November 9, 2023


First-of-its-Kind Partnership Between SBS, DVS, and the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation Supports Veteran Entrepreneurs From Underrepresented Backgrounds

Grantees Honored Alongside Other Veterans at Gracie Mansion

NEW YORK, NY – New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Kevin D. Kim, New York City Department of Veterans' Services (DVS) Commissioner James Hendon, and the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation today announced the first-ever cohort of grant award winners for the NYC Boss UP Veteran Entrepreneurship Program. Each winning small business owner will receive a $20,000 grant, and enrollment in SBS's small business mentorship program to help build and grow their businesses. The grantees were also recognized at Mayor Adams' annual Veterans Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion alongside other honorees for their service and contributions to the city and country.

The NYC Boss UP Veteran Entrepreneurship Program builds on the successful recovery of the New York City economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the Adams administration's deep commitment to empowering New York City as both the Working People's City and the City of Yes for veteran-owned small businesses.

"Today and every day, we honor and are grateful for the service and sacrifice of the more than 200,000 veterans that call New York City home," said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. "Through the city's first-ever NYC Boss UP Veteran Entrepreneurship Program, we hope to give back to a community that has given us so much. Congratulations to the nine winners of the program and thank you again to the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation for your partnership in making this program possible."

"The extraordinary achievements of each of the inaugural NYC Boss UP Veteran Entrepreneurship Program participants demonstrates the exceptional ingenuity and boundless talent residing within our veteran community," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. This program showed the indispensable role veterans play not only shaping, but invigorating our city's entrepreneurial tapestry and offers our veterans the tools and resources they need to thrive in this great city."

"I'm thrilled to join Mayor Adams, Commissioner Hendon, and the Ron and Kerry Moelis Foundation in announcing the first-ever grant award winners of the NYC Boss UP Veteran Entrepreneurship Program," said SBS Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. "This Veterans Day, we are giving back to our servicemen and women by providing them with the tools and resources they need to thrive with this first-of-its-kind initiative. I want to congratulate everyone who participated in this program, and I'm excited to see how these ten entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level."

"The winners of the first-ever NYC Boss UP Veteran Entrepreneurship Program demonstrated the incredible talent and innovation that is present within our veteran community," said DVS Commissioner James Hendon. "This program's success is indicative of the remarkable impact that we can achieve when we work together to support our veteran entrepreneurs. It also underscores the invaluable contributions of veterans in shaping the entrepreneurial landscape."

"Our veterans are the backbone of this city and this nation," said Ron Moelis, co-founder of the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation. "We are proud to support nine exemplary companies created and led by veterans through the NYC Boss UP Program for Veteran Entrepreneurs. The stories behind these companies are inspiring, and I hope they will encourage other veterans to consider taking that first step towards developing their own business plan, bringing their ideas to life and taking advantage of available support. Thank you to our partners Mayor Eric Adams, the New York City Department of Small Business Services, the New York City Department of Veterans' Services, and FJC for their ongoing support of this important initiative."

"FJC is thrilled to be helping expand the groundbreaking NYC Boss UP program to provide philanthropic awards to these dynamic veteran entrepreneurs," said Sam Marks, Chief Executive Officer of FJC - A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds. "Programs like NYC Boss UP epitomize the best of philanthropy in bridging the gap between imaginative donors and dynamic community partnerships. By bringing together government agencies, nonprofits, and private philanthropy around a common goal we are delivering dynamic new support to New York City's veterans."

The nine NYC Boss UP Veteran Entrepreneurship Program grantees hail from all five boroughs and reflect the cultural, ethnic, and geographic diversity of New York, with many coming from some of the city's most vulnerable and underrepresented communities. Grant recipients anticipate using their awards to not only elevate their businesses to the next level, but also make lasting, positive impacts on their neighborhoods and communities.

The nine grantees are:

