Daysi Gardenia Bernita, migrated to the USA in the pursuit of the American Dream with her six month old son in tote. Though a successful engineer in her native country of Ecuador, the language barrier and need to provide for her son and family back home, relegated her to being a seamstress. As Daysi’s only son, I had the privilege of benefiting from her courage and sacrifice, which gave me access and opportunity to private then public education. In 1998 as a freshman in high school, I received a laptop through a technology program – Project SMART. At the time, Union City, a densely populated Latino immigrant community was the 2nd lowest income city in NJ. A bilingual educator turned board of education leader, Fred Carrigg, developed a grant to bring tech forward tools into the UC public schools. That laptop was my introduction to the power of technology. That laptop coupled with the honors and AP coursework and the Road to College Program led me to graduating #3 in my class and a full scholarship to New Jersey Institute of Technology. That laptop, access to world wide web information and a college education opened a path for innovation.
After a successful decade-long corporate career followed by exposure to the startup world, I decided to take all of the professional and personal experiences to bootstrap my own business ventures. The journey of developing an idea into a viable solution and bringing it to market has been incredibly humbling and full circle. Decades later, the North NJ community continues to be densely populated, low income, home to many other Daysi’s and Jose’s. Yet, tech programs that empower community members are not as cutting edge, the college path is riddled with student loan debt making it even less appealing to low-income first generation students, and the brave founders of color continue to face challenges in accessing funding, mentoring and resources to develop their innovations.
Realizing these gaps and needs is what led to Move the Needle, LLC and Move The Needle Impact Group, – a startup incubator and event space that connects founders to investors, developing companies and a nonprofit focused on workforce development particularly in digital skills with job placement aimed at Black and Latino communities who make up less than 10% of participation in the technology space.
We’re all blessed and highly favored; through this work we believe we can provide access to the next generation to skip a few hurdles we had to overcome and invite them to impact the world in a positive way for generations to come.