Presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC.
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and barriers to growth upon the reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic, but this panel of business leaders offered optimism and concrete solutions for a recovery.
Nomad Health Founder Dr. Alexi G. Nazem, Shoptiques Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Lightman, and MadCreek, LLC Founder and Creative Director Andi Jennings shared their approaches and experiences with Business Reporter Joe Connolly on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC.
Lightman said her company’s mission is to “help small get smarter,” explaining that the pandemic accelerated the shift to digital as consumers were forced online amid the shutdown in March 2020 and subsequent COVID-19 restrictions, which provided an opportunity for them to grow their digital services previously resisted by some boutique owners on Shoptiques’ online marketplace.
“On the front-end of our business, we have our marketplace where we’re selling to consumers but on the back-end, we’re really just a services and technology company supplying boutiques and small business owners with everything they need to be successful digitally,” she said, continuing, “So, they were all of a sudden, challenging our online tech, forcing us to innovate quickly, innovate faster, innovate more, give them more tools, give them more access, give them more customers, and in a great way, it forced us to really think outside of the box and grow.”
Lightman, who is overseeing the company’s digital expansion and customer acquisition, told the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast that online sales are picking up for boutiques on her platform this spring. She said customers are now spending about 20 percent more per order than a year ago.
“They’re now buying outfits to go out and accessories and home goods and gifts for people,” she said.
Managing Fast Growth So You Don’t Grow Out of Business:
New York-based Nomad Health has been growing exponentially. They digitize the healthcare hiring process to help connect providers with clinicians worldwide to combat staffing shortages and provide competitive career opportunities for doctors and nurses.
“There has been this war for talent in the technical field and what that has caused us to do is broaden our horizons and start hiring people all across the United States,” he said, noting they are not only competing with other healthcare companies, but also technology firms that have disrupted traditional industries.
A number of businesses are struggling to hire workers amid a labor shortage while the enhanced unemployment benefits exceed wages in some cases.
“We’re starting people at higher rates than we used to,” contributed Michael Aboff, third-generation owner of Aboff’s Paints which has 32 locations on Long Island. Aboff’s home improvement business has flourished the last 15 months.
Nazem, a Yale and Harvard-trained doctor and businessman, agreed with Connolly that fast growth requires him to be selective and focus on his business objectives.
“There are so many shiny objects and you have to resist the temptation to pick all of them. You have to succeed somewhere before you can succeed everywhere,” he said.
Nazem added he communicates Nomad Health’s detailed growth strategy with its employees on a regular basis so they can focus on providing exceptional service to their clients and meet company goals.
Finding New Customers In The Post-Pandemic Economy:
New Jersey-based MadCreek has an impressive portfolio of clients for design and marketing, including Union Catholic High School, Rutgers University Libraries and Seton Hall Athletics. Many of their customers were forced to pivot to remote work last spring, but Jennings’ team of mostly mothers had already been working from home for years, and thus, became local experts in the virtual space.
“What we decided to do with our customers or our clients to attract new customers was explain to them that, ‘While your business is maybe slow or while you’re figuring things out, really try to think of other things you’ve always wanted to do with your business.
And, what are those things? And, how can we help you?'” the creative marketer said.
Jennings has become more of a “trusted consultant” for her clients in the pandemic, using virtual whiteboards and other collaboration tools internally and externally, which she demonstrated on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast.
“If they come to us with a very unique problem or a service that we don’t necessarily provide, chances are we’re going to research what type of service they need, find the greatest professional in that industry and provide them with all the tools they need,” she said.
Lightman told Connolly she loves when boutique owners present her and her team with big ideas. She said Shoptiques will try just about anything.
“When you stop learning, you stop living,” said Lightman.
Nazem agreed with that mantra.
“You have to be willing to try different stuff and fail fast so that you can learn that, ‘Okay, this is an area that probably isn’t right for me.’ But, you have to try multiple things,” he said.
