Three businesses founded and run by diverse entrepreneurs are the first New Jersey recipients of grants funded by Fiserv, the company announced Dec. 1.
The winners – mobile bakery Cupcake Carriage, health snack provider Quick Fit Bites and mechanized food preparation company RoboBurger – each received $10,000 from Fiserv’s Back 2 Business grant program. All three were recognized during a ceremony at the fintech’s Innovation Center in Berkeley Heights.
Under the nationwide program, Fiserv is committed to provide $50 million in grants to businesses owned by minorities, women and other diverse individuals.
In a video presentation during the event, Fiserv CEO Frank Bisignano said the awards demonstrate the company’s commitment to economic development in New Jersey. He said the program “has had an immeasurable impact across the United States in sustaining and growing small business.”
Each winner described the origin stories of their businesses, the challenges they face and what the grants will allow them to do.
Cupcake Carriage founder Tenille Ortiz choked up as she talked about her mother. “She pulled me out of poverty through blood, sweat, tears and grit,” Ortiz said. “She was my inspiration.”
Ortiz described Cupcake Carriage – which operates bakery trucks designed to look like a French patisserie and serves corporate events and parties – as a “purpose-driven business,” in that she tries to show kids in situations similar to hers “what entrepreneurship looks like.”
The grant money, she said, would help her add the resources she needs to expand her company’s corporate business.
Aleksandra Miloseska, the founder of Quick Fit Bites, said she arrived in the U.S. from Macedonia 20 years ago, “with big dreams and zero English.” As a coffee lover, Miloseska said she would frequent coffee shops but “could not find that perfect, nutritious snack.”
“Something needs to be done,” she said. So Miloseska began preparing snacks in her kitchen and bringing them to her corporate job, where her colleagues always wanted more. The result was a business that produces treats made with just seven ingredients “that you would recognize.”
Miloseska said she intends to use the grant money to design environmentally friendly packaging.
The RoboBurger story may be familiar. Wilson’s inspiration was The Jetsons — a cartoon set in the future where food is prepared by machine. As a student at Carnegie Mellon University, Wilson said he had to start a business for an entrepreneurship class and because the RoboBurger system wasn’t ready, he decided to start a restaurant. “Everyone said ‘that’s a bad idea,’” he recalled. Seventeen years later, the RoboBurger machine – one of which was set up at the Fiserv event – is now regularly churning out freshly made hamburgers.
Wilson said the grant money will fund travel he and his co-founders are planning to meet new investors.
The Back 2 Business program is one of several initiatives Fiserv has undertaken in New Jersey. The company runs a partnership with Rutgers University-Newark to help increase diversity in the financial technology industry. And Fiserv is launching a pilot program to promote STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. According to Linda Wellbrock, the company’s vice president for community relationships and strategic partnerships, the effort is designed to identify “the state’s youngest talent” and to “inspire and empower the next generation of technologists.”
For more information about the Back 2 Business grants and to apply, click here.