SoBro/EAP: Fearless, Focused, and Prepared

The buzz of the growing Bronx and Upper Manhattan economy is electric, and city-wide, residents with ideas of striking out on their own and laying claim to the many opportunities and programs available are reaching out to SoBro’s Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) to help them do it. Entrepreneurs from every industry, experience, and background—from home health attendants to those with advanced degrees, come to SoBro’s EAP to develop, grow or expand their business acumen as well as get plugged into the tremendous networking opportunities that come from participating in the courses.

Since its beginning in 1987, SoBro/EAP has assisted over 150 entrepreneurs to start and grow more than 100 small businesses, creating 300 jobs. In November 2017, Paul Sawyer joined SoBro/EAP as its Director after a career in business development spent accruing expertise and firsthand experience running several businesses, as well as bringing an astute knowledge about city and state politics and the city’s economic landscape to bear–which he shares with great skill and passion. Working together with Program Specialist, Jaran Manzanet who runs the SoBro/EAP Venture Center, designed specifically to assist Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs, Mr. Sawyer is out regularly attending community board meetings and networking events throughout the city to gain up-to-the-minute insights into business and economic factors impacting business development and which leads him to be better able to guide entrepreneurs to the best places to set up and establish their businesses. “We are solidly about the business of creating successful businesses and assisting those businesses to be able to create meaningful job opportunities.”

From day one, Paul and his team launched into preparing a thorough update of the twice-annual EAP course set to start the following January. In order to build on the strength of the program’s past success, his boon was the opportunity to recruit bilingual consultant Yvette Hall. Ms. Hall, whose name was well-known and well-regarded not only throughout SoBro but also Empire State Development (ESD), the engine supporting business development throughout New York. “Ms. Hall’s thorough knowledge of the city and state procurement process gave our participants the latest and greatest, and most importantly, in-depth information that equipped them with the very best understanding of how to effectively run a business,” said Mr. Sawyer.

The eight-week SoBro/EAP course offers everything an entrepreneur needs to run a thriving and sustainable small business: from financial, legal, and marketing strategies to the leadership skills necessary to employ and retain competent and motivated hires. The January 2018 workshop attracted thirteen participants and produced ten graduates, all of whom are continuing to develop their businesses.

One particular story Mr. Sawyer was thrilled to share was of a recent graduate of the SoBro/EAP course, Ms. Martha Johnson. Ms. Johnson came to the program after having already decided to leave her position of eight years with a Fortune 500 company to pursue a long-held dream of opening her own hair salon. In fact, Ms. Johnson was in the midst of negotiating the terms of taking over an existing Bronx salon when she discovered SoBro/EAP in a Google search for business courses. “I knew I wanted to be in charge of my and my family’s future, and I have always had a passion for beauty; I have a business degree and decided to make beauty my business.”

While continuing to service existing salon clients, Ms. Johnson completed a three-month remodel and became a Redken®-exclusive salon. “In just six months, I have seen a 50% increase in customers and a boost of 20-30% in revenue. I’m excited to start the next exciting phase of growing my business.” She isn’t yet prepared to disclose the details of phase two, but she continues to consult with the SoBro/EAP team for help as she hires the staff to support her growth.

“SoBro/EAP was vital to me as I was learning the importance of organizing and compartmentalizing my plan.”

“I started Zoe & Oliv Beauty to fill a void in the immediate community for a modern glam, fume-free beauty space that caters to Millennial and GenY men and women. The space is posh, the take on beauty is fresh and modern and the service is simply lovely. I’m building a beauty company rooted in quality products and services and good management.”

“Ms. Johnson is very sharp and already pretty business savvy when she started the course. She was extremely motivated and came each week with challenging questions and it’s great to see her be so successful right out of the gate.”  Each program graduate is encouraged to return to SoBro/EAP offices for any additional help every Wednesday from 3pm to 4pm. We are here to provide assistance for nearly every aspect of setting up and running a business. “Sometimes their need is simply to tweak their business plans and at other times there are requests to do more elaborate research into the details of their specific area of business.” Mr. Sawyer cited a trend in food truck establishments—a welcome addition of healthy food in the Bronx—as an example of businesses that he’s learned a great deal about as a result of the makeup of his recent course participants’ interests.

If you are interested in starting or expanding your business, contact Paul Sawyer psawyer@sobro.org to schedule an appointment. To find more information or to register for the September 2018 Business Class. To find out more information about Venture Center, please contact Jaran Manzanet jmanzanet@sobro.org.

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SoBRO’s mission is to enhance the quality of life in the South Bronx by strengthening businesses and creating innovative economic, housing, educational, and career development programs for youth and adults.

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SoBRO is an equal opportunity employer/program.