When Kobina Ansah, an entrepreneur who resides in Long Island City, decided to participate in this year’s Squarespace and New York Knicks fifth annual Make It Awards competition, he was surprised to be selected as one of the four winners to receive a $30,000 grant to help take his business to the next level.
“I threw my hat in the ring and didn’t know if we had the chance and was pleasantly surprised to be nominated,” Ansah said. “It’s a huge honor and a great opportunity.”
Along with the $30,000 grant, Ansah was also awarded a one-year subscription to Squarespace, use of select Squarespace marketing inventory, including an annual Unfold Pro subscription, a feature segment on MSG Networks and more.
Squarespace, a website building and e-commerce platform, and the New York Knicks Make It Awards program provides four tri-state area entrepreneurs and creators that are dedicated to helping their communities with the funds and exposure they need to elevate their businesses.
The $30,000 grant is inspired by the investment Squarespace Founder and CEO Anthony Casalena received from his parents to launch the company in 2003.
The submission process, which began in January, called for applicants to provide details about their business, inspiration for becoming an entrepreneur, community ties and a plan for how they would utilize the funds.
Ansah is the founder of COVERR, an online financial services provider customized for gig economy workers, such as drivers for delivery apps like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash.
“We help gig workers who may not be able to get access to financing from large traditional banks. We look at alternative factors and provide them with capital on that basis to be used towards things like fixing their cars, a small emergency and helping to smooth out their cash flow,” Ansah said.
According to Ansah, the grant will help to automate the company’s underwriting practices; expand their job board to help gig economy workers find other jobs to elevate their income levels; and enhance the company’s marketing and research development to engage with their clients.
Ansah established COVERR in the beginning of 2020. When the city went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Ansah had to change his game plan.
“It was a constantly evolving process. We provide finances based on how much a gig worker earns, and that was a big challenge for us figuring out how do we support the market when people are making less money or no money at all,” Ansah said. “At one point, we reduced the payment levels to $1 each business day and did a fundraiser to support gig workers. It gave us an opportunity to help the community.”
Ansah is a graduate of Cornell University and received his MBA from Wharton. Prior to launching COVERR, he worked for Wells Fargo as a relationship manager serving high net worth individuals and looked at deals greater than $20 million.
According to Ansah, that’s where he was inspired to help underserved communities, as he noticed that the people who were coming to the table with projects that were under that cap often looked more like him and came from diverse backgrounds.
“I wanted to figure out how to use my background and experience to support the community,” Ansah said.
After going to business school at Wharton, Ansah created a company, ModernLend, that provided credit cards for international citizens who didn’t have a U.S. credit history.
His entrepreneurial spirit and grind, he said, stemmed from his family who is from Ghana, West Africa. Ansah’s grandmother created one of the first daycare centers in Ghana that made an impact in the community and was visited by Queen Elizabeth.
“That was a big thing and it motivated my mom and her siblings, three females, to start their own businesses which are doing well,” Ansah said.
When they moved to the U.S., Ansah’s mother opened a spa in Ithaca, NY.
“I was with her from the time she thought of the name, identifying the location, sweeping the floor at the shop. Seeing that kind of grind and grit to be one of the leading businesses in her town and the ability to have a positive impact in the community, inspired me to maybe one day also be novel in something and that’s what compelled me to start dabbling in the entrepreneurial space,” Ansah said.
Ansah said they are looking forward to providing more services for their client base and honoring the great opportunities they have received.
As for people who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs, Ansah said it’s important to be in the right mindset and to understand it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
“If this is something that you want to pursue, you need to get yourself mentally set — making sure you have the right community around you and to be very careful who you choose to partner with,” Ansah said. “Most importantly, be passionate about what you do and have fun.”