Coffee drink business Bandida won the top prize in last year's PowerUp! competition. Photo: Instagram.

Calling all entrepreneurs! Brooklyn Public Library has the program for you.

BPL launched its annual PowerUp! Business competition Monday, which awards $40,000 to aspiring entrepreneurs as well as providing business mentorship and classes in marketing, finance and planning.

Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson said in collaboration with  Dime Community Bank, the program sponsor, BPL would equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills, mentorship, and seed funding they needed to launch businesses that would change their lives and their communities for the better.

“Small businesses will revive our city’s economy and its spirit, and Brooklyn Public Library is here to help them succeed,” she said.

PowerUP! began in 2003 to provide businesses a helping hand after 9/11. Since then, more than 1000 business plans have been submitted and the contest has awarded $450,00 to over 125 entrepreneurs. BPL said in a statement the competition reflected the vitality and diversity of Brooklyn, with participants coming from every ZIP code in the borough.

Over two-thirds of applicants are women, many are immigrants and 80% have never been in business before.  Some of Brooklyn’s most beloved businesses launched with help from PowerUP! including Bogota Latin Bistro, Island Pops, Green in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Tea, Argyle Yarn Shop, Tinsel Experiential Design, DogSpot, Mermaid’s Garden and Greenlight Bookstore, BPL said.

Recent winners include Greenlight Bookstore, Island Pops, Brooklyn Tea, Green in Brooklyn, and On Rout.

In 2020, a women-run business producing ready-to-drink bottled coffee sweetened with dates took home the top PowerUp! prize. The grand prize of $20,000 went to Megan Meza of coffee company Bandida, who was selected by a judging panel of business owners, nonprofit leaders and academics from a pool of 90 entries.

Dime Community Bank CEO Kevin O’Connor said it was an honor to be a sponsor of the competition for the fifth year, and Dime was committed to supporting the dreams and successes of the small business community in Brooklyn.

“The program provides a unique opportunity to showcase the next generation of dreamers and entrepreneurs, ready to cast their light on Brooklyn,” he said.

“In a Borough where over 85% of all businesses are made up of 20 employees or less, we see the tenacity, perseverance, and drive of those small business owners seeking to create something great every day.”

Online orientation sessions begin April 5, and will be held throughout the month with entry applications accepted through April 30 at 11:59pm. During the summer months, applicants will meet with a business advisor and attend classes in marketing, business planning and finance.

Participants will submit final business plans in September and the winners will be announced in a ceremony and pitch competition on November 19.

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