CIT And Operation HOPE Announce First Group Of Launch + Grow Business Plan Winners

December 4, 2019

CIT Group Inc. and Operation HOPE today announced the winners of its Launch + Grow Business Plan competition. The event culminates the first year of the Launch + Grow initiative, an ongoing program to empower local women small business owners in New York City and Los Angeles.

Six of the recent New York graduates of the 12-week training program presented their business concepts Monday night to a panel of executive-level judges. First place winner, Adriane Mack received a $5,000 award to support her Harlem-based business Miss Mack Enterprises. Ayme Sinclair, owner of Sinclair Social received a second place prize of $3,500 and Natasha Gayle owner of Mirror Mirror Skin Lab received the third-place prize of $1,500.

“Our brand is about turning ideas into outcomes and we’re thrilled to conclude the first year of our Launch + Grow program by helping these women take their businesses to the next level,” said CIT Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Gina Proia. “We’re proud of all the graduates and look forward to seeing how their business concepts come to fruition over the coming months.”

“Launch + Grow empowers women entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools they need to create thriving enterprises,” said Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman, and CEO, John Hope Bryant. “Our competition provided the ideal opportunity for graduates to bring together the skills they learned and present their best ideas to the judges.”

The panel of judges included CIT Chairwoman and CEO Ellen R. Alemany, Co-Anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box Joe Kernen, Co-Founder and CEO of Lafayette 148 Deirdre Quinn, MSNBC Live Anchor and NBC News Correspondent Stephanie Ruhle, and Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City Toya Williford.

The Launch + Grow program kicked off this past spring and includes a 12-weeks of training classes and in-person workshops for women entrepreneurs in New York City and Los Angeles. Launch + Grow is unique in that it brings CIT banking experts into the HOPE Inside training program, a no-cost financial education curriculum for small business owners. By the end of 2020, the program will provide over 400 women the tools and resources they need to cultivate their small businesses.

In addition to CIT, New York program partners include Mastercard, the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. More information can be found at or by engaging on social media by following #LaunchAndGrow.

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CIT is a leading national bank focused on empowering businesses and personal savers with the financial agility to navigate their goals. CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT) is a financial holding company with over a century of experience, approximately $50 billion in assets as of September 30, 2019, and operates a principal bank subsidiary, CIT Bank, N.A. (Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender). The company’s commercial banking segment includes commercial financing, real estate financing, equipment financing, factoring and railcar financing. CIT’s consumer banking segment includes its national online bank, CIT Bank, and a Southern California branch bank, OneWest Bank. Discover more at

Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved—disrupting poverty for millions of low and moderate-income families across the nation. Through our community uplift model, HOPE Inside, which received the 2016 Innovator of the Year recognition by American Banker magazine, Operation HOPE has served more than 4 million individuals and directed more than $3.2 billion in economic activity into disenfranchised communities—turning check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, minimum wage workers into living wage consumers, and uncertain disaster victims into financially empowered disaster survivors. Project 5117 is our multi-year four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality that aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth in underserved communities, and stabilize the American dream by boosting FICO scores. Operation HOPE recently received its fourth consecutive 4-star charity rating for fiscal management and commitment to transparency and accountability by the prestigious non-profit evaluator, Charity Navigator. For more information: Follow Operation HOPE on Twitter and Facebook @operationhope.

Photo credit: Launch + Grow business plan competition first place winner Adriane Mack (center) pictured with judges Stephanie Ruhle, Joe Kernen, Ellen R. Alemany, Toya Williford and Operation HOPE’s Mary Erhsam.

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