Entrepreneurship beyond Manhattan — South Bronx Creates

Keisha Thomas, PhD

Program Director, KiiLN

Originally published on here on September 8th 2015. Re-published with permission from author.

About an event…

Less than a month ago Nicole McKnight (one of five female co-founders of the biotech accelerator, KiiLN) and I made our way from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the Bronx as Nicole was invited to moderate a panel entitled, ‘Capital Formation Pathways for Small Businesses’. The Assembly Member for the 79th District, Michael A. Blake and the Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr. hosted the Small Business Association (SBA) and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It was one of those hot NYC summer days where the one dollar helados being sold from the carts was indeed tempting but we opted to forgo, what was sure to be rainbow colored (flavored) lipgloss until the event was completed. We made our way past the Yankee’s Stadium, to Boricua College.

I think it is blog-worthy to emphasize the event’s location, as it was atypical. It also speaks to a growing interest in entrepreneurship. From the window of the seminar room we could see the strong-boned and beautiful Mario Merola Building (formerly known as the Bronx County Courthouse). Assemblyman Michael Blake wastes no time in pointing out that it is a prime location for an incubator. This announcement set the general tone for the meeting, one of hopefulness that innovation and entrepreneurship will help lift this community up and provide opportunities for the residents of the South Bronx.

Most interesting though, was the diversity in the backgrounds of those in attendance. Present was a team of app developers, based in a Bronx incubator space. There were also entrepreneurs in attendance with a host of unique ideas ranging from a beverage business to a doll’s clothing company. Everyone introduced themselves and shared a bit about their dreams and ambitions with the group. This exercise really helped to establish that everyone present had ideas — ideas that they wanted brought to life.

As the event proceeded, Sabastian Gomez of the SEC give a quick crash course on the various funding mechanisms for new businesses, while his colleagues emphasized the SEC’s dedication to promoting diversity in business entrepeneurs. Then there was a brief exploration of the idea of a company’s value in the form of equity. This led into the hot topic of Crowdfunding as a promising path to funding one’s business. Mr. Javier Saade of the SBA emphasized the important role that Crowdfunding could play in presenting traditionally underrepresented founders and entrepreneurs with a valuable route to raise capital.

As the details of the JOBS Act become finalized, the potential for impact from legislation that essentially enables Crowdfunding to be used more widely as a platform for fundraising is immense. The one request made by the members of the audience was for the information to be easily accessible and digestible. I couldn’t agree more — let’s give all good ideas from good people the best chance for success.

Keisha is a biochemist with a commitment to helping good scientific ideas reach the public. She believes that there is innovation potential at the intersection of finance, technology and science. In addition to her entrepreneurial interests, she enjoys eating tasty food from different cultures and spending time with her dog and husband.

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