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New Program Supports Diverse Entrepreneurs

The local small business owners who will participate in Ascend Long Island

Hofstra University today hosted a symposium on diversity in entrepreneurship to launch a new partnership that will train and mentor a diverse group of local entrepreneurs and provide access to capital and contracts.

Called Ascend Long Island, the partnership between Hofstra University and BOC Capital, a Community Development Finance Institution, is the first suburban outpost of JPMorgan Chase & Co’s national Ascend 2020 program to support minority-owned small businesses. The program, overseen by Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Studies, Center for Entrepreneurship and Scott Skodnek Business Development Center, is funded through a $350,000 philanthropic investment from JPMorgan Chase.

“Building off the national model developed at the University of Washington, Ascend Long Island will create a coordinated business development ecosystem – linking management education, money and market access – to address the growth needs of local businesses owned by minorities and women in Nassau County,” said Lewis M. Warren, managing director in Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase.

Hofstra President Stuart Rabinowitz opens the symposium launching the Ascend Long Island program.

Ascend 2020 connects diverse entrepreneurs to business schools, suppliers and community partners to improve access to the 3-Ms: management strength (through business education), markets (business-to-business and consumers), and money (seed capital, flexible credit and equity

Twenty-four local businesses from Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt and Uniondale were accepted to the 12-week program, which includes a bootcamp, workshops, mentoring sessions and a procurement conference to help the entrepreneurs join the supply-chain of government agencies and larger companies. The first bootcamp will be held at Hofstra’s Center for Entrepreneurship on March 30.

“Ascend Long Island is a reflection of Hofstra’s expanding commitment to diversity and economic development,” said Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz. “We recognize that we have a special obligation to the underserved areas closest to our campus, and that’s what makes Ascend Long Island and its work in Hempstead, Roosevelt, Uniondale and Freeport so important to us.”

Ascend 2020 is currently active in six cities (Atlanta, the Bay Area, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C.) as part of JPMorgan Chase’s $150 million Small Business Forward program to help women, minority and veteran entrepreneurs. Since the program’s launch in late 2016, Ascend 2020 has helped more than 140 businesses earn a total of $8 million in investments, which includes $5 million in contracts and $3 million in new capital.

The program includes anchor partners – public and private sector organizations that have committed to increasing the number of minority-and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) in their supply chain. Among them: PSEG, LIPA, NuHealth, Avis Budget, Hempstead Village, the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County. These organizations, along with professors from Hofstra’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business, helped prepare the curriculum for the program, and will participate in mentoring sessions and classes with the entrepreneurs.

“A key priority of my administration is to improve women and minority-owned businesses’ access to the capital, education, and new clients they need to thrive,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “We are committed to helping these businesses build capacity and gain necessary certifications so that we create more paths to prosperity for all entrepreneurs in Nassau.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran at the Ascend Long Island launch.

Jamie Rogers, president of Quality LIFE Home Care, is hoping Ascend Long Island will help her home health care aide and nursing services company get access to new capital and markets. “We’re looking to expand our services into Long Island,” she said. “We felt joining a program like this would give us access to the client base here on Long Island.”

Sean Phillips of Freeport, CEO and owner of Genesis Signs & Graphics, founded his business in 2017. “We currently just rely on the phone to ring or maybe a referral to get new business,” he said. “A program like this will take our business to the next level. You always hear people say that you need to ‘be in the room’. This program will help get us in the room.”

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Karla Schuster

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