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Northside UP Helps Entrepreneurs Realize Dreams

Northside UP Helps Entrepreneurs Realize Dreams

Jonathan Logan is a Program Manager with the Northside Urban Partnership (Northside UP) who grew up in Seneca Falls. But his short bio, published on the group’s web site, reads like an abbreviated history of Syracuse’s Northside neighborhood and its role in developing the CNY economy.

“[M]y ties to the Northside go back over 100 years when my great grandfather emigrated from Italy, married a German girl from the neighborhood, and started a small grocery store.”

That strong connection to place is clear in both the mission and fervor of the Northside UP organization. From Director Dominic Robinson’s story of the group’s founding to the enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs in the UPStart education program, it’s clear that a sense of shared community is what motivates everyone. No city neighborhood embodies the principles of the livable city better than this one. Northside UP’s web site describes the area beautifully invoking the hand of history and a clear grasp of the current reality. “Small, independently owned businesses, offering a variety of goods and services, have been the backbone of the Northside for generations. German and Italian immigrants set up shops in the mid-19th century, some of which still cater to the needs of the community today. The current ethnic diversity of the Northside is reflected in the many small stores run by refugees from Africa and Asia. This historic neighborhood lends itself to casually strolling through a sampling of eclectic shops.”

The Northside in 1900 photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

The Northside in 1900 photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

In the 21st century, this Syracuse neighborhood still serves as the point of entry for people starting new lives in the United States. The people who live in today’s Northside come from many nations and speak a variety of languages. That cultural and ethnic diversity is part of a tradition of renewal that is as much the Northside’s future as its history. Today, the Northside Urban Partnership is dedicated to continuing that revitalization by utilizing this diversity to build the next generation of small businesses.

“Over the past 10 years, around 8,000 refugees from more than 35 countries have resettled in Syracuse. Many of them now call the Northside home,” says Dan Cowen, a Program Assistant in Business Development.

This year, Northside UP began the UP Start program which helps aspiring entrepreneurs launch their business. The program began with an extensive recruitment period where neighborhood residents were invited to talk about their entrepreneurial dreams.  “Through an application and interview process we selected a class to take part in our in-classroom business training, the UP Start Seminar.

In the seminar, entrepreneurs create business portfolios for their business ideas through in-classroom and homework assignments,” says Cowen. “The Northside is a natural hub for entrepreneurship because of its expansive diversity” says Cowen. “Many of the immigrants and refugees that live in the neighborhood bring with them extensive business and entrepreneurial experience, while the urban community residents see opportunities and have ideas to meet the city’s needs. It is natural that the interaction of many cultures, ideas and previous experiences spurs entrepreneurship.”

UP Start Syracuse Begins! Photo provided by Northside UP

UP Start Syracuse Begins. Students in the UPStart Seminar hear presentations on business development. Photo provided by Northside UP

After the Up Start Seminar, program directors handpicked an incubation class and began the arduous process of funding, developing, and launching these businesses.

“When we select the incubation class from the Seminar, we assess the quality of work that went into the portfolio, the entrepreneur’s work ethic and the idea’s merit and impact on the community,” says Cowen.

The UP Start program differentiates itself from other startup incubators because they give special consideration to community-oriented entrepreneurs. Currently, the first class of entrepreneurs are working on refining and launching their proposed ventures. Once the businesses are off the ground, Northside UP will continue to be involved.

“We will support the entrepreneurs after launch through technical assistance and advisory support” says Cowen. “ Many of the successful businesses will have opportunities to continue to engage in the program as support for the classes that follow them.” Cowen is also quick to point out that this first run of the UP Start program is only the beginning, “We have not selected a start date for our next class, but we are in the process of assembling all the pieces that we see as essential to sustain the program for the long run. As our current class starts their businesses we will shift more of our efforts towards recruiting our next class.”

About The Author

Yutao Tan

Master of Science in New Media Management

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