Microenterprise Project Partners Win $100,000 for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

February 4, 2015

Dozens of immigrant-owned restaurants, including Delicioso Restaurant (left), are benefiting from the newly formed United Business Cooperative.

On January 13, 2015, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Organization (SoBRO) was named winner of the third annual Competition To Help Reach Immigrant Ventures and Entrepreneurs (THRIVE). The competition, organized by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, seeks to identify and support innovative programs for immigrant entrepreneurs in New York City. As winner, SoBRO received a grand prize of $100,000 to help fund and further develop the United Business Cooperative (UBC), a newly formed restaurant owners’ cooperative that will help to reduce input costs and increase operational efficiencies for its South Bronx-based members.

As SoBRO was working with local restaurant owners to develop the UBC, the group received crucial pro bono legal assistance from White & Case LLP, a partner in Volunteers of Legal Service’s (VOLS’) Microenterprise Project. Through this project, White & Case has provided pro bono services to SoBRO and its low-income clients for several years, donating over 400 hours of assistance in the last three years alone. In addition to the twenty entrepreneurs served in this time are the forty immigrant restaurant owners that make up the UBC.

Specifically, volunteer attorneys from White & Case LLP assisted the UBC with respect to its structure, formation and management arrangements, including drafting all formation and organization documentation. Part of this work included liaising with the New York Secretary of State’s office regarding the requirements for formation of the cooperative.

Steven M. Lutt, Counsel at White & Case, said this about his work on the UBC:

“Julia Bell and I enjoyed working with the UBC members and the SoBRO team on this project. It is extremely rewarding when we can apply our corporate law knowledge and business experience to give back to the local community and assist with getting a start-up business up and running.”

- Steven M. Lutt, Counsel, White & Case

Representatives from SoBRO and the UBC understand firsthand the value of pro bono legal services and the impact this had on the trajectory of the newly formed cooperative.

On being selected as the winner of Competition THRIVE, SoBRO’s Assistant Vice President of Business Services, Jamila Diaz, said, “Immigrant restaurant owners have been forgotten as an economic engine of our City for too long. Thanks to the volunteer attorneys from White & Case and their support in the development of this project, we now have an opportunity to provide hands-on assistance to help New Yorkers realize the American dream.”

While this recent award is a culmination of the efforts of many different people and organizations, VOLS is proud to have played a small part and we congratulate SoBRO and the members of the UBC on winning this year’s Competition THRIVE.

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About Volunteers of Legal Service

The mission of Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) is to leverage the goodwill, resources, and talents of New York City's leading law firms to provide pro bono legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers. Through our projects, VOLS' staff and volunteer attorneys help all kinds of New Yorkers solve difficult legal problems that have significant consequences for them and for their families.

Our Microenterprise Project leverages law firms' and legal departments' deep expertise in business law to promote economic development in New York City. Through the project, pro bono lawyers help low income micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses overcome legal obstacles so that their businesses can thrive. 

To make a donation to our Microenterprise Project, please visit www.vols.kintera.org/micro or contact Bill Lienhard, Executive Director, at blienhard@volsprobono.org at 347-521-5717.

About SoBRO

The South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO), is a not-for profit community organization, that has been serving the Bronx since 1972. SoBRO’s programs include adult education, workforce training, real estate and community development, technical and financial assistance for businesses, and an array of programs for youth and adults. For additional information about SoBRO, call 718 292-3113 or visit www.sobro.org.

About White & Case

White & Case LLP is a leading global law firm with lawyers in 38 offices across 26 countries. Among the first US-based law firms to establish a truly global presence, we provide counsel and representation in virtually every area of law that affects cross border business. Our clients value both the breadth of our global network and the depth of our US, English and local law capabilities in each of our regions and rely on us for their complex cross-border transactions, as well as their representation in arbitration and litigation proceedings.