“Try selling to them in a different way, try hosting events, try anything you can, but thinking digitally first is really important,” said Lightman, adding, “Customers are not going to go back to just shopping in stores.”
One of the lessons from the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast is ensuring products are diversified. Another is to be diverse in ranks so that workers’ skills complement each other.
“I think you have to look out of the box and learn and be creative and it really helps to have young people on your team – next generations that know the world of what’s going on today with Instagram and Facebook and TikTok and all those mediums that help you to sell,” said Candy Udell, president of London Jewelers.
Several retail owners have asked Connolly and WCBS Business Producer Neil A. Carousso about finding new customers online now that their stores are not as busy compared to before the pandemic as some consumer behaviors have changed. Carousso asked the panel about acquiring customers.
“We actually rely really heavily on affiliate marketing,” Lightman responded. “It’s a really big channel for us. You only pay for what you get. There’s little risk in it. So, it’s a really great source.”
The Shoptiques CMO said they shy away from social media because it’s an overcrowded space and hard to compete against large corporations that have sizable digital marketing budgets.
“It’s ironic, but for us, our customer base responds really well to SMS and email marketing, still. They really love us putting forth trends and being like a thought provider as to what they should shop and that’s where we see the best results,” said Lightman.
How To Handle Competitors Undercutting Your Prices:
One challenge all three panelists have faced is competitors driving their costs down.
“A lot of times, they’re going to find cheaper online outlets with people that don’t know their business, that don’t care about their business, but they’re just running out there because they need a logo or they need a landing page,” said Jennings. “So, the money that they’re spending out there on these one-shot deals really does not help them grow foundationally.”
She told Connolly it happens frequently among her smaller clients working on tight budgets, but more often than not, they return because MadCreek is invested in the success of their business.
Nazem commented that people will pay for higher quality work and personal service as Jennings described, but he’s concerned technology companies are disrupting hard-hit industries and driving prices lower for small businesses that are operating on tight profit margins.
See solutions, fresh growth strategies and innovative ideas to jump-start sales on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC. Watch the free one-hour program above or on our YouTube page.
MEET THE PANELISTS
About Alexi Nazem, Co-Founder & CEO of Nomad Health:
Alexi Gharib Nazem, MD, MBA, is the co-founder and CEO of Nomad Health, the first online marketplace for freelance clinical jobs. In addition to leading Nomad, he is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell in New York.
Previously, he led field operations for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s successful 100,000 Lives Campaign.
Alexi trained in internal medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston after receiving an MD from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. He also holds a BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale.
About Lindsay Lightman, Chief Marketing Officer of Shoptiques, Inc.
As Chief Marketing Officer of Shoptiques inc., Lindsay is responsible for developing and managing the companies B2B and B2C marketing strategies; as well as identifying and negotiating strategic partnerships. This includes overseeing the Shoptiques.com marketplace customer acquisition, marketing, merchandising, and support; developing and growing Shoptiques Managed Marketing Services for luxury boutiques; and building the Shoptiques SaaS offerings designed for small business owners, focused on helping small get smarter.
Lindsay joined the company in 2018, as Head of Support & Business Development, bringing her over 7 years of experience in global marketing and relationships. In this role, Lindsay helped bring to market Shoptiques first tech product, SPOS; was tasked with bringing new business into the portfolio; and developed account management and technical support for Shoptiques VIP boutique partners.
Prior to joining the organization, Lindsay served as Director of Global Strategic Market
Development & Chief of Staff to CRO at True Fit. During her tenure at True Fit, she nurtured long-lead retail relationships with enterprise retailers like Nordstrom, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren. Lindsay managed the global events strategy, PR and communications, and social media marketing, developed a client success program and marketing strategies for retailers to grow customer adoption of True Fit, and facilitated the onboarding of new retail brands onto the True Fit SaaS Platform.
Lindsay received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, and Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Linguistics from Occidental College in California.
