Source: Daily New
Date: July 17, 2012
Bronx booster Majora Carter turned heads last month when she announced plans for a tech business incubator in Hunts Point, noting the lack of future Facebooks and Googles in the struggling borough.
But Hunts Point is already home to a startup factory. The Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator — a city-sponsored hub in the historic BankNote building — has attracted 68 entrepreneurs since it opened in January.
The budding firms include a compost pick-up service, a picture book publishing house and an online marketing enterprise.
Eathan Janney, 32, started Dirt Works after winning a City University of New York business plan competition. His company will transport food scraps from homes to compost sites for a fee, the Clinton Hill, Brooklyn resident said.
Shayne Spencer, 27, founded Think Work Media to help small businesses find new customers via the Internet. “The learning experience here is great and my sales are way up,” the Bushwick, Brooklyn resident said.
Sunshine Bronx entrepreneurs pay $195 a month for shared working space or rent desks for $275 a month. The chic hub features large windows and lime green furniture, and the fees include access to business equipment and conference rooms, plus mentoring from startup experts.
The 11,000-square-foot incubator is designed to breed collaboration, said Cheni Yerushalmi, manager of Sunshine Suites, the company that operates the Bronx hub and two sites in Manhattan.
Sunshine Bronx startups have exchanged roughly $200,000 for services and support, he claimed. They also swap free advice.
“You see a huge return on your investment here,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 22, who recently launched Brook Avenue Press, a publishing firm for books that portray the Bronx in a positive light. “People pay $500 an hour for consulting that we get for free by the water cooler.”
Brian Wilson of Live Online Training Systems has built automated computer programs for other Sunshine Bronx startups.
“My profits have increased 70%,” said Wilson, who previously ran his business from a more expensive site in Manhattan.
This spring, Wilson created a human resources program for Miguel Sanchez, who heads the design firm Mass Ideation. Sanchez had snared contracts from top brands like Mercedes-Benz but needed help with hiring.
“My business has grown,” said Sanchez, of Throgs Neck. “Last month was my best month ever.”
Sunshine Bronx can accommodate up to 180 entrepreneurs — and the space was only 1/3 full last Thursday. Most of the startups have yet to achieve meaningful success and, to hear the skeptics tell it, Manhattan will inevitably snap up the best Bronx talent.
But the borough is starved for services, said Yerushalmi, noting that a computer technician is thriving because the borough lacks an Apple store.
Ocasio-Cortez said the hub will continue to grow because the Bronx is full of go-getters.
“We have so many incredible people here,” the Parkchester resident said. “Rather than think of it as somewhere to run from, the Bronx is somewhere to invest.”