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Bklyn Library's Pitch Contest Awards $40K to Emerging Brooklyn Entrepreneurs

This year's winners included an online bidding platform for e-commerce shipping, a Brooklyn tea room and a vanpool service for seniors
BPL PowerUP Competition, BK Reader
This year’s grand prize winner Jonathan Hessney of OnRout. Photo credit: Brooklyn Public Library/ Olivia Buffington

Brooklyn Public Library's 15th annual PowerUP! Business Plan Competition awarded $40,000 to aspiring entrepreneurs at a pitch contest and awards ceremony on Monday night. 

A judging panel of business owners, nonprofit leaders and academics selected winners from a field of 77 entries. In addition to providing launch money to the winners, all participants also attended classes on subjects like marketing, business finance and the utilization of library resources, and received one-on-one business plan assistance from entrepreneurs and experts.

This year's grand prize of $20,000 went to Jonathan Hessney, founder of OnRout, an online bidding platform for parcels. Shipping companies like FedEx or UPS can bid on a parcel if they are already going to that address, or a nearby one, and thereby consolidate driving routes, lower costs and reducing urban congestion.

The second-place prize of $10,000 was awarded to Alfonso Wright for Brooklyn Tea, a Brooklyn-based organic tea brand that now plans to establish a tea room for patrons to sip and meet friends. Miguel Estrada and Warren Holder won the third-place prize of $5000 for Electric Fox, an arcade bar where patrons can participate in multiplayer video games.

Five participants were recognized with merit awards and $1000 of seed money. The merit winners pitched their ideas to the live audience at the central library who voted for their favorite by cell phone. Keturah Suggs won the audience favorite award, earning an additional $1000 for Graceful Travels, a vanpool service for adults age 60 and over.

The other merit winners were Stephanie Amann and Molly McFadden for Wyldaire, packable and fashionable hats; Rhonda Harper and Roshanna Crawford for Little Innovators AfterSchool League, a nonprofit program to enhance students' knowledge of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math); Charanor Marcano for Charanor, high fashion shoes and accessories; and Lisa Paige for No Rocking Chairs Over Here Social Adult Daycare Center, a facility specializing in meals and programs for individuals with disabilities. 

"Brooklyn Public Library is proud to have helped over 125 businesses launch around the borough," said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson. "We congratulate all of the PowerUP participants tonight for their vision and hard work and look forward to visiting their shops and using their services in the near future."

Starting in 2003, the PowerUP! contest has provided a total of more than $400,000 to over 125 entrepreneurs. Past participants who launched successful Brooklyn businesses include Bogota Latin Bistro, Green in Brooklyn, Tinsel Experiential Design and Greenlight Bookstore.