Last night, the Brooklyn Public Library’s 17th annual PowerUp! competition culminated in a Zoom program to announce the winners.
The competition, which was hosted by Joe Connolly of WCBS News Radio, began with over 300 participants and 90 business proposals.
“[The entrants] represent Brooklyn’s spirit,” said Diana Reyna, a trustee of the Brooklyn Public Library.
The first-place award, with a prize of $20,000, was awarded to Megan Meza and her company Bandida.
Bandida is a bottled coffee company, combining the drink with horchata sweetened by dates.
“Bandida will use coffee breaks to break the glass ceiling,” their mission statement says.
“Tonight feels very full circle,” Meza said to the audience, explaining that her first-ever bottle was sold right outside the library at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers Market.
Second place went to KG’s Bagel Chips, founded by Ephrem Kitoyi, a snack brand that makes their chips from unsold bagels from local Brooklyn shops. Kitoyi took home a prize of $10,000.
Third place, with $5,000, went to Celeste Weins and her company A Plus Party Bus, a converted school bus that would host bar and restaurant crawls of typically underrepresented neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
Previous first-place winners of the competition include George Constantinou for his restaurant Bogota, now one of four he owns and operates, and Greenlight Bookstore.
In addition to the three placing winners, five businesses were awarded merit awards of $1,000 and competed last evening for the audience choice award of an additional $1,000.
The audience voted for Sylvia’s Community Kitchen, an East New York based company run by mother-daughter duo Vanessa Dixon and Ashanti White.
Sylvia’s hopes to provide clean, nutritious food delivered from their kitchen and hopes to target Black and Latinx families in East New York.
The company is named for Dixon’s mother, who struggled all her life from preventable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
“East New York was labeled the killing fields. Sylvia’s Community Kitchen will change that. We proclaim we are the living fields of families who are thriving and breaking the cycle of generational diseases,” Dixon said. The money they won will go towards kitchen supplies and advertising materials.
“Beautiful concept!!!!! Honoring our ancestors and helping our community!!!!!!!!!,” one attendee wrote in the chat.
“All of you, and the Brooklyn Library, pivoted faster than most businesses,” Connolly said. “The PowerUp! contest has never been more important.”
Other merit award winners are as follows:
Big Bad Evil Gaming — Andrew Vogel and Jack Rafalski
Buzzoms — Marshay Clark
When She Comes Home — Diana Hillaire
The Word is Change — Alexander Dwinell