How investing in cities like Newark provides a pathway to permanent U.S. residence for foreign investors

The EB-5 immigrant investor program lets foreign investors obtain permanent resident status in the United States. At a recent investor conference in Newark, it was cited as one of a series of creative tools developers can use to get deals done, but EB-5 is not without controversy.

Coworking space launching downtown Newark looks to be a meeting point for the city’s entrepeneurial class

Destination Newark: How the city’s visitor’s bureau plans to spur economic growth

NJ entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to win $25,000 in cash and prizes for their business

opportunities cardNew Jersey’s entrepreneurs and small business owners still have the opportunity to enter the 2016 Start Something Challenge (SSC), as the competition’s deadline has been extended to 11:59 p.m. today, Thursday June 30, 2016.

Hosted by Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs to start and grow successful small businesses, the SSC is a business pitch competition with more than $25,000 in cash and prizes for New Jersey’s entrepreneurs, including a $10,000 first prize.

“We had so many calls this morning from people who were asking us if it was too late to enter the competition, that we decided to go ahead and extend the deadline,” said Esther Fraser, Director of Communications at Rising Tide Capital. “We want to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to participate in, and benefit from the competition, and we want to make sure that they are able to get their entries in comfortably.”

To enter the SSC, entrepreneurs must create a 30-second video about their business or business idea using the online tool Animoto. Next they need to write a, 150-word business description and upload both the video and description to the Start Something Challenge website and YouTube.

As soon as they enter the competition, they may begin promoting their videos. The six entrepreneurs with the most video views in each  of the 5 sectors by noon on July 6, will move on in the competition. After another round of viewing and voting, 10 entrepreneurs, 2 from each sector will pitch their businesses before a group of judges on July 28.

Entrepreneurs interested in learning more about the competition should visit the website or email

How to make an Animoto video for the Start Something Challenge


How to upload to YouTube for the Start Something Challenge

How Rising Tide Capital helps small businesses become community growth engines

Is Joe’s Crab Shack too ‘beachy’ for Newark and the Northeast? CEO says yes ahead of plans for closure.

Have you joined Brick City Bucks? Text “bucks” to 62687 to download our free loyalty app for deals and event updates from Newark restaurants & bars!

business cardAccording to a report from the trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News, Joe’s Crab Shack will soon shutter its doors in Newark at 860 Broad Street.

While other establishments on that block have also been ill-fated — Uber Burger and Brick City Coffee Company, both formerly located around the corner on Lafayette Street, have also come and gone — the closure is actually a regional phenomenon. Locations in the Bronx are slated for closure, and a Harlem Joe’s has already been shut down.

According to the NRN report, the restaurant’s format was deemed to be better suited for vacationers and was a mismatch for urban markets like Newark, a reversal of ownership’s previous theories that urban markets might be a rich target.  The report also cited high rents as a factor, though it didn’t single out Newark as a culprit.

While no specific timeframe was given, Robert Merritt, CEO of Joe’s publicly traded parent company Ignite Restaurant Group, said the Newark and Bronx locations wouldn’t “be around in a few months.”

See ya Joe.

Support Newark students at Glassroots’ Business Plan Competition and Trade Fair at Science Park High

opportunity cardGreater Newark high school students who have spent the last academic year creating their own glass art and an accompanying business plan for marketing and selling their one-of-a-kind pieces will showcase their work at GlassRoots’ annual Business Plan Competition and Trade Fair on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 4:30 pm at Science Park High School (260 Norfolk St, Newark, NJ in the First Floor Atrium/Media Center).  The public is invited to attend.

GlassRoots is a non-profit organization located in Newark’s downtown arts district that provides artistic and life skills training to Newark area youth, ages 10 to 18, by engaging them in the creation of glass art and the development of business and entrepreneurship skills.

The GlassRoots Business & Entrepreneurship Program, whose mission is to nurture and guide the students’ entrepreneurial talents, is modeled on the curriculum from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an international non-profit organization that introduces youth to the world of entrepreneurship. High School students from the Greater Newark area participate in 65 hours of class time focusing on how to plan, prepare, market and manage a business.  They then create products in one of GlassRoots’ glass art studios. 

The program culminates in a business competition and trade fair at which the students’ products can be purchased.

“Entrepreneurship education benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds because it teaches kids to think outside the box and nurtures unconventional talents and skills,” said Barbara Heisler, the program’s executive director. She added that the program teaches students sought-after skills like time management, leadership, and interpersonal skills.

The seventeen student entrepreneurs this year hail from Newark’s traditional public schools and charter schools. For the first time, student entrepreneurs were encouraged to consider collaborating on business ideas with other students.

Judges for this year’s competition include Keith Dent, Senior Manager for Regional Programs at Rising Tide Capital; Margaret El, Arts Lead for Newark Public Schools; glass designer Michiko Sakano; and entrepreneur and business coach Chike Uzoka.

