May 10, 2017
By Yanki Tshering
Looking back on our 6th Annual BCNA Immigrant Heritage Week Awards, I am gratified by what a renewing, inspiring program it was, and what a wonderful sense of community and of unified purpose there was in the room. This year, we celebrated the energized and passionate re-commitment of the board and staff to our mission. Never have we felt a deeper conviction and appreciation of the role BCNA plays in supporting the efforts of individuals and families who come to New York seeking safety, security, and a better life - and in turn contribute to the rich cultural diversity and financial success of this country.
For the sixth year in a row, members of our community gathered to honor the outstanding achievements of our clients: immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs in New York City.
We were delighted that the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services, Gregg Bishop, made time in his demanding schedule to present the awards to our seven honorees alongside new BCNA Board Chair Larry Rubenstein. We are looking forward to working closely with Commissioner Bishop in the years to come, and we share his sense of optimism that we can advance a pro-immigrant agenda in New York City that facilitates the incredible work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes New Americans.
Commissioner Bishop presented awards to this year's truly impressive group of honorees: Astou Diaw, owner of Astou African Hair Braiding and Mauritanian refugee, who received the Bootstrap Entrepreneur Award; Sunita Adhikari, owner of Shuvashree Inc. and immigrant from Nepal, who received the Job Creator Award; Juan Quelal, owner of SmartCab and immigrant from Ecuador, who received the Innovation Award; Yevegniy Mordkovich, Lithuanian immigrant and owner of EVELO Inc., who received the Trailblazer Award; and Behzad Pouyanfar from Iran, Nabina Khanal from Nepal, and Olawale Obayemi from Nigeria, who each received a New Beginning Award, which goes to refugees who successfully save for education, a home, or investment.
Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer of New York, made an inspiring keynote speech about the role of technology in changing the world. Sree spoke about digital natives and digital immigrants, drawing on the multiple meanings of the word "immigrant." We honored Sree with the BCNA Vision Award for his leadership in the public sector and for his spearheading of innovative and technological solutions to empower New Yorkers.
We were thrilled to be presented with a Commendation from the New York City Office of the Comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, for two decades of work as a vital resource for New York's immigrant and refugee communities.
Comptroller Stringer was joined on stage by all of the 6th Annual Immigrant Heritage Week Awards winners, Board Chair Larry Rubenstein, and Executive Director Yanki Tshering.
And finally, Judy Messina, journalist and Senior Fellow in Small Business at the Center for an Urban Future, led a thought-provoking panel that included four women clients that are the founding members of BCNA Voices speakers bureau – Natalia Konovalova, Founder and CEO of Le'Bulga; Nancy Reynoso, Green Taxi owner and spokesperson for the Green Taxi industry; Annabelle Santos, Founder and CEO of Spadet; and Alimata Zabsonre, Founder and CEO of Alima Hair Braiding and the Association of African Women. BCNA board member Deepti Sharma Kapur, Founder and CEO of FoodtoEat, joined the panelists as well. The panelists discussed the many ways in which digital access helps women entrepreneurs build connections.
The following week, at a May Day rally in Foley Square, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared: "New York City is stronger than ever before – not in spite of immigrants, but because of them."
That spirit was felt by all who attended the 6th Annual BCNA Immigrant Heritage Week Awards, and we look forward to continuing to support and empower our clients in their own paths to achieving economic success and the American Dream.