As economic hardship continues to consume Brooklyn small businesses, M.A.D.E BKLYN offers a program specifically to help entrepreneurs of color weather the storm.

The organization kicks off open enrollment in March for its M.A.D.E Curriculum, which selects 12 fellows to participate in a mentorship program with business experts who have a track record of success.

Participants will partner with a mentor after completing an eight-week program that includes training in a variety of topics covering marketing, money and public relations.

Their mentor will prepare them to deliver polished investment pitches in its Brooklyn Bounty Pitch Competition.

The goal of our pitch program is not just for entrepreneurs to get money, but it’s also to help small business owners scale their business and to look and think like a big brand, M.A.D.E. BKLYN Founder and CEO Blu Ellis told BK Reader.

Theres a lot of unseen, unacknowledged talent here in Brooklyn, she continued.

M.A.D.E. BKLYN founder Blu Ellis and organization partner Rotimi Akinnuoye. Photo: Provided.

M.A.D.E. ( Meaningful. Action. Designed. to Elevate) BKLYN is a network of successful executives, creatives, financiers and business leaders who began coming together in 2019.

It started off as a small idea to become a network of community builders for Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs and creatives to receive peer-to-peer connections, tools and insights to grow their business or brand, Ellis explained.

COVID-19 pivot

M.A.D.E. BKLYN held its inaugural event, a summit in downtown Brooklyn, in September 2019. They hosted a second event in March 2020, just days before everything in New York came to a sudden halt for the lockdown.

Ellis, a 20-plus-year Brooklyn resident from London, lamented about the pandemic’s disastrous impact on Black-owned businesses in Brooklyn.

Indeed, Black-owned businesses failed at nearly twice the overall rate during the pandemic, according to an Associated Press report based on data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Brooklyn is not going to be Brooklyn if half of the businesses owned by Black and Brown people are shut down, she said.

M.A.D.E. BKLYN event
Pre-COVID-19 M.A.D.E. BKLYN event. Photo: Provided.

The pandemic added another layer of challenges to entrepreneurs who were already burdened by playing multiple roles to operate their business in normal times.

A lot of the struggle has to do with a lack of information, not just a lack of money, Rotimi Akinnuoye, a co-partner of BedfordStuyvesants Bed-Vyne, told BK Reader.

M.A.D.E. BKLYN fills in as a resource gap for business owners who don’t have time to search for resources and are trying to do everything themselves, Akinnuoye, a partner in M.A.D.E. BKLYN, added.

The pandemic pivot included shifting to a digital platform. During Black History Month, the organization launched an original digital series on its BKLYN Talks platform to share the unique stories of how living in Brooklyn has impacted the lives of creatives and entrepreneurs from tech, fashion, the arts, music and food.

The first four episodes feature New York Times journalist and creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, renown visual artist Derrick Adams, rising filmmaker Wanly Florexile, and tech/travel entrepreneur Cherae Robinson, CEO Tastemakers Africa.

Applications for M.A.D.E. Curriculum open March 15 and continue through April 12. Those interested can apply online, where theres detailed information about the mentorship program.

Nigel Roberts

Nigel Roberts is a New York-based, award-winning freelance journalist. During his career, Nigel has written for several newspapers and magazines. He has extensive experience covering politics and was a...

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