The New York Public Library’s StartUP! Business Plan Competition Offers Sweet Rewards to New York City Entrepreneurs

First Place Winner Receives $15,000 to Open Harlem-based Chocolateria, Harlem Chocolate Factory

September 16 – The New York Public Library (NYPL) and Citi today announced the winners of New York StartUP! 2015 Business Plan Competition, an annual competition managed by NYPL’s Science Industry and Business Library (SIBL) and supported by the Citi Foundation. The top prize of $15,000 went to the Harlem Chocolate Factory, created by Jessica Spaulding. The Harlem-based artisan chocolate company uses chocolate to convey the various cultural experiences of the neighborhood and handcrafts premium products using fresh ingredients and responsibly-sourced high quality chocolate. Each bar is hand wrapped in original artwork or photograph taken by Spaulding.

The business plan for the Harlem Chocolate Factory was selected as the first place winner over 56 other completed plans. Spaulding received the award from Kristin McDonough, SIBL’s director, after she acknowledged all 10 finalists in the audience.

“The Library’s StartUP! Business Plan Competition supports New York City’s 

​thriving ​local small business community by providing entrepreneurs with resources and guidance that ensures their future success,” said Kristin McDonough, Acting Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries. “We are grateful to our generous supporter, the Citi Foundation, along with SIBL’s community of business advisors, experts, and mentors – all of whom create this competitive program that nurtures aspiring entrepreneurs.” 

“Small businesses are a vital part of the New York City economy,” said Eileen Auld, New York Tri-State Director of Community Development for Citi. “We are proud to partner with the New York Public Library to support the local small business community.”

Spaulding was joined at Wednesday’s ceremony by finalists:

  • Evelyn Vargas received the second-place award of $7,500 for Just Jazzy Cakes, a home-based business located in the Bronx that provides sculpted cakes and pastries made fresh to order.

  • Annie Etheridge received the third-place award of $5,000 for her business Field & Clover, which specializes in handmade buttermilk biscuits featuring a modern twist. Examples from the product line include the traditional buttermilk, fresh herb & goat cheese, maple bacon, and au chocolat.

  • Mikahila Bloomfield of Fashion League, Inc. - an Internet platform that gamifies fashion – and Natasha Green of WeIntervene, a subscription-based online platform that allows educators to connect their students with community resources, each received $1,500.

Nearly 325 applications were submitted to the 2015 New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition. As a requirement for consideration, entrants were required to attend an orientation, three out of four business planning workshops, and meet with expert business advisors in the course of writing their business plans. The workshops and business counseling sessions provided practical information about starting and growing a business and entrants made use of the extensive business collections and business information databases available at SIBL. The business plans were evaluated by a panel of judges representing local business development leaders from non profits and public agencies, venture capital firms and banks, and successful entrepreneurs.

Aspiring business owners can learn more about next year’s competition, New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition 2016, by visiting The first orientation session will be held on November 7 at the Bronx Library Center; orientation sessions will continue at locations in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island through December 12.  Attendance at an orientation session is mandatory for those who wish to participate in the competition. In order to qualify, entrants must be 18 years of age or older; live in Manhattan, the Bronx or Staten Island as a legal resident or United States citizen; and plan to start a business in one of those boroughs.

About The Science, Industry, and Business Library

The Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) is a premier public business library founded in 1996 with comprehensive print materials, e-resources, and services for start-ups and established businesses seeking expansion, and for job seekers from entry to executive levels. Library staff provide roving assistance and consultations, and advisory services are offered on-site by experienced business owners, career coaches, and a financial specialist.

About The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at

About the Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world. We invest in efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities. The Citi Foundation's "More than Philanthropy" approach leverages the enormous expertise of Citi and its people to fulfill our mission and drive thought leadership and innovation. For more information, visit