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The Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund, Columbia University and Citi Community Development Launch ‘Opportunity For Growth’, Featuring Streetwise ‘MBA' (TM), to Strengthen Minority- And Women-Owned Businesses In Harlem 

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March 21, 2017 (New York, NY) – The Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund (HEF), the small business lending arm of Harlem Commonwealth Council (HCC); and Columbia University, in collaboration with Citi Community Development and Interise, has launched ‘Opportunity for Growth,’ a free innovative business education program. ‘Opportunity for Growth’ uses Interise’s Streetwise 'MBA'™ curriculum, designed to grow established minority and women-owned small businesses. The program is part of Columbia University’s new ‘CU Grow’ initiative.


‘Opportunity for Growth’ will provide participants with intensive training in business operations, financial management, marketing and sales, human resources tactics, business strategy development, access to capital, and contract development over the course of seven months. Participating firms will work with business experts as well as each other in peer-to-peer mentoring groups to define a three-year growth plan for their business.


“Opportunity for Growth represents the type of investment needed to fulfill the promise that entrepreneurship can lead to job creation, income mobility, and ensure vibrancy for the community,” said Kelvin Collins, President of Harlem Commonwealth Council and parent company of the Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund. “Opportunity for Growth will deliver to women and minority firms the skills, resources, and connections needed to stabilize, adapt, and thrive in the rapidly evolving local economy.”


“Building more inclusive cities means creating opportunities for economic advancement reflecting the growing diversity of our nation,” said Eileen Auld, New York Tri-State Market Director of Citi Community Development. “Opportunity for Growth works to advance this goal by providing resources and access to services that will enable more minority- and women-owned businesses to grow and thrive, creating jobs and bringing even greater value to the communities they serve.”


“Columbia University is pleased to partner with the Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund and further our strong commitment to increase meaningful opportunities for minority-owned, women-owned and local firms,” said Columbia University Facilities and Operations Assistant Vice President, Supplier Diversity & Business Integration, Tanya Pope. “Opportunity for Growth is an important component of our new CU Grow vendor development program, which will provide expert coaching, capacity building, and professional networking skills to help these businesses succeed as they compete for business here at Columbia and across the City, driving positive growth in our communities.”


"Interise is thrilled to partner with the Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund to build the capacity of eighteen established small businesses that are ready to scale up," said Jean Horstman, CEO of Interise.  "Our research shows us that we can expect impressive results from these companies in terms of job creation, wealth generation and revenue growth. When small businesses grow, the community grows stronger - this is what Interise stands for." 


‘Opportunity for Growth’ is a signature program of the Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund. Upon graduation from the program, firms will be eligible for a low-interest loan from the Fund to implement a three-year strategic growth plan.  


To be eligible, firms had to be in operation for at least three years, grossing $150K-$10M in annual revenue with at least one full-time employee.


Firms participating in the first cohort of ‘Opportunity for Growth’ include:


  • Bebenoir Inc. - African-inspired clothing retailer

  • Bed of Nails-Nail Bar - Providing a relaxing nail care experience with a lush invigorating feel

  • Behavioral Solution NY, Inc. - Comprehensive in-home care agency for people with disabilities

  • Claridan Contracting Inc. - Painting contractor with over 20 years of experience

  • Earth Construction Corp. - Construction firm specializing in masonry, concrete, roofing, and carpentry

  • Ginjan Bros, LLC - West African beverage made with fresh organic ingredients

  • Hoodwinked Escape, LLC - An escape room experience for teamwork and problem solving

  • Jesse Shapiro & James Glass Corp. - Glass company specializing in window and glass repairs

  • JR Construction Corp. - Interior renovation firm specializing in carpentry, tile work, and flooring

  • Level's Barbershop - Barbershop providing grooming and overall hair care for men, women, and children

  • Lolo’s Seafood Shack – Caribbean and Cape Cod-inspired restaurant

  • Platinum Electric - Electrical service provider and installer for both commercial and residential buildings 

  • Ponty Bistro - Restaurant serving flavors of West Africa, France, and the Mediterranean

  • Sandy's Plumbing & Heating Co. - Plumbing repair & installation services 

  • Sudsy Water Laundry and Dry Cleaners - Self-service laundromats with dry cleaning services

  • Trinity Medical Care NY - Obstetrics and Gynecology practice that cares for women and girls

  • Universal Light & Sound Rentals, LLC - Provider of audiovisual equipment rentals

  • Watkins Products Distributors, LLC - A health food store and juice bar


To learn more about ‘Opportunity for Growth’ visit or call (212) 749-0900 x123 for more information.




About Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund

The Harlem Entrepreneurial Fund (HEF), a subsidiary of the Harlem Commonwealth Council, is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) specializing in financing solutions and advisory services supporting minority and women-owned small businesses. For more information, email


About Columbia University

Columbia University is one of the world's most important centers of research, and at the same time, a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and links its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. The University also attracts a diverse and international faculty and student body to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the University to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.


About Citi

Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

Additional information may be found at | Twitter: @Citi | YouTube: | Blog: | Facebook: | LinkedIn:


About Interise

Since 2006, Interise has been the go-to partner with a proven model for accelerating economic and small business growth to revitalize lower income communities. Its StreetWise ‘MBA’™ has provided 4,000+ small business owners with the business knowledge, management know-how, and (network) relationships they need to scale using a peer-based learning method. As alumni scale their businesses, they contribute to economic development, job creation, and resilience within their local community.


These businesses historically create jobs at 5x the rate of the private sector and are responsible for the creation of over 30,000 new jobs. Interise currently offers the StreetWise ‘MBA’™ in 75 communities through a network of partners, including the Small Business Administration, NYC Stern School of Business, The Cities of Houston, TX and Portland, OR, and the National Urban League. More information can be found at @StreetWiseMBA and

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