Known the world over as a hub of creativity and innovation, Brooklyn’s artists, makers, and thinkers, are at the cutting-edge of every important industry. Today, we shine the spotlight on 10 of the borough’s most influential personalities. A few of these influencers are world-famous, but many of them work primarily behind the scenes and fly under the radar.
Former Chief Operating Officer of Dinner Lab, Inc., Drew Barrett founded Brooklyn FoodWorks with Brian Bordainick to give culinary geniuses, food scientists, and budding entrepreneurs unfettered access to the Brooklyn food industry. The culinary incubator, located in Bed-Stuy, has transformed the way food industry workers communicate, collaborate, and do business with one another.
Serial entrepreneur Dave Belt co-founded and operates New Lab, a workshop and co-working space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for entrepreneurs working in emerging technologies. The space opened less than two years ago, and has already united and supported some 500 innovators working in 70 fields. An active international real estate developer, Belt also founded and serves as Managing Principal for Macro Sea and DBI.
Matthew Burnett and Tanya Menendez
This business-savvy duo is committed to seeing makers’ dreams come true. Dedicated to advancing American manufacturing, Maker’s Row helps small- and medium-scale manufacturers at every stage of the supply chain, from concept design to product distribution.
Since becoming the youngest person to write, produce, and perform a #1 single in 1986 (“Foolish”), Debbie Gibson has demonstrated time and again that she can do it all. The singer-songwriter, actress, and producer has captivated fans on Broadway and in concert halls across New York CITY.
Liza de Guia
Filmmaker and foodie Liza de Guia is a model for entrepreneurial types looking to combine passions. Intimate documentaries of under-the-radar food artisans worthy of success are her specialty. Her James Beard Award-winning documentary series has boosted the name recognition of brands like Brooklyn Cured, El Olomega, Cookie Fairy Sweets, My Friend’s Mustard, Salvatore Bklyn, SCRATCHBread, and Sky Ice.
Jay-Z may still be known first and foremost as an entertainer, but this Brooklyn son is a prolific businessman. The wildly successful rapper has his feet in the music streaming, restaurant, sports management, and venture capital industries. With a net worth of more than $800 million, Jay-Z is poised to become a billionaire before long.
In 2015, publicity executive Shira Knishkowy joined independent record label Matador. Not yet 30, Knishkowy has influenced and helped shape the careers of dozens of talented artists.
Words After War
Novelist and essayist Maxwell Neely-Cohen is involved in myriad Brooklyn-based projects at any given time. His passion, talent, compassion, and business acumen put him at the center of Brooklyn’s fast-beating literary pulse. Neely-Cohen has served as a panelist and advisor for Words After War, a literary organization that funds and otherwise supports veterans, their families, and civilian supporters looking to share their stores.
“Hawaiian Eye star Connie Stevens is an actress, producer, philanthropist, and successful entrepreneur. Her cosmetic line Forever Spring has emerged as one of the most successful and sustainable beauty product brands in the last years.