Congressman Higgins Announces $1 Million to Support Small Business Start-ups in Western New York

Funding, Secured by Higgins, to Support Business Mentoring & Assistance Led by Launch NY

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced one million dollars in federal funding for Launch NY, the first and only nonprofit Venture Development Organization to provide pro bono mentoring and seed capital access to early-stage startups in the 27 westernmost counties of New York State. Secured by Congressman Higgins in the fiscal year 2023 budget, funding supports a program expanding entrepreneurial services to local small businesses start-ups with high-growth potential.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Western New York economy, supporting thousands of jobs and helping our community thrive,” said Congressman Higgins. “As we continue to rise from the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in our local entrepreneurs and small businesses is a critical part of rebuilding our economy. We are proud to deliver federal funding that will amplify Launch NY’s success in helping local entrepreneurs grow their businesses, while creating long-term economic growth and development.”

“As the most active seed fund in New York State and one of the top five in the country, we see strong demand for both mentorship and capital from the entrepreneurs who are trying fuel our renaissance,” said Marnie LaVigne, PhD, President & CEO of Launch NY. “Congressman Higgins’ advocacy and support of Launch NY will help ensure that high-growth potential entrepreneurs can make their impact right in our own backyard, including underserved founders and neighborhoods so they are part of truly inclusive economic prosperity across the region.”

Small business ownership is on the rise in New York State and across the country. Between 2021 and 2022 a record 608,000 small business applications were filed across the state, including many in Western New York.

The federal funding delivered by Higgins will provide support for Launch NY’s expansion program, which aims to increase the volume and impact of its pro bono mentoring and preparation for seed capital investment for high-impact start-ups in Erie and Niagara counties. The program is designed to promote inclusive economic recovery in the post-pandemic period by supporting underserved and under-resourced entrepreneurs leading startups with high-growth potential. It includes targeted outreach campaigns, partner engagement, and the recruitment of diversified mentors as part of its Founders Go Big program for underrepresented founders. Created with the goal of reaching 1,000 current and potential entrepreneurs and serving 180 start-up companies, the program provides weekly group and individualized mentorship, investor education, and company referrals for investment in virtual and in-person formats, as well as technical assistance for company financing.

The announcement was made at the production kitchen for Jeca, a nutritious energy bar company founded by Ree Dolnick, that has benefited from Launch NY’s mentorship program. Also joining Launch NY and Congressman Higgins were leaders from Patient Pattern, CaHill Tech, and Arbol, businesses that have each been mentored and funded by Launch NY.

Launch NY is a nonprofit venture development organization that operates in the 27 westernmost counties of Upstate New York. Headquartered in Western New York, their mission is to identify, support, and invest in high-growth, high-impact companies to create jobs and catalyze the local entrepreneurial system. Since 2012, it has served 1,487 companies, which have received support from more than 30 experienced local entrepreneurs-in-residence, plus access to more than half a million industry, business, and investment experts through Launch NY’s National Mentor Network resources. Launch NY-mentored companies have created 4,916 jobs, attracted over $1.29 billion in co-investment and follow-on capital since joining Launch NY, and generated $228 million in annual revenues. Launch NY operates the most active seed fund in New York State and is among top five nonprofit seed funds in the country, and its #InvestLocal financing programs also include a for-profit Limited Partner fund and Investor Network. Fifty-one percent of Launch NY’s portfolio companies are women and/or minority-led ventures, and over 70% are located in low-income neighborhoods.

This community project funding was announced during National Small Business Week, which runs from April 30, 2023, through May 6, 2023. Led by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for more than 50 years, the annual celebration recognizes the important contributions that American entrepreneurs and small businesses make to communities like Western New York.


Get Started


Learn more about this program and others led by Launch NY by visiting:


Tags: Small business funding, Congressman Higgins, Western New York startups, Launch NY press release, Startup support programs, Economic development initiatives, Entrepreneurship grants, Small business investments, Congressman Higgins initiative, Startup incubator funding, Business development funding, Entrepreneurial ecosystem support, Launch NY news, Small business startup grants, Economic growth initiatives