In the poorest congressional district in the United States, a fledgling company founded by Fordham graduates is striving to connect entrepreneurs with the tools for success.
The Concourse Group was founded three years ago by Andrew Kingsley, GSB ’13, and Anuar Juraidini, FCRH ’12, through the Fordham Foundry with two goals: connecting Fordham students with Bronx residents looking to launch businesses, and assisting local credit unions.
Kingsley, who graduated with a degree in economics and finance, connected with Juraidini, an economics and philosophy major, through Darryl McLeod, Ph.D., professor of economics.
As chance would have it, they’d both worked through Fordham’s Service Learning Program with the Bethex Federal Credit Union, which has been helping Bronx residents get loans since 1970. Kingsley originally hoped to get credit unions like Bethex to expand their offerings, organize a self-help group like a trade association, and establish a loan fund to lend to entrepreneurs.
They have directed efforts toward helping individual entrepreneurs with events including 3 Day Startup Bronx, a “hackathon” at the Fordham Foundry, and a second 3 Day event in April at the Bronx Sunshine incubator. Earlier this year the group hosted 30 entrepreneurs who pitched business ideas ranging from a catering business to a rateyourprofessor.com-type website revolving around landlords.
“We had a really diverse group, and I feel that each of the businesses could be successful in the future,” Kingsley said.
Three entrepreneurs were selected from that group, and have been paired with students from Fordham who will act as consultants. The hope is that they will secure financing for their businesses. In addition to helping businesses get off the ground, Kingsley said, the experience will help Fordham students learn skills that they can use after graduation in the workforce.
“This is something that’s going to give you a strong business background, an acumen, and you will potentially get a job out of your experience here,” he said.
Ultimately, what he’d like to do is develop a fund to bridge the loan gap between entrepreneurs and credit unions, which often won’t lend the initial $5,000 to startups. The space that the Fordham Foundry provides for the Concourse Group to work out of has been invaluable for getting to that point.
“Now that I’ve run an event and I’ve worked with 30 entrepreneurs, I can go to a small foundation or an individual and say ‘Listen, these types of events work, and here’s why. Here are the faces that I can prove to you that it works. Give me $10,000 so I can do it three more times,’” he said.
With manpower and community connections in place, funding is the last piece of the puzzle that Kingsley said he needs for the Concourse Group. The Bronx is a good place to work though, and he’s optimistic about the prospects.
“If you walk around the Bronx today, you’ll find more entrepreneurs than you will in Silicon Valley. I can tell you that right now,” he said.