The BCNA Immigrant Heritage Week Awards: 4 Years of Inspiration

The BCNA Immigrant Heritage Week Awards: 4 Years of Inspiration

As I think back to the 4th annual BCNA Immigrant Heritage Week Awards, I am thrilled that it has become an event that our staff, board members, colleagues, clients, and friends all look forward to.It has become, for many, a way not only to honor immigrant achievements and reconnect with friends and colleagues, but also as an opportunity to be inspired – by the stories and the achievements – to continue to make a difference.

We were delighted that Commissioner Nisha Agarwal, of the NYC’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, was able to find time in her demanding schedule to join us for a second year in a row to present the awards to our six honorees.We thank her, too, for her efforts to facilitate ways to harness the incredible work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes New York’s New Americans.

Our keynote speaker was Thomas Ko, back by popular demand after his inspirational contribution to last year’s panel.Once again, he moved and inspired the audience with his re-telling of his own family’s story of coming to the US with two suitcases. His recounting of his early experience working in construction to support his parents and put himself through school, his trailblazing work with Citi, and now with his own startups, and the resilience and humility those experiences taught him, resonated strongly with the many micro entrepreneurs in the room. We were pleased to honor him with the BCNA Immigrant Heritage Week Visionary Award for his clear vision of how future innovation in both communication and banking will bring us together through faster and more efficient inter-connectivity and for sharing his passion to inspire other New Americans.

This year’s Corporate Responsibility Award was presented to Square for innovation that has enabled many low to moderate income entrepreneurs to manage financial transactions. We appreciate and applaud the transparency with which Square charges fees, as our clients need financial products that are safe, smart, and affordable.

Commissioner Agarwal then presented awards to this year’s impressive group of honorees: Ismaila and Mohamed Bah, founders of Noor Halal African American Market in the Bronx, which supplies its community with fresh vegetables, fruit, spices, and halal meat, received The Boot Strap Entrepreneur Award; Yelena Godiyevskaya, founder and partner at Smiles ‘R’ Us Day Care Center on Staten Island, creator of 55 jobs, received  The New York Job Creator Award;  and Shyam Bogati from Nepal, Aissata Niangadou from Mali, Wyllys Rodgiguez from the Dominican Republic and Zhuldyz Makhadiyeva from Uzbekistan each received a New Beginning Award, which goes to refugees who successfully save for education, a home, or and investment.

And finally Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of the Center for An Urban Future (CUF), led a thought-provoking panel on “Is is Technology Helping Immigrant Micro and Small Businesses?”

BCNA clients Dave Smith, marketing director of ReCaFo, and Esther Varney, founder and owner of Cassandra Hair Salon, joined Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director of the NY Taxi Workers Alliance; Lisa Gross, Founder of League of Kitchens and home chef Asfari Jahan; and Emma Boast, Program Director of Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in a lively discussion.  Both Dave and Esther received marketing consultation services as part of BCNA’s Technology to Boost Your Bottom Line program, funded by Citi Foundation. Examples ranged from ReCaFo’s use of Seamless, and Esther Varney’s use of Facebook and text messaging to promote new hairstyles, to  League of Kitchen’s online booking system, to MOFAD’s beta-stage apps. We are especially excited about the app for Himalayan food in Jackson Heights, which should drive more customers to some of our clients’ restaurants!

We look forward to continuing to support our clients in their own paths to achieving economic success and the American Dream. See you next year at our 5th Annual BCNA Immigrant Heritage Week Awards!

See more info on our awardees here.