Empowering Local Entrepreneurs in Brownsville, Brooklyn
Tech companies large and small are crossing the river as the price of Manhattan real estate makes Brooklyn’s shores increasingly attractive. Some of the hottest start-ups have already established themselves, and the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, connecting DUMBO, Navy Yard, and Downtown Brooklyn, is acutely positioned to give Silicon Valley a run for its money.
We see great opportunity in Brooklyn, too — though perhaps in a more unexpected place. Brownsville is an east Brooklyn neighborhood confined to one square mile with a less-than-stellar reputation. It bears some of New York’s lowest statistics in terms of education and poverty, and its 18 public housing complexes make it the largest concentration of projects in the country.
Consequently, Brownsville has remained relatively untouched as gentrification’s land grab pushes farther and farther east and the neighborhoods around it are renovated and rented out at bloated prices. First Bushwick. Then Bed-Stuy. Then Crown Heights. As gentrification threatens Brownsville’s borders, something else is happening within.
The Dream Big Foundation broke ground in Brownsville a year ago to begin construction on the 3 Black Cats Café and Cakery — the neighborhood’s first-ever coffee shop and entrepreneurial incubator. Usually, a coffee shop moving in is an early sign of gentrification. But it’s also a symbol of economic security, and Brownsville residents needed one to call their own. We’re excited to announce that this Saturday, the 3 Black Cats Café and Cakery is finally opening its doors to the wider Brownsville community.
>> Related read: Dream Big in Brownsville, Brooklyn
The Dream Big Foundation is the brainchild of native New Yorker and LivePerson founder and CEO Rob LoCascio, and Pernell Brice oversees its daily operations as executive director. It seeks to fund and empower budding entrepreneurs to revitalize Brownsville from within. The 3 Black Cats Café and Cakery, owned and operated by the three ambitious Jimenez sisters, is the foundation’s first initiative and will serve the community as a hub of innovation and creativity. It will be a resource center and central point for local entrepreneurs to meet, inspire, and learn from each other and, fueled by coffee and pastries, execute great ideas.
Entrepreneurs are essential to the growth and development of our economy, and they’ll be fundamental in forever changing the course of history for underserved neighborhoods like Brownsville. The café and innovation center is the first of its kind for the area. Located at 3 Belmont Avenue in the heart of Brownsville, the 5,000-square-foot multi-function space houses a conference room, six desks, and an 18-seat coworking table and provides Wi-Fi, smart TVs, and chalkboard walls where entrepreneurs can connect and work.
There’s a lot of potential in Brownsville. The Dream Big Foundation is taking the first step to unlock it by providing the space and resources entrepreneurs need to make their dreams a reality with training, classes, and mentorship programs. It’s just one example of how we can help a neighborhood develop from the inside out. With the support of local politicians, nonprofits, and community members, we can prove that talent and success don’t hinge on where you live or what tax bracket you fall into. Who knows? Maybe we’ll discover the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. In fact, we’re betting on it.
>> Related read: Gentrifying Brownsville: Changes in Brooklyn ’Hood Come from Within
Brownsville is far from forgotten. We owe it to our neighbors — fellow New Yorkers — to help establish a sustainable model for development and growth that will revitalize the community from within rather than displace longtime residents of a vibrant community they call home. And this includes finding the next great idea that’s going to change not only the neighborhood but the world, too.
This Saturday, June 18, the 3 Black Cats Café and Cakery and the Dream Big Innovation Center will officially be open for business. Stop by 3 Belmont Avenue some time for a cup of coffee. We can’t wait to see you in Brownsville.