  • Serghio Adams – Brothers Building Blocks
    Brothers Building Blocks is a cohort-based educational enrichment program designed to empower youth and promote interest in STEM career paths. Founder Serghio Adams served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Seoul, South Korea. Serghio plans to use his grant to expand his business' after school curriculum and reach more mostly BIPOC students in LMI communities.
  • Ron Holloway – Woofbowl
    Woofbowl was started as a food truck for neighborhood dogs and has since expanded to work alongside other institutions ranging from the MLB to the Brooklyn Museum in a shared mission of building community. Owner Ron Holloway is an American disabled veteran who served in the U.S. Navy from December 2001 through June 2010. Ron plans to use his grant to take Woofbowl nationwide with a new subscription system.
  • Tsikata Apenyo – indeHealth
    indeHealth provides a comprehensive healthcare management platform that functions as an intermediary between students and university campuses. Owner Tsiktata Apenyo served as a Fulbright Fellow in China, and as a Medical Corps officer in the U.S. Army. Tsikata will use his grant to scale up his business operations after recently securing a contract with Yale.
  • Analiza Quiroz Wolf – Women of Color Rise
    Women of Color Rise is a mission-based organization with the goal of elevating diverse leaders – especially women of color – to positions of power. CEO Analiza Quiroz Wolf served in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of Captain. Analiza intends to use her grant as startup money to expand her organization's reach.
  • Dan Rossi – AJM Business Service Inc.
    AJM Business Service Inc. is a food vending service once described by the New York Times as "the New York Hot Dog King." Owner Dan Rossi is a service-disabled veteran of two tours of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps. Dan will use his grant to build a new cart with all-new "Hot Dog King" branding.
  • Vance Gorman Jr. – Vanso Visual Imaging
    Vanso Visual Imaging is portrait photography studio and design service. Owner Vance Gorman Jr. served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Vance is planning to use his grant to scale up his studio and expand.
  • Sergio Rodriguera Jr. – Straylight Systems
    Straylight Systems is an artificial intelligence company that helps commercial and government entities operationalize data by analyzing thousands of disparate information streams across various file types. Co-Founder Sergio Rodriguera Jr. served in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Intelligence Officer. Sergio will use his grant as seed money to foster additional growth and service more customers.
  • Nick & Joelle Lynch – Tree ARMY Co.
    Tree ARMY Co. is a Bronx-based tree removal, tree-pruning, planting, and tree-emergency response business that hires transitioning veterans and dependents. Owners Nick and Joelle Lynch both served in the U.S. Army. Nick and Joelle will be investing their grant money in new specialty machinery and equipment that will allow them to hire more veterans with disabilities.
  • Marlin Yinet Santos – Mariachi Mexican Cantina
    Mariachi Mexican Cantina is California-style Mexican restaurant on Staten Island. Owner Marlin Yinet Santos served in the U.S. Army, including a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq. Marlin will use her grant money to purchase a conference bike that will allow her to bring customers directly to her business from the Staten Island Ferry while also giving historical tours of Staten Island's North Shore.

More information, including photos and expanded biographies, can be found on the NYC Boss UP website.

The awardees were selected from a pool of 121 applicants who are military veteran entrepreneurs that currently own a small business in New York City. Applications included detailed business histories, personal stories, business plans, and proposals for future growth and expansion. Eligible applicants were reviewed over three rounds, culminating in a pitch meeting and six-person panel interview conducted at SBS's office. The panel consisted of:

In addition to grant monies and enrollment in the business mentorship program, participants will also be connected directly with the full suite of services and resources offered by SBS, including its world-class Workforce1 Career Centers, the NYC Business Express Service Team (NYC BEST), the NYC Business Solutions Centers, the Commercial Lease Assistance program, and more.

NYC Boss UP is a philanthropic program committed to encouraging excellence in entrepreneurship across New York City. The Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation committed $180,000 to support the veterans' cohort, which follows the successful NYC Boss UP Entrepreneurship Program partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) that provides $1 million in grants over five years to budding entrepreneurs living in NYCHA residences.

Awardees will also be enrolled in the FastTrac® GrowthVenture™ for Veterans course, a five-week, ten-session online seminar that teaches entrepreneurs how to grow their business enterprises. After graduation from the course, awardees will be matched with mentors from the NYC Angel Investors program who will help them maximize the impacts of their grants on growing their businesses.

About the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation
Ron Moelis started the Ron and Kerry Moelis Family Foundation with the aim of helping to encourage social mobility. Ron is the Co-Founder and Chairman of L+M Development Partners, a unique firm that goes beyond just building by collaborating with community partners to create neighborhoods that take into account the unique needs and lifestyles of the people living in them and actively look to enrich residents' lives through the use of private and public spaces. L+M Development Partners has successfully partnered with NYCHA on development projects.

Ron Moelis also founded the New York State Association for Affordable Housing and serves as Co-Chair of the Board of Building Skills NY and as a trustee of Montefiore Hospital and the Tenement Museum. His passion for entrepreneurship led him to sponsor the Wharton School's MBA Impact Investing Network Training (MIINT) Competition. As a judge on the competition's panel, he seeks to support impact-investing students to inspire future business students to embody socially responsible business practices. NYC Boss UP is a natural extension of Ron's life's work and allows the Foundation to support even more under-represented adults in realizing their entrepreneurial potential. More information on how NYC Boss UP encourages excellence in entrepreneurship can be found at the NYC Boss UP website.

About FJC
FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds (FJC) is a boutique public charity that offers a diverse menu of philanthropic services to a range of stakeholders. With over $380 million under management, its over 1,000 accounts include Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), fiscal sponsorships, collective giving accounts, and many other philanthropic vehicles. FJC acts as an intermediary between the financial services sector and the nonprofit sector, enabling nonprofit organizations and their supporters to focus on their missions rather than be burdened with the details of operations and compliance.

About the NYC Department of Veterans' Services (DVS)
The NYC Department of Veterans' Services' mission is to connect, mobilize, and empower New York City's veteran community to foster purpose-driven lives for US Military Service Members — past and present — in addition to their caregivers, survivors, and families. We assist NYC veteran community members on issues that include, but are not limited to: employment, housing, food security, wellbeing, benefits, culture, and targeted advocacy. For more information, visit, call (212) 416-5250, email, or follow us on social media @nycveterans.

About the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS)
SBS helps unlock economic potential and create economic security for all New Yorkers by connecting New Yorkers to good jobs, creating stronger businesses, and building vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs. For more information on all SBS services, go to, call 311, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.