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Brownsville Business Incubator Opens This Weekend for Local Entrepreneurs

 The Dream Big Innovation Center, a business incubator on Belmont Avenue in Brownsville, is set to open on June 18 along with a cafe started by local residents.
The Dream Big Innovation Center, a business incubator on Belmont Avenue in Brownsville, is set to open on June 18 along with a cafe started by local residents.
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Dream Big Foundation

BROWNSVILLE — Budding entrepreneurs in Brownsville will have the chance to grow their ideas at a new business incubator opening in the neighborhood.

The Dream Big Foundation, an organization that provides food assistance and entrepreneurship resources to New Yorkers, launches its first Innovation Center this weekend on Belmont Avenue, near Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn.

The 5,000-square-foot space will house a conference room, co-working areas, chalkboard walls and smart TVs for aspiring business owners to work, meet mentors and utilize the facilities.

In addition to the center, the building will be home to the 3 Black Cats Café and Cakery, the first community business that received support from the Dream Big Foundation.

“Brownsville is the first community we’re focusing on because we saw a need. There’s a number of potential areas around New York, but they’re already fairly gentrified — Harlem, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights,” said Pernell Brice, executive director of Dream Big.

“We saw just a great deal of inspiration and entrepreneurial ability from community members that we met. This is their space. We want people to feel like they can call this place home.”

Those local residents included the Jimenez sisters, the owners of 3 Black Cats Café who received financing and resources to expand their business into a brick and mortar.  

Along with her two siblings, Diana and Melissa, Ionna Jimenez help developed the company over the past five years as they cultivated their client base and cooked out of their home and commercial kitchens throughout the borough.

“I think that residents of Brownsville are tired of people coming in and talking about things, they really want to see change with their own eyes,” Jimenez, 34, said. “I think this café will do just that."

“It will be a visual reminder of change and that it can happen from within, that we don’t necessarily need people from the outside coming in to dictate the future of Brownsville, we can do those things on our own.”

Entrepreneurs and business owners in the neighborhood can become stakeholders in their community, she added.

The café will serve cake slices, pastries, cupcakes and other sweets, along with sandwiches, salads and dishes such as macaroni and cheese and jerk chicken.

The eatery will also carry a tea line from the UK's Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and take custom cake orders, Jimenez said.

She hopes that the café will inspire others to “lead change,” she added.

Brownsville residents can apply to be a part of the business incubator and, if chosen, will be asked to pitch their ideas to the Dream Big Foundation.

The organization will provide in-class lessons, tutorials, mentoring and seed money to bring businesses to life.

Community members will also be able to use the space for events such as parties or meetings, according to Brice.

“This is a real unique space, a unique café, a café with a purpose,” Jimenez said.

“The purpose is to have residents think through their dreams and map them out, and be able to see it realized. My sisters and I are excited to be a part of that.”

The Dream Big Innovation Center and 3 Black Cats Cafe hosts its grand opening with elected officials on June 18 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 3 Belmont Ave.