About Andi Jennings, Founder & Creative Director of MadCreek, LLC:
Andi Jennings has spent 25 years in the advertising and design industry with the majority of her career leading MadCreek, LLC as founder and creative director.
With an award-winning design portfolio, and a history of diversity and longevity in the MadCreek client roster, their extensive, brand management experience, top-line creative direction expertise, and strategic digital and social management, allows them to stand the test of time and keep their clients current.
MadCreek’s clients include the athletic programs at Rutgers University and Seton Hall University, Union Catholic High School, AAA, Hoboken Cultural Affairs and JustinTime Foundation.
They are guided by a strong belief that their job is to function as a problem-solving tool and find ways to turn any idea into reality.
Andi recently realized that her lust for creativity and problem-solving had no boundaries. She dove into multiple labors of love, creating art societies and town-wide ‘art walks,’ managing fine artists, and co-writing children’s books. She tackled interior design projects, taught software applications, and has even written short stories and memoir essays.
Her newest adventure is co-founding “Project CheerUP!”, a positivity movement, uniting cheerleaders to “CheerUP!” the world, literally.
The WCBS Business Breakfast series with Joe Connolly is produced by Neil A. Carousso.
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) has announced the winners of the 46th Annual Gracie Awards.
WCBS Newsradio 880 has been honored with an award in the category Frontline – Special Report [Radio Local] for our hour-long special “Chaos in the Capitol — A Nation Divided,” anchored by Lynda Lopez.
“Chaos in the Capitol — A Nation Divided” was a collaborative effort by the WCBS 880 team in the days after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
The program featured firsthand accounts from lawmakers and reporters who were in the nation’s Capitol when it descended into chaos, including interviews with freshman Congressman Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, former Long Island Congressman Steve Israel, 20-year-old Black Lives Matter protest organizer Yahshiyah Vines and more.
WCBS Newsradio 880’s Steve Burns, Marla Diamond and Neil A. Carousso contributed reports to the special. The program was written by Martin Untrojb and produced by Carousso and Lopez.
You can listen to the Gracie Award-winning report below:
The Gracies recognize exemplary programming created by, for and about women in radio, television, cable and interactive media.
Honorees are selected in national, local and student markets, including both commercial and non-commercial outlets.
“Throughout this important year, we have enjoyed some of the most compelling content in our history. We were informed, enlightened and entertained by women in media across all platforms,” said Becky Brooks, President of the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation. “As we celebrate AWM’s 70th anniversary, we are thrilled to honor this incredible group of women who have demonstrated their commitment to sharing emotionally-charged, timely and compelling content. We look forward to reconvening in person to recognize these incredible achievements and brave storytelling.”
The Gracie Awards Gala will take place September 27, 2021 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. It will honor some of the most talented women in television, radio and digital media, including Kerry Washington, Kelly Clarkson, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and more.
This year’s ceremony will also recognize entertainment and news programming that addressed timely topics and social issues.
Click here to see the full list of honorees.
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As the economy reopens this spring, businesses are increasingly struggling to fill open positions. Barbara Corcoran, investor on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” and founder of The Corcoran Group, says “competing for workers” is the number one priority for business owners right now.
“The workers are in charge now,” Corcoran told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank. “The (businesses) that are treating their workers like kings and queens, like they deserve to be treated, are retaining their workforce. And, those who aren’t, can’t do business because they’re cut off at the pants because they don’t have the workers to support it.”
She said some small and large businesses are offering to pay a chunk of tuition for part-time workers and other employers are offering signing bonuses to workers who commit to a term of employment.
“I never heard of that,” the entrepreneur said.
Corcoran noted some people are receiving higher unemployment benefits than wages offered, which is an unintended consequence of the enhanced federal unemployment benefits that were extended to September. There are now 23 states that are ending the $300 weekly federal bonus checks next month, including Florida, which announced Monday it would follow other conservative-majority states. It has been a key safety net for families whose children have studied remotely in the pandemic.
