

We believe the best ideas often come from the least-obvious places.

While many are looking to Silicon Valley to discover the next big thing, Dream Big is investing in Brownsville. Living in an at-risk, high-crime neighborhood, budding entrepreneurs often overcome impossible odds to make their dreams happen. And Dream Big is taking strides to spread economic diversity and transform a community for the better.

“By supporting entrepreneurs, we hope to create a cycle of success and give this underserved community a chance for positive change.”

—  Rob LoCascio, LivePerson CEO and Dream Big Foundation founder

 The Dream Big Foundation recognizes Brownsville, Brooklyn, entrepreneurs in its first-ever Idea-to-Prototype Challenge.

To drive engagement in the new center, Dream Big hosted its first-ever Idea-to-Prototype Challenge in partnership with the Neighborhood Start Fund last month. Before the event, 200 local entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for a chance to win funding for their start-ups. The panel of judges, including Rob and Wasalu Jaco (better known as Lupe Fiasco!) among other successful entrepreneurs, selected nine finalists to present live.

Each finalist received $5,000 and will have access to free mentoring from the Dream Big Foundation. The top three winners, Subway Talents, Made in Brownsville, and Checc-Up, have the potential to earn up to $100,000 depending on their business' needs.

Introducing the final three.

After vetting a number of excellent business ideas, the judges selected three pitches with the most potential for long-term success. And, without further ado, here they are!

3rd Place: Subway Talents, by Bens Hilaire, Kirill Valyas, and Alessandro Mannino

In third place, Subway Talents is an app (or website) that lets people search for and book subway and street performers. You can also donate to your favorite artists and performers, who can also use it to jump-start their journey toward becoming a more discoverable talent.

Check it out for yourself! We invite you to follow Subway Talents on Twitter (@subwaytalents) or like the company on Facebook.

2nd Place: Made in Brownsville Media, Inc., by Quardean Lewis-Allen and Willie Minter

Runner-up: Made in Brownsville is a creative services and media agency co-op that fosters creativity in Brownsville’s youth. The agency employs young people with juvenile offenses to design, manufacture, and distribute promotional content, among other creative services.

The bottom line? To ensure Brownsville youth are skilled in the latest technology and have the design chops they need to positively impact their community and lay the foundation for a successful career.

In 2013, Made in Brownsville also won the Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program Residency. You can follow the agency’s journey on Facebook.

1st Place: Checc-Up, by Lennie Carter

And finally, we’re pleased to introduce our first-place winner: Checc-Up.

Checc-Up will be a website focused on education and providing health care-related resources to Brownsville residents. The website will feature free registration for all users, upgrades to service enhancements/features, a portal for user health data and history, a calendar for check-up reminders, and healthy diet suggestions and recipes. It will also offer city health insurance information and resources. Website visitors will be able to connect with social workers and find listings of medical facilities for their health care needs.

Stay tuned for more on Checc-Up’s future.

Congratulations to our top three entrepreneur groups! We can’t wait to see what more your futures will hold in the new year.

For more information about the Neighborhood Start Fund, click here.

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