New York City , United States

Competition THRIVE: Making the City Stronger

New York City Economic Development Corporation

November 30, 2012

A business plan competition to help immigrant entrepreneurs with small business ventures

Photo credit: Hunter Goldman, NYCEDC

Despite language barriers, immigrant entrepreneurs in cities world-wide are posting big dividends for local economies. In New York, immigrants account for 49% of all self-employed workers. So when the city of New York’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) talks about “leveraging the City’s assets to drive growth, create jobs and improve quality of life,” they have no trouble recognizing immigrants as one of the city’s greatest resources.

Competition To Help Reach Immigrant Ventures and Entrepreneurs (THRIVE) is an immigrant entrepreneur support competition. Launched by NYCEDC in 2011 as part of its mission to “make the city stronger,” the project generates financially sustainable business plans that can address the challenges faced by immigrant entrepreneurs in New York City.

Rather than award individual entrepreneurs, Competition THRIVE invites established non-profit organizations to develop proposals for scalable programs that promote growth opportunities for the city’s immigrant businesses. The plans must address the challenges they face, such as access to credit, financial management, language barriers, and access to business networks and are judged according to feasibility, applicability, scalability, and sustainability.

Partners such as Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation (as co-funder) and Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College (as administrator) help anchor THRIVE in the practical realities of contemporary business practice. Action is the keyword. The plans aim to help immigrant entrepreneurs start, operate, and expand their businesses in New York.

With help from the partner organizations, the NYCEDC developed a two-round competition. In round one, judges choose five finalists to receive $25,000 of seed funding to pilot their projects and refine their business plans. After seven months of mentoring and skill-building, the top winner is awarded $100,000 of funding and promotional services to further scale their program.

A Winning Proposal

The first Competition THRIVE received 39 proposals and in May 2012, the judges awarded the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) the top prize to expand their foreign language contractor training program which helps immigrant home improvement contractors to grow and expand their businesses by overcoming language barriers.

QEDC’s winning pilot program addresses challenges faced by the City’s Chinese community in becoming Home Improvement Contractors licensed by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs. The program provides training by a qualified instructor prior to taking the licensing exam. In addition to one-on-one business advisory services in the trainee’s native language, the training course includes consultation with marketing and business development experts. The program gives immigrant entrepreneurs the opportunity to go from working in an unlicensed, underpaid, and uninsured environment, to legitimizing and formalizing their business for larger growth opportunities.   The pilot successfully targeted Chinese-speaking contractors in Flushing, Queens, and will now expand to include other language groups. Based on the success of its inaugural year, the City and Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation have announced a commitment to a second year of Competition THRIVE.

“The THRIVE competition proved to be highly effective means to discover and support a best in class intervention to foster the growth of immigrant owned enterprises in NYC,” said Gary Hattem, president Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation. “Creating a sustainable infrastructure of support for these businesses will have a lasting impact on the City’s overall competitiveness.”

City Success

“Supporting our City’s immigrant entrepreneurs is vital to the success of New York City’s economy,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “By making critical seed funding available, Competition THRIVE has encouraged highly respected organizations such as QEDC to implement innovative programs that address the unique challenges facing these entrepreneurs, allowing them to grow their businesses across the five boroughs.”

New York City’s immigrant population has more than doubled since 1970 – from roughly 1.4 million to 3 million – and immigrants now represent nearly 40 % of the City’s population and 43 % of the City’s labor force. Immigrants are a significant and important piece of the City’s entrepreneurial economy: Immigrants make up 49 % of all self-employed workers in the City compared to 25 % in New York State and only 12 % in the U.S.

The NYCEDC has ensured that promoting immigrant entrepreneurs is an important priority. Other programs and initiatives include kitchen incubators, a food manufacturer business expo to support immigrant-owned businesses and a series of free NYC Business Solutions courses in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Russian, and Haitian Creole.


Making it Work for You:

  • Use a competition to spark new ideas, encourage  innovation and reach new audiences within the sector.
  • Partnerships with industry leaders and important  institutions provide expertise, influence and incentives for winners.
  • Be creative! Brand and market the competition so that it tells an exciting story about your organization.
  • When the application and review process includes feedback loops, mentoring or skill-building, every applicant is a winner.

For this Good Idea contact:

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC)
110 William Street
New York City, New York, US,

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