Winter 2018 Newsletter – Business Development Center


“Starting a business is a daunting challenge, especially if you are an immigrant woman in a low income neighborhood like East Harlem,” says Edwin Nieves, Senior Director of Union Settlement’s Business Development Center (BDC). “But with the help of our Business Development Center, over 200 entrepreneurs and business owners in the community—78% of whom were women—received business education, technology training and technical assistance last year.”

With a mission to enhance the economy and commerce of East Harlem and help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed, our BDC supports individuals who already have an existing business, or those first starting their own businesses.

“Many entrepreneurs have a dream of creating and owning their own businesses, but they don’t realize everything they need to learn. Luckily, our bilingual staff is there to help them,” said Edwin. “We welcome everyone here: those who didn’t graduate high school, as well as those who hold an MBA.”

BDC’s free or low-cost business classes give our participants the knowledge necessary not just to succeed, but also thrive. Our 54-hour core program, BusinessWise, open to all aspiring entrepreneurs, teaches the “soup to nuts” of starting and maintaining a business, including corporate structure, legal obligations, budgets and business plans.

“Because so many of our participants are women, and thanks to funding from the New York Women’s Foundation, we created a free year-long program just for women,” said Edwin. The Women’s Entrepreneurial Success Training (WEST) offers business training, technology classes and assistance, workshops and counseling for women entrepreneurs.

The program educates women about business practices, from both the theoretical and practical points of view, informs them about available resources and provides them with one-to-one mentoring on issues extending beyond business to the reality of work/personal-life relations.

Recently the BDC has become more proactive. We are taking our business knowledge straight to the community and holding many events within community businesses through our NYC Department of Small Business Services-funded East Harlem 360° initiative: from merchant meetings, to business workshops to networking events.

We also have a Buy Local East Harlem Initiative funded by Citi Community Development, where we connect East Harlem’s anchor institutions—like Mount Sinai and New York Academy of Medicine—to East Harlem’s small businesses.” We want to ensure that local businesses keep their purchasing within the neighborhood,” explained Edwin.