New-York News

City invests in $25M Navy Yard incubator for women- and minority-owned health and beauty businesses


The city, the City Council and other entities have allocated $25 million to a business incubator aimed at addressing disparities in the health and beauty industry.

The project, called AYO Labs, is a nearly 40,000 square-feet space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard that will offer Black, indigenous, people of color and women-owned companies workspace and development opportunities. It is designed for 100 health and beauty entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. While Black consumers make up 11% of spending on wellness and beauty products, companies founded or owned by Black people only make up 2.5% of the industry’s revenue.

“We’ve known for a long time… Black women, they have spent so much of their resources and economics into beauty supplies,” Mayor Eric Adams, who invested $1 million in AYO Labs when he was Brooklyn Borough President, said at a press conference Thursday. “But in the beauty industry, there’s an ugly reality and truth: we buy the products, but there’s no support for us to produce the product and to share the wealth of this multi‑billion dollar industry.

Beyond the mayor’s $1 million, the City Council invested $2 million in AYO Labs in 2019 and $3.5 million more from its Women’s Caucus in 2022. R.F. Wilkins Consultants, which is based in Queens and is owned by Black women, is raising the remaining funds.

The city chose R.F. Wilkins to design and operate the lab out of a pool of applicants because the firm has worked on several initiatives to expand minority- and women-owned businesses, said Amaris Cockfield, a City Hall representative. R.F. Wilkins has worked on the Google Digital Coaches Program, the John F. Kennedy International Airport redevelopment project and the city’s M/WBE Mentors program, which allows firms to learn from well-established public sector contractors. The city issued a request for proposals for the project in 2021 and held a competitive bidding process.

The firm will work with Midtown construction firm McKissack & McKissack and Studio 397 Architecture, two companies also owned by Black women, to complete the project. AYO Labs will create 900 “direct and indirect” jobs in its first five years and be one of the largest Black woman-owned contract manufacturing facilities in the country, according to the Adams administration.

The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by 2025. Phase two, which will bring on an additional 14,000 square-feet of space, is expected to be complete in 2026. 

 



Jacqueline Neber , 2024-03-12 09:33:04

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