Jessica from Brooklyn, New York

My Biggest Asset to My Business, My Library Card

After the birth of my daughter Chloe I decided it would be fun to start a baby business and cater to the new world I joined. So I teamed up with a new mommy friend Selina Alko, children’s book illustrator, and came up with the business concept. Tot Stops would bring the energy and electricity of New York City to high-quality, homegrown t-shirts made in America. We would reinvent the souvenir t-shirt with designs from New York illustrators and artists and keep it sweatshop-free. With our website we would also make New York City family-friendly for travelers from all over the world with TotStops.com, an online guide to New York City specifically designed for families with babies and toddlers, where you can conveniently buy our T-shirts.

After arriving at our great concept, I knew I needed to write a business plan. With little experience writing a business plan I turned to my local business library after hearing they held an annual business plan contest, Power Up!, for new startups. The great thing about the Brooklyn Business Library is they not only sponsor this contest but also give valuable workshops on how to write your business plan, a workshop on the resources at the library, and provide lists of outside resources to help start your business. It is a one-stop shop. I was instantly excited about this opportunity and from day one said we would win first place.

Yes! We did win the prize of $15,000 cash and $5,000 in business services. Believe it or not I will say the most rewarding part of the contest is the knowledge and the contacts I acquired at my library. The business plan that I wrote was so thorough, that anybody could open it up tomorrow and run my business. The resources I found most helpful at the library are reserving business books online; doing industry specific research through the libraries database (which also can be accessed at home with a library card and a pin code); the many workshops offered by professionals in subjects such as marketing, accounting, organization, time management, business plan basics; and last but not least the valuable advice of the librarians.

I also need to mention the professional contacts that I have made through the library are amazing. The library’s panel of judges consisted of different professionals throughout Brooklyn who have opened doors for my business that would probably not have opened otherwise. It is really is amazing how much assistance one can get from your local library and how helpful people are if you ask questions. If you have a dream of opening a business, do something everyday to achieve that dream and visit your local library. Still to this day I visit my library once a week.