Published On: April 19, 202325.9 min read569 words

New ‘Shark Tank’-like initiative seeks applications from entrepreneurs of color in the Bronx, Uptown


Do you have dreams of entrepreneurship but lack support to get your idea off the ground?

A new initiative spearheaded by the nonprofit Oyate Group wants to support people of color in the Bronx, Washington Heights and Harlem who have great ideas but need help making them a reality. Tomas Ramos, founder of the Oyate Group, said the startup funding competition can assist people who have started companies and need help taking them to the next level, as well as people who have big ideas but have struggled to get them off the ground.

He described the program as “‘Shark Tank’ style,” referring to the popular television show where startup founders present to a panel of investors.

The demand is there. Ramos said he is seeing people — particularly formerly incarcerated individuals or young people who don’t go to college — struggle to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions because they lack financial safety nets and face other economic barriers like low credit.

“When you look at most entrepreneurs, a lot of entrepreneurs had access to resources, they had family members that were wealthy, or a friend, or a network of people that they can go to,” he said. “But when we look at our community we’re targeting, it’s just poverty. They don’t have access to these resources.”

Oyate Group’s mission is to alleviate poverty and empower underserved communities in Uptown Manhattan and the Bronx.

In this new competition, the first place business will get $50,000, the runner up will get $25,000 and the third place winner will get $10,000. The winners will undergo a 10-week training and get access to Oyate Group’s resources like the organization’s accountant, lawyers and digital media team, Ramos said. In return, the nonprofit will take a percentage of equity in the three winning ideas, and profits will go back into the organization’s programs. The percentage of equity will depend on the project, but the benchmark will be 7%, Ramos said.

“Just like Shark Tank, we’ll evaluate the business and see what makes sense for the equity we take,” he said.

Oyate Group will continue supporting entrepreneurs after the 10-week program as needed, he said. While the particulars will differ depending on the business, Ramos said the organization wants to foster long-term sustainability by investing in companies and making them profitable.

“We want to make sure that the entrepreneurs are successful so we will be doing everything possible to help them in those efforts,” Ramos said.

Applications, which are due June 1, are now open and available on the Oyate Group’s website. The online application is the first step in the process, and judges will narrow down applicants who will move on to an in-person interview, Ramos said.

Entrepreneur Junior Martinez, a cofounder of marijuana dispensary CONBUD and whose restaurant portfolio includes hip-hop restaurant BeatstroBricks and Hops and Bronx Drafthouse, will be one of the judges. The rest of the panel is still in the making, and Ramos said he is looking to potentially bring in Wall Street business owners along with other successful founders.

“We are looking for people that are motivated, that are determined, that have their idea and have a vision of what they want to do,” he said. “Because if they’re not invested in it, then it doesn’t make senes for us to be invested in them.”

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