(Courtesy of YU) As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many local, national and global businesses continue to struggle. Aware of and dedicated to its mission of tikkun olam (repairing the world), Yeshiva University’s Innovation Lab has initiated a new program that offers free support and expertise to local small businesses with the goal of helping them thrive in this challenging economic climate.
Through its “Business HIVE in the Heights initiative, the YU Innovation Lab opened its doors on April 27 to businesses in Washington Heights and upper Manhattan, who presented their challenges and expectations, and received pro bono expertise and advice in a range of areas, including marketing/selling, financial management, growth strategies, investor relations, business operations, city regulations, legal advice and more. Approximately 20 local businesses attended the event at the Sky Café in Belfer Hall. The event was well received by the community and covered by Univision television news.
In addition to assisting companies at the event, YU’s Innovation Lab will select as many as four companies to become a partner client to the Innovation Lab’s acceleration consultancy for a year or more. These companies will enter the Lab and be assigned a team of YU student consultants, and –under the guidance of the Lab’s consultancy director – work on developing market research, insights and acceleration strategies to help the local company thrive. The benefit to the companies is professional level consulting services fueling business growth. The benefit to the student consultants is advanced business, product and marketing skills acquisition. The benefit to the community, perhaps the most enduringly important, is economic development.
“This initiative is the outgrowth of a successful pilot lasting almost a year. The launch of Business Hive in the Heights will allow us to dedicate our resources and expertise to the immediate on-the-ground business community that surrounds YU’s nearly century-old Washington Heights campus,” explains YU Innovation Lab Founding Director Dr. Maria Blekher. “Small businesses form the economic backbone of our neighborhood and serve as paths to prosperity for minority and immigrant entrepreneurs. The work of our students and faculty at the I-Lab will help ensure these pillars of the Washington Heights community can continue to grow to their fullest potential.”
“We are thrilled by the impact of the YU Innovation Lab on the small businesses and start-ups that we aid in our Washington Heights community, in the Startup Nation of Israel and across the world,” says Dr. Noam Wasserman, Dean of YU’s Sy Syms School of Business. “This new expansion of the I-Lab’s student-led free consulting services for minority and women-owned businesses in Washington Heights demonstrates Yeshiva University’s longstanding commitment to our neighborhood and mission of service as the world’s flagship Jewish university.”
The seed for the Business HIVE in the Heights was planted by former YU business school valedictorian Jonah Loskove, who has dedicated himself to the plea made by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13, congressman for the district including Washington Heights and Inwood) to assist local communities in the areas of mental and public health, as well as business and nonprofit development. Loskove worked with the West Bronx Vanguard, a community group organized by Rep. Espaillat to focus on these vital areas.
Together with a dedicated group of volunteers, Loskove assisted some 5,000 local companies to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan during the pandemic period, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. The HIVE in the Heights continues and expands on these efforts.
Maria Blekher is thrilled about launching this new project. “Our students are eager and willing to show up and share their burgeoning skills with our neighbors at this event. This is a great way for them to exercise their growth potential, apply all they’ve learned, and watch it make a real difference. To see this come together and initiate positive change in the difficult business climate of the pandemic and its aftermath is a watershed moment for the whole community.”
Businesses wishing to participate in the program may reach out to Thom Kennon ([email protected]) for more information.
For more information: www.yu.edu/innovation-lab