Food Business Pathways White Paper
A Pathway to Business Ownership for Public Housing Residents
In early 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tasked the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) with spurring small business growth by assisting low-income New Yorkers in building businesses. EDC approached the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), New York City’s largest landlord, because of the concentration of low-income New Yorkers it serves and the existing resident business development activity of NYCHA’s Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Stability (REES). EDC’s goal was to build upon the lessons learned by REES and develop a scalable plan to enable the creation of businesses owned by low-income New Yorkers.
EDC, NYCHA, and the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS)—with support from Citi Community Development and nonprofit partners, Hot Bread Kitchen and Start Small Think Big—developed a full-scale business accelerator called Food Business Pathways, which was launched in January 2015.
Food Business Pathways provides NYCHA residents with access to the resources they themselves identified as critical to their success—education, capital, and affordable space—based on a 2013 REES study. NYCHA residents accepted into the program undertake a 10-week business course, at the end of which they obtain required licenses and permits at no cost, substantially reducing their start- up costs. All graduates also receive business coaching as they start to build their entrepreneurial dreams, and five graduates in each cohort receive free kitchen incubator space for five months to get their business off the ground.
This program is unique because all the resources needed by residents are delivered through a single program instead of relying on several referrals from different sources. The program partners—both public and private—coordinate the delivery of their services through this one offering.
In 2015, Food Business Pathways helped three cohorts of NYCHA residents to formalize their businesses as legal entities, and the partners have refined the program with each new cohort.
Food Business Pathways is an intensive, comprehensive entrepreneurship development program. Ninety percent of the program’s eighty graduates formed businesses, over the course of 2015. The resulting 72 resident-owned and operated businesses demonstrate the efficacy of the program model. This replicable, scalable model is now being applied to the childcare industry, creating a second business pathway program for NYCHA residents.
This paper intends to document the details of this program’s development and learnings from the first year, so that economic development practitioners across the country might implement similar models, in food services or other industries, to empower low-income entrepreneurs in their communities.