Four local entrepreneurs win 2021 Queens Economic Development Corporation’s StartUP! contest

She Designs Creative Agency, led by Sharae Gibbs of St. Albans (l.), triumphed in the tech category. (Courtesy of QEDC)

Four entrepreneurs were big winners of the Queens Economic Development Corporation’s annual StartUP! Business Competition on Thursday, April 29. With support from Resorts World Casino New York City and Srivastava Technology Fund, each person will receive $10,000 to grow their businesses. 

“Congratulations to this year’s winners and best of luck during your next steps,” said QEDC Executive Director Seth Bornstein. “At the same time, I’d like to remind the participants who didn’t win that they can try again next year.”

Now in its 15th year, StartUP! is a four-month instruction course and competition for Queens-based startup founders and small business entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of development. After attending at least four workshops on such topics as branding and financial forecasting marketing, contestants submitted their applications to a panel of judges consisting of local entrepreneurship and commerce experts. They selected 12 finalists (three in each category) from a pool of almost 50 teams to enter a final round, where a second panel picked one winner from each of the four categories.

Thuy Petersen’s House of Playful Soul took top honors in the community category. The Forest Hills learning and development center provides parents with flexible play, class, party and event options for children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years old. 

Jamaica resident Abou Sow and Prince Abou’s Butchery won in the food category. The online retailer specializes in local Halal meats sourced from small, family-run farms just a few hours from New York City. Sow slaughters, butchers and delivers meat to customers within a week of ordering to ensure that the products are fresh.

Terrart NYC, which is owned by Fresh Meadows residents Charly Uzcátegui and Tim Chu, emerged victorious in the sustainability category. They devise beautiful, natural floral arrangements inside terrariums for commercial, office and residential spaces. Their collection features recycled containers such as liquor bottles, light bulbs and jars.

She Designs Creative Agency, which is led by Sharae Gibbs of St. Albans, triumphed in the tech category. The all-female company offers UI and UX online courses, mentorship and coaching to women of color and non-binary people. 

Robert DeSalvio, president of Genting Americas Inc., the world’s largest destination resort operator with Resorts World branded properties in Malaysia, Singapore, Manila and New York City, said he’s inspired by the winners’ entrepreneurial spirit. 

“Their innovation and ingenuity are why startups are the lifeblood of any economy, and on behalf of Resorts World Casino New York City, I want to congratulate the winners on this amazing achievement,” DeSalvio said. 

Bill Singh, director of planning and analysis for Genting Americas, said it was an honor to work alongside QEDC and watch as new generations of entrepreneurs realize their dreams and fulfill their potential. 

“These winners represent the very best of the future of Queens, and I wish them continued success in years to come,” Singh said. 

Founded in 1977, QEDC’s mission is to create and retain jobs through programming that grows neighborhoods, assists small businesses, and promotes tourism and business development. The nonprofit agency believes that inclusion is an economic imperative and entrepreneurship is open to everyone, regardless of gender, race or birthplace.

For more information on these programs and other services, go to www.queensny.org.