NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ  - The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers University has launched the Black and Latino Urban Entrepreneurship Retail Acceleration Program (BLUE-RAP).  The goals of the program are to help black and Latino owners of retail stores and restaurants to thrive, purchase property, and open additional locations in the growing downtown areas and gentrifying neighborhoods of such cities as Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, Elizabeth, and New Brunswick.

“The participating BLUE-RAP entrepreneurs will gain critical skills to help them manage and grow their urban business ventures,” says Lyneir Richardson, Executive Director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CUEED), which in its 10 year history has assisted 370 New Jersey business owners who have contributed over $80MM to their local economies.

“They’ll receive intensive executive education, training, financial counseling, and ongoing mentoring over a six-month period. They’ll also be introduced to thought leaders in such areas as finance, marketing, accounting and site selection who will share valuable ideas to help them improve profits, become loan ready, expand to new locations, survive potential disruption from unexpected market forces, and continue to be a part of the revitalization in their communities.”

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Additional benefits for participating BLUE-RAP entrepreneurs will include opportunities to:

  • Learn from the experience of their fellow entrepreneurs.
  • Present their growth plans to a panel of local corporate partners, micro lenders, and venture capitalists for feedback and possible investment.
  • Work with Rutgers MBA students on market research, financial analysis, and other projects.

“I’m expecting that BLUE-RAP will be like an accelerated small business MBA program for retail owners,” says participant Laura Mashtaler, owner of Black Swan Espresso, a specialty coffee shop in Newark.  “There should be more programs like this for local entrepreneurs, who – like me – want to open new locations and own property.  Rutgers deserves applause for assisting small business owners to gain a better understanding of business, accounting, finance, and marketing.  The landscape is constantly changing, and BLUE-RAP will help us to successfully navigate it.”

BLUE-RAP participant Gerardo Perez, owner of Casa Cubana in Jersey City, is seeking to gain a better understanding of the finances of his restaurant.

“I’m really looking forward to working with BLUE-RAP’s business and financial coaches,” says Perez, who currently offers catering services and local deliveries, and will be opening Casa Cubana as a full service restaurant later this  year.  “Getting guidance from these professionals is a great opportunity for local business owners who are seeking resources to help them grow.”

BLUE-RAP, which is being introduced as part of CUEED’s tenth anniversary, is a six month program (February through August) that’s funded by Santander Bank, Care Point Health, and the Hudson County Economic Development Corporation.  The program, which is the first and only one of its kind in the state, is a partnership between CUEED and Save Latin America, a New Jersey based non-profit organization.

The BLUE-RAP sessions and instruction will take place at the Rutgers Business School’s Exchange Place campus in Jersey City.  Space is available for a limited number of additional local entrepreneurs to participate.

For more information about BLUE-RAP, contact cueed@business.rutgers.edu or 973-353-5987.  To become a BLUE-RAP participant, visit the BLUE-RAP enrollment page.