Neil A. Carousso produces and co-hosts WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight series with Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments featuring advice for business owners on survival, recovery and growth opportunities.
  
Neil A. Carousso is the producer of The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez, airing Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS Newsradio 880. Each week Lynda talks with newsmakers for a deep dive into the top stories of the week and the impact it has on people.

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  • Fall 2021 WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast: Building Back Stronger

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    Presented by Dime Community Bank

    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Businesses continue to face unprecedented challenges from labor to supply shortages, but the COVID-19 pandemic has also created opportunities in crowded markets. There was a sense of optimism and hope for small businesses on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by Dime Community Bank.

    “We saw people grow sometimes as big as 13-times over because they moved from wholesale to direct-to-consumer,” Shopify’s Head of Spaces Cody DeBacker told host Joe Connolly.

    By selling direct-to-consumer, businesses grew their margins and Shopify’s e-commerce tools assisted wholesalers and brick-and-mortar retailers in making a successful pivot to digital. It has opened a new revenue stream for many businesses.

    “We believe that anyone in the world can become an entrepreneur with the right tools and we want to put those into the hands of the right people,” said DeBacker.

    Shopify, which started in 2004 as a snowboard company called Snowdevil before realizing the greater opportunity to provide e-commerce solutions to businesses, recently opened an entrepreneurial space in SoHo where they provide one-on-one business coaching and house full-scale photo and podcast studios. You will get an inside look at Shopify NY on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast.

    FINDING NEW OPPORTUNITIES

    A theme that emerged on the program was “opportunity.” Leading startup investor Kevin P. Ryan, founder and CEO of AlleyCorp, notes that opportunity exists whether an industry is thriving or suffering.

    “What I ask everyone to think about is: ‘What is expensive in your life or in your business?’ ‘What’s hard to get?’ ‘What has poor service?’ and those are things where someone can do it better. Almost all ideas come out of that problem,” Ryan said.

    The