Image: Finished blue cufflinks ready for sale and created at Glassroots. Image via

Newark web design CEO launches social network for business, gears up for speaker series next week

business cardSteve Jones’ websignia, whose offices are located in the historic 60 Park Place building across the street from Military Park, has been the creative force behind many websites and mobile apps both in Newark and well beyond. In November of 2015, Jones revealed that early registration was open for The Circl, a new invite-only social network specifically for small- and mid-sized businesses looking for “opportunities, information, and resources needed to do better business.”

Nearly six months later, The Circl is throwing a virtual coming out party in the form of a webinar series timed to coincide with National Small Business Week. The series will stream live on The Circl’s website and include 15 lunchtime webinars hosted by business executives and established small and mid-sized business owners. They’ll discuss a range of topics affecting small businesses, including do-it-yourself public relations, leveraging diversity certification to grow a business, how to access capital, and how to turn networking into business opportunity. (See below for the full schedule for the week.)

We asked Jones for more details about his new social network, what types of results he hopes it will generate for members, and how small businesses can participate.

Andaiye Taylor: In brief, what is The Circl?

Steve Jones: The Circl is an invitation-only social network for owners of small and mid-sized businesses, and the major corporations, government entities, and organizations that support them. Unlike today’s top social networks, The Circl provides its members with free access to RFP opportunities, blog articles, events, businesses, and expert information to help them grow.

Taylor: What gaps in other social networks, and in particular in LinkedIn, convinced you that the opportunity was ripe to create The Circl?

Jones: The idea of the Circl is over 8 years old. I decided to build it now since I and a lot of business owners I know are finding it challenging to leverage today’s social platforms to promote our businesses at a reasonable cost, and find business opportunities amongst the volume of social chatter.

Today’s social platforms are centered around aspects of an individual’s life like birth dates, family and friends, education and work history, which brands you’re loyal to, personal preferences and so on. The Circl is the first platform to be centered around the specific needs of the business, like finding partners, opportunities, and connections. LinkedIn has value for individuals seeking a job or seeking attention; The Circl is for job creators seeking growth.

Every business in The Circl essentially has a microsite to promote their businesses. We have major corporations registered that will be looking for small, minority-owned, or women-owned businesses to source products and services from.

Taylor: What has been your process for sourcing the opportunities currently available on The Circl, and have you seen those generate commerce yet?

Jones: We search the internet for opportunities, and some are sent to us. We’ve had people report that they’ve respond to RFPs they found in The Circl, but I’m not yet aware whether anyone has won the bids. The goal is to get anyone seeking anything from a small- to mid-sized company to post it in The Circl, as if they’re saying, “I’m looking for a graphic designer. Know anyone?” And then get recommendations from the community.

Taylor: Why did you decide to make The Circl referral-based, and how did you seed the initial crop of businesses from whom referrals have flowed?

Jones: We’re looking to keep The Circl as pure and focused on delivering value as possible. The target audience is business owners with a slant towards professional service providers — people who can do business with major corporations, government, and other small businesses. We seeded the database with six months of beta testing.

Taylor: What is the geographical footprint of The Circl?

Jones: We’re in the contiguous United States with heavy concentration in the Northeast.

Taylor: And do you have designs to take the network overseas as well?

Jones: For now our focus is on U.S.-based businesses.

Taylor: Let’s talk about the speaker series that kicks of on May 2nd. What types of followup actions or connections do you hope it generates among your members?

Jones: The Speaker Series is the official launch event, which is why we chose to host it during National Small Business Week. Between the reach of websignia, Yelp, Capital Impact Group, our presenters and marketing partners, we will reach over a million people. We hope to show people the value of being a part of The Circl, and allow small- and mid-size business principals to network with each other.

Taylor: Do you plan to convene live events as well? If so, what will they be?

Jones: No plans to convene our own live events. However, we plan to partner with any company or organization seeking a platform in which to stream their live events to an audience of business owners. We already have plans for several more high-profile webinars, and will be doing another Speaker Series next year during National Small Business Week

Taylor: Is there any hope for business owners who want to be part of the social network, but don’t know whether any existing connections are members and thus able to invite them?

Jones: There’s hope. They can request a code on

Taylor: Any parting thoughts about the venture?

Jones: Two thoughts. First, these are our humble beginnings, and we have a long road ahead, but I’m overwhelmed and thankful for the huge amount of support that we have already received from the business community. And second, the doors are wide open to conversations with anyone who’s looking to join The Circl, partner, or figure out how to collaborate.

