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Yeshiva University supports struggling local businesses with free consulting

Its Innovation Lab has initiated a new program that offers free support and expertise to local small businesses with the goal of helping them thrive in a challenging economic climate post-COVID.

"From left, David Sable; Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University; and Dr. Maria Blekher, YU Innovation Lab Founding Director, attend the Business Hive in the Heights event."
"From left, David Sable; Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University; and Dr. Maria Blekher, YU Innovation Lab Founding Director, attend the Business Hive in the Heights event."

Through its Business HIVE in the Heights initiative, the YU Innovation Lab opened its doors on April 27 to businesses in Washington Heights and Upper Manhattan, who presented their challenges and expectations, and received pro bono expertise and advice in a range of areas, including marketing/selling, financial management, growth strategies, investor relations, business operations, city regulations, legal advice and more. Approximately 20 local businesses attended the event at the Sky Café in Belfer Hall. The event was well received by the community and covered by Univision television news.

In addition to assisting companies at the event, YU’s Innovation Lab will select as many as four companies to become partner clients to the Innovation Lab’s acceleration consultancy for a year or more. These companies will enter the lab and be assigned a team of YU student consultants, and under the guidance of the lab’s consultancy director work on developing market research, insights and acceleration strategies to help the local company thrive. The benefit to the companies is professional-level consulting services fueling business growth. The benefit to the student consultants is advanced business, product and marketing skills acquisition. The benefit to the community, perhaps the most enduringly important, is economic development.

“This initiative grows from a successful pilot lasting almost a year. The launch of Business Hive in the Heights will allow us to dedicate our resources and expertise to the immediate on-the-ground business community that surrounds YU’s nearly century-old Washington Heights campus,” explains YU Innovation Lab founding director Dr. Maria Blekher. “Small businesses form the economic backbone of our neighborhood and serve as paths to prosperity for minority and immigrant entrepreneurs. The work of our students and faculty at the I-Lab will help ensure these pillars of the Washington Heights community can continue to grow to their fullest potential.”

“We are thrilled by the impact of the YU Innovation Lab on the small businesses and start-ups that we aid in our Washington Heights community, in the start-up nation of Israel and across the world,” says Dr. Noam Wasserman, Dean of YU’s Sy Syms School of Business. “This new expansion of the I-Lab’s student-led free consulting services for minority and women-owned businesses in Washington Heights demonstrates Yeshiva University’s longstanding commitment to our neighborhood and mission of service as the world’s flagship Jewish university.”

The seed for the Business HIVE in the Heights was planted by former YU business school valedictorian Jonah Loskove, who has dedicated himself to the plea made by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13, congressman for the district including Washington Heights and Inwood) to assist local communities in the areas of mental and public health, as well as business and nonprofit development. Loskove worked with the West Bronx Vanguard, a community group organized by Rep. Espaillat to focus on these vital areas.

Together with a dedicated group of volunteers, Loskove assisted some 5,000 local companies to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan during the pandemic period, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans. The HIVE in the Heights continues and expands on these efforts.

Maria Blekher is thrilled about launching this new project. “Our students are eager and willing to show up and share their burgeoning skills with our neighbors at this event. This is a great way for them to exercise their growth potential, apply all they’ve learned, and watch it make a real difference. To see this come together and initiate positive change in the difficult business climate of the pandemic and its aftermath, is a watershed moment for the whole community.”

Businesses wishing to participate in the program may reach out to Thom Kennon (thomas.kennon@yu.edu) for more information.

For more information: www.yu.edu/innovation-lab

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As the flagship Jewish university, Yeshiva University is animated by its five core Torah values: Seek Truth (Torat Emet), Live Your Values (Torat Chaim), Discover Your Potential (Torat Adam), Act With Compassion (Torat Chesed) and Bring Redemption (Torat Zion). Founded in 1886, Yeshiva University brings together the ancient traditions of Jewish law and life and the heritage of Western civilization. More than 7,400 undergraduate and graduate students study at YU’s four New York City campuses: the Wilf Campus, Israel Henry Beren Campus, Brookdale Center, and Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus. YU’s three undergraduate schools—Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, and Sy Syms School of Business—offer a unique dual program comprised of Jewish studies and liberal arts courses. Its graduate and affiliate schools include Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, the Katz School of Science and Health and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.
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