“Most businesses that are coming out of the pandemic are in debt,” she said. “They can’t squeeze their profit margins so what is actually happening instead is they pass along that additional cost to the consumer.”
Corcoran experienced that first-hand last week when she went to dinner at her favorite Italian restaurant in Manhattan. She noticed the service was unusually slow because they didn’t have enough workers in the kitchen, so the former New Jersey waitress lent the owner a hand and started serving dishes to customers. But, rather than earning tips, she was caught by surprise when she got the check.
“It felt like it was about 30 percent more expensive,” she said. “But, that’s the new norm.”
Restaurants are not the only businesses that Corcoran believes will be forced to raise prices this spring and summer to survive. The “Queen of New York Real Estate” still walks around Manhattan, surveying local businesses in her neighborhood, and befriending several owners who have closed their shops. The neighborhood is changing; blocks that she described as being “empty with no sign of life, no light” over the past 14 months are now bright with new faces.
“Over the past couple of weeks, I see constructions going on inside the storefronts and I see new signs out front, so we’re going to get a whole new breed of entrepreneurs who are starting businesses,” Corcoran said, adding, “The old guys won’t be back because they couldn’t take it; it was too long. But, new kids are taking their place. And, this is going around America.”
She sees a refreshing spirit among the new entrepreneurs who have found opportunities in the pandemic. In fact, she says about a third of her “Shark Tank” companies have grown somewhere between 50 percent and 200 percent. Another third are out of business and the remaining third, she said, are hanging by a thread.
“You need to learn how to try and that’s taught by the parents,” the mother of two said, telling Connolly and Carousso how she raised her children to have the courage to try and “get back up” after failures. Corcoran said “courage” is a quality successful entrepreneurs learn through great adversities.
She said she noticed a troubling pattern among some of the businesses she invested in on the show. Some of them were not effective in gaining repeat customers, which she said starts with organization.
“They were all over the place,” the “Shark Tank investor said. “I have to get them between their ears, squeeze their head in, get their ego back intact, and say, ‘Sit down, make a list of where all your businesses come from,’ and believe it or not, almost 80 percent, sometimes 90 percent, is coming from the same source. And, they don’t know it. They’re spending all their time on 80 percent of other stuff that’s not amounting to anything.”
Corcoran said that lack of focus can prevent businesses from upselling and finding new customers.
She told WCBS 880 digital tools assist in many areas and encouraged owners not to think of digital as a foreign language, but rather as something they need as part of their operations. An example she gave on the Small Business Spotlight is South Carolina-based Daisy Cakes, which she invested in on season two of “Shark Tank.” When their store closed due to COVID-19, owner Kim Nelson, once reliant on her Southern charm, made frantic calls to customers with ideas for cakes of the month.
“And then, she went online and started selling cakes through Goldbelly,” said Corcoran, adding Daisy Cakes sales tripled within a month. “What a wakeup call.”
The real estate mogul likes to use her social platforms to have fun, too, and said business owners should look at social media as a “free public relations vehicle accessible to all.” If you’ve been on Corcoran’s social media pages recently, you’ve seen the millionaire Shark dancing and “being silly” in TikTok videos.
“Does Facebook or TikTok or a stunt event of me bringing down my phone booth down to a park in New York City and reading tarot cards – all stunts, all ways to attract attention, all ways to entertain people – does it materialize in business?” she asked rhetorically. “I truly believe it does.”
“Each and every time you touch someone’s funny bone, get their eyeball on you, they’re predisposed to liking you. And, when people like you, they want to do business with you,” said Corcoran.
Watch Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso’s conversation with Barbara Corcoran on the Small Business Spotlight video above.
Produced by Neil A. Carousso, Carousso Enterprises, LLC
NEW YORK — FourBlock, a non-profit organization preparing U.S. veterans for careers after service, is celebrating the graduates of their Spring 2021 Career Readiness Program and commemorating their 10th anniversary in a live virtual event produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC.
