Brooklyn Public Library’s Annual PowerUP! Business Plan Competition Awards Top Prize of $20,000 to Bandida, Ready-to-Drink Bottled Coffee Sweetened by Dates and Made By Women

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

In Total $40,000 Awarded to Brooklyn Entrepreneurs Including KG’s Bagel Chips and A Plus Party Bus Providing Charter Tours Of Restaurants And Bars In Underserved Neighborhoods

BROOKLYN—Brooklyn Public Library’s 17th annual PowerUP! business plan competition awarded $40,000 to aspiring entrepreneurs at a virtual pitch competition and awards ceremony last night hosted by Joe Connolly, business anchor for WCBS NewsRadio 880. Dime Community Bank presented the $20,000 grand prize to Megan Meza for Bandida, a bottled ready-to-drink non-dairy coffee sweetened by dates.

A judging panel of business owners, nonprofit leaders and academics selected Bandida from a field of 90 entries, most of whom had no previous business experience. 

“Brooklyn Public Library's PowerUp competition was founded after the devastation of 9/11, and as our city again finds itself in dire economic straits, it is imperative to nurture new entrepreneurs,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library. “This year's finalists, all of whom have the tenacity it takes to launch a business in the midst of a pandemic, make us hopeful for Brooklyn's future. We are extremely grateful to Dime Community Bank for helping them realize their dreams.” 

Five participants were recognized with merit awards and $1000 of seed money. The merit winners pitched their ideas to the live audience on Zoom who voted for their favorite. The winner was Sylvia's Community Kitchen, healthy cooking classes for families in East New York created by Ashanti White and Vanessa Dixon. Dixon and White got an additional $1000 for winning the audience favorite award.

The other merit winners were: Andrew Vogel and Jack Rafalski for Big Bad Evil Gaming, a 3-D printing service for high-quality miniatures for Dungeon and Dragons and other games; Marshay Clarke for Buzzoms, trendy braless wear that is cut, styled and designed for women with D+ busts; Diana Hilaire for When She Comes Home, gift boxes of products and services for new and expectant mothers; and Alexander Dwinell for The Word is Change, a bookstore for new and used books in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood. 

“Dime Community Bank is once again proud and honored to be the presenting sponsor of the Brooklyn Public Library PowerUP! program,” said Steve Miley, Dime Community Bank Senior Vice President and Director of Strategic Marketing. “This program shines a bright light on the entrepreneurs in Brooklyn that are willing and committed to take a leap into the tumultuous waters of today’s small business environment. We applaud you, respect you, and support you and your persistence.”

PowerUP! first began in 2003, as a way to provide businesses a helping hand after 9/11. Since then, the PowerUP! contest has provided $450,000 to over 125 entrepreneurs. Many successful Brooklyn businesses launched with help from PowerUP! including Bogota Latin Bistro, Island Pops, Green in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Tea, Tinsel Experiential Design, DogSpot and Greenlight Bookstore. 

All participants attended classes on subjects like marketing, business finance and the utilization of library resources. They also received one-on-one business plan assistance from successful entrepreneurs and business experts. 

BPL’s Business & Career Center is generously supported by Dime Community Bank, lead funder of the PowerUP! Business Plan Competition, Dr. Beverly S. Jacobs, Ridgewood Savings Bank, Con Edison, Reference Solutions, Elizabeth Crowell & Robert Wilson and Signature Bank.

To learn more about the competition, you can view a short video here.


About Brooklyn Public Library 
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.7 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 60,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.