Entrepreneurship thrives in a variety of settings. This past Friday on the NJIT campus the Greater Newark Enterprises Corporation held their Annual Opportunities and Awards Breakfast celebrating urban entrepreneurship. The GNEC is a 501(c) (3) corporation and certified Community Development Financial Institution of the US Department of Treasury. Executive Director Mike Wall who took over the helm of GNEC just over two years ago made clear to attendees GNEC’s mission, “GNEC is all about community and access to capital”.
GNEC was founded in 2005 and weathered the financial crisis of 2008 better positioned to meet the needs of their urban entrepreneur clients. Since its inception in 2005, GNEC has provided over $1.5 million in small business financing and has created/maintained over 300 jobs. 73% of the dollar amount of those loans was made to areas designated as distressed based on geocoding and federal poverty standards, 72% of their clients come from very low income census tracks.
GNEC’s success is tied to support from the local financial community that was highlighted at the event with very prominent bank sponsorships such as Capital One, Citibank, PNC Bank, and City National Bank. An exhibit area included financial service companies such as Infusion Funding which provides accounts receivable and factoring. Frank Erwin, President and Founder of Infusion, noted, “we are very pleased to be at an event such as this. Individuals such as Mike Wall and the lending representatives of these key financial institutions contribute signficantly to the success of the urban entrepreneurial community and are the ones that keep us plugged into where the opportunities are emerging.”
Another prominent supporter to the long term success and vibrancy of the local entrepreneurial community is the NJEDA, a quasi state government agency that supports economic development. “The EDA recognizes the important role that small businesses and entrepreneurship play in revitalizing communities and stimulating local economies,” said Lori A Matheus, Managing Director of Finance & Development. “For that reason, EDA is committed to ensuring access to small business services and capital. Through a $500,000 loan from EDA, GNEC’s capacity to finance small, women and minority owned enterprises is strengthened
Mike Liguori, founder of What Are Minds For Inc. which is a tenant in the Enterprise Development Center business incubator at NJIT, is the first recipient of a microloan from this program. Mike explains, ”I’ll be using the EDC micro-loan to help pay for an intern over the summer, a long with purchasing a much needed software license to support a demo for a potential customer. The loan program can supply the small starter funds that an entrepreneur needs to go a long way. GNEC and the people in the loan committee care about micro and small business economic growth.” What Are Minds For Inc. is developing a product called Object Memory Management Systems (OMMS) that is a pervasive middleware that will enable computers to think and understand the user.
The focus of the occasion was to honor the individuals supporting the urban entrepreneurial ecosystem. The awardees were:
- Jennifer Crayton, Crayton’s Creations and Santiago Paniagua, Quisqueya International News, as Outstanding Small Businesses of the Year
- The Honorable Councilman, Anibal Ramos, Outstanding Community Advocate of the Year, and
- Preston Pinkett III, CEO, President of City National Bank