By Cherlynn Low
Special to DNAinfo.com New York
INWOOD — Call it a social mission with a sweet tooth.
Two recent graduates of NYU's Stern School of Business are looking to social media for help starting a coffee shop with a community mission in Inwood.
Friends and entrepreneurs Colin Quek and Derrick See are turning to Kickstarter to help fund their dream of opening a shop that does more than hawk java and instead offers a center of "community development and rejuvenation."
Quek and See are hoping to turn a profit, but they say they are not just looking to launch a business.
“We want to help people help themselves and to tackle the whole problem of unemployment and poverty in the area,” said See, 25.
The men, who both love baking, founded New Creation NYC as a small catering company serving NYU's students and clubs — and once even landed a job making cookie favors for a wedding.
But they are now focused on expanding that business model, based largely on an experience See had working with Jewel Jones, longtime director of soup kitchen Love Kitchen, which operates out of the Manhattan Bible Church in Inwood.
“[Jones] wanted to start something like a bakery to provide training and job employment, which would then help transition them to a job,” said Quek, 23.
In addition to providing hot meals at the Love Kitchen, Jones envisioned a way to get people back on their feet, "so that they can learn a trade and make a living for themselves."
It was this vision that motivated See, who worked as an intern at Love Kitchen as part of the New York City Urban Project (NYCUP)’s Summer Immersion Program.
See has since decided to forego a job in the corporate world to pursue his plan to expand New Creation into a venture that will both make money and offer employees' critical job-training skills.
His career plans don't sit well with family members, who he said were already disappointed that he had chosen to pursue business rather than medicine.
“Growing up in a traditional Asian family, that was strike two for me," See said.
Still, he remains determined.
“We want to help people help themselves,” See said.
The two identify as Christian, and attend services in Manhattan, and say the name New Creations comes from a Bible verse that envisions a brighter and more hopeful future through faith.
“We really feel like we're the next step,” said Quek. “Love Kitchen is giving a man a fish. We want to teach them how to fish.”
The two said they hope to do so by hiring unemployed people and teaching them how to bake, manage finances and market a business.
The two entrepreneurs say they have raised almost half of the $400,000 they need to rent and renovate retail space on 211th Street and Broadway, and to purchase equipment. They have turned to Kickstarter to raise $50,000, which Quek said would put them over the halfway mark.
The project has been on Kickstarter for a week, and about 58 people have backed the team, pledging close to $4,000 as of Wednesday, with seven days to go.
If they do not reach their Kickstarter target, Quek said they will have to reevaluate their plans.
At the moment, they are not taking a salary from the startup and are supporting themselves through part-time jobs. If they are unable to cut costs to get a basic model running, they will have to shelve the project.
“I’d really love to see it happen,” said Jones. “I'm hoping to see that they can get the support that they need and carry this to a higher level.”
Friends and community volunteers have already helped the duo with marketing, brand development and odd duties like packaging and delivery for their catering events.
“We owe them a lot. Thankfully, they are very gracious with their time, helping us out, lending us their talents,” Quek said.
"It started with loving the community and wanting to serve the community. And now the community has kind of responded to that so it's been really great."
Quek hopes New Creation will motivate others the way he and See were inspired by Jones.
"It's like catching this fever," said Quek. "Our hope is to continue having people catch on to that spirit.
"Love can be infectious," he added with a laugh.