Small Business Speaker Series Schedule:
Monday, May 2, 2016

  • Gerry Marrone, The Marrone Group @ 12pm “Email Marketing for Small Business”
  • Shakira Brown, SMB Strategic Media LLC @ 1pm “D.I.Y. Public Relations for Entrepreneurial Business”
  • Dee Marshall, Raise The Bar @ 2pm “Networking for Business: Turning Contacts into Contracts”

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

  • Raul Mercado, New Jersey Procurement Technical Assistance Center @ 12pm “Government Procurement – Working with Government Prime”
  • Sharon Mahin, Savoca Enterprises @ 1pm “How to Leverage Diversity Certification to Grow Your Business”
  • Angela Guzman, NBC Universal @ 2pm “Leveraging Supplier Diversity Programs to do Business with Corporations”

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

  • Judith Sheft, New Jersey Innovation Institute at NJIT @ 12pm “Innovation and Clusters – How SMEs Can Participate”
  • Alfred Titone, U.S. Small Business Administration @ 1pm “SBA’s “3 C’s”—capital, contracting, and counseling”
  • Earl Boyd, The Prime Group @ 2pm “A Business Built to Last (Two Must Have’s)”

Thursday, May 5, 2016

  • Jason Dukes, Captain’s Chair Coaching @ 12pm “Managing the Gap…Millennial Mindset vs. Managers Mindset (For Managers)”
  • Sara Mutnick, Yelp @ 1pm – “‘Yelp 101”
  • Jill Johnson, Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership @ 2pm “Pitching Your Business to Get Capital”

Friday, May 6, 2016

  • Steven Gomez, Greater Newark Economic Development Corp @ 12pm “Access to Capital”
  • Karen Pisciotta, KQ Consulting @ 1pm “Big Business Smart, Small Business Savvy”
  • Zanetta Glover, ZD Glove State Farm Insurance Agency @ 2pm “Business Owners – How to Protect and Invest Your Business Assets!”

Who’s who of Newark development discuss its dynamics at Tribeca Film Festival premiere

context cardIn the basement of the posh Crosby Street hotel, the prescreening cocktail reception for this particular Tribeca film festival screening was dotted with a who’s who hailing not from Hollywood or the independent film circuit, but from Newark.

Among those in attendance were Mayor Ras Baraka, NJPAC president John Schrieber, and a number of executives from Prudential and its foundation who had all gathered to attend a screening of the six-minute-long Newark on the Rise. The film was billed as “a short film about the evolution of Newark,” directed by One9 (who also directed the film This is Illmatic about the creation of rapper Nas’ debut album), and included footage from the #20StoriesofStrength video campaign created for Prudential by Newark-based Dreamplay Media.

The film itself included a sweeping narrative of Newark’s history, interviews with (and slow motion hero shots of) the mayor, and a series of scenes and interviews showcasing some of the most innovative projects underway in Newark, depicting the city as readying itself for takeoff.

But it was the followup panel moderated by New York Times business reporter David Gelles, and including Baraka, Beit, and Prudential’s Vice President of Impact Investments, Ommeed Sathé, where some of the dynamics contributing to Newark’s current position were spelled out in greater detail.

Gelles opened the discussion by noting that the narrative of renaissance and revitalization in Newark is a longstanding one that has failed to pan out in the past. Was it real this time around?

Yes, Baraka responded. “Finally, people are actually putting money where their mouth is,” he said.

Sathé said data about investment actually occurring in Newark bears this out. There is currently $2 billion in committed development capital “hitting the street” right now, for both retail and residential projects.

And that capital isn’t wishful or speculative, added Beit. The demand is real.

New York Times business reporter David Gelles moderates a panel featuring Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Prudential’s Vice President of Impact Investments Ommeed Sathé, and CEO of RBH Group Ron Beit

New York Times business reporter David Gelles moderates a panel featuring Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Prudential’s Vice President of Impact Investments Ommeed Sathé, and CEO of RBH Group Ron Beit

“We can’t build [housing] fast enough,” he said, referring to Teacher’s Village, the mixed-use development that includes retail and workforce housing built with teachers in mind. He said pre-leases of Teacher’s Village rentals stands at 85 to 100 percent.

“We are building a city that’s intended to keep everyone here,” Beit said, adding that the Lincoln Park to Broad Street Station corridor downtown is appealing, walkable, and positioned to compete with other neighborhoods in the region on both lifestyle and affordability.

As for pitching the business sector on Newark, Baraka boldly said that he “guarantees profit” for businesses who relocate here. “The infrastructure in our city speaks for itself,” he said. He added that New York City is “inundated,” and that many businesses are also “priced out” of Hoboken and Jersey City.

Beit said his firm’s decision to invest in Newark was based on a clear-eyed assessment of the area. His “investment thesis,” he said, was based on Newark having “cheap and well-located land with infrastructure in place.”

“The land was too cheap for its location,” he said.

While the discussion implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, focused on Newark’s appeal for residential and business newcomers, the panelists also discussed ways to ensure that development is inclusionary and benefits Newarkers whose families have been here for decades. These include “first source requirements” in development deals, which require that residents are given priority in hiring for new jobs; training programs with large new employers, like the Springfield Avenue ShopRite; and an emphasis on creating middle-income housing stock.

The panel finally turned to a discussion about public safety, and what steps are being taken to improve quality of life for Newark residents.

The city is working to improve public safety along two parallel tracks, Baraka said: by employing law enforcement tactics including graduating more police classes, instituting more walking patrols, and creating a new department of public safety; and by trying to address the root causes of crime by focusing on youth employment, community schools, and the relatively new community street team initiative.

“It didn’t begin overnight, so it’s not going to end overnight,” Baraka said, but he posited that residents and observers would be “pleasantly surprised about the outcome” of the current mix of tactics.