The event features a keynote fireside chat with former U.S. Army Officer and Bridgewater Associates CEO David McCormick, facilitated by retired U.S. Army Colonel and Citigroup Managing Director John Tien.
The one-hour FourBlock Spring 2021 Celebration will stream live on FourBlock’s LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages on Thursday, May 13 at 7 PM. All FourBlock students, alumni, military spouses, staff and volunteers, partners and the broader military and veteran-connected community are invited.
Carousso Enterprises specializes in producing corporate and sponsored videos, premier in-person and virtual events and multi-media content.
In Best Of, Entertainment, Featured, Guest, Interview, Latest, News Stories, Technology, The World, videos
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — “Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary stressed business owners need to adapt to what he believes are permanent changes to consumer behavior as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by The First National Bank of Long Island, the self-made multi-millionaire entrepreneur made several recommendations of digital tools, sharing actionable advice for business recovery with host Joe Connolly. Mr. Wonderful also revealed what some of his companies have found success doing despite the economic turmoil.
1. MAKE THE “GREAT DIGITAL PIVOT”
O’Leary divulged that only 36 of the 56 companies he had been invested in across “almost every sector” nationwide are still in business a year into the pandemic.
“They did the great digital pivot and that involves figuring out how to set up a platform – most of them use Shopify not Amazon, number one – to change their websites to be far more interesting and engaging,” he told Connolly.
Shopify allows businesses to create their own e-commerce website using the platform whereas Amazon is the consumer-facing website for companies’ online marketplace.
“They went to 4K photography, 1080p video, they told stories about their products, they had other customers talk about testimonials and how they were using them, so they really engaged people for the first time in ways they’ve never done before because they were forced to – everybody was working remotely,” O’Leary said.
He also shared the trick to monetizing digital content on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast. More on that later in Mr. Wonderful’s 3rd step to growing again.
2. PUT YOUR CUSTOMER FIRST
O’Leary said the best way to sell is to “promise customer support and deliver on it.”
He told Connolly his frequent advice to young entrepreneurs is that the customer is always number one, and if you treat them like that, you can have a very profitable business.
“The differentiating factor in selling is customer service,” O’Leary said, adding, “You can actually sell the same product for a higher price if you’re in the top quartile of customer service for it.”
The software tycoon invoked Apple as a prime example.
“When you buy a laptop from them, you’re paying 50 percent more than the exact same machine’s function on a Windows-based product or a brand you may not know, but because Apple makes you pay for customer support and you respect it and you want it, you pay a crazy amount more,” he said.
3. REDUCE YOUR CUSTOMER ACQUISITION COSTS
WCBS Business Producer Neil A. Carousso posed the number one question WCBS 880 listeners had for O’Leary, which was “How do you monetize digital content?”
Mr. Wonderful responded the only metric for monetizing digital content is whether it can reduce customer acquisition costs for one’s product or service.
“Basically, what you’re trying to do when you make new digital content is to tell a story about your product, show it in its best light, try and get testimonials from other users who are using it and why they use it, and try and acquire customers at the lowest cost you can,” the Shark explained.
“Remember, long-term outcome is basically customer acquisition costs have to be less than lifetime value of the customer acquired. Otherwise, you go out of business,” O’Leary added.
He produces a plethora of content for the companies he’s invested in and shows behind-the-scenes of commercial shoots, media appearances, and his daily life on his YouTube channel, which includes afternoon bike rides along Miami Beach, playing the guitar, cooking in his “Chef Wonderful” videos and enjoying O’Leary Fine Wines with his wife Linda.
A bonus step for growing your business again, O’Leary acknowledges, is a healthy work-life balance.
“I don’t work 9 to 5, obviously, and I try and find life balance in doing the things I love to do while I’m working,” said Mr. Wonderful. “I work seven days a week, but I don’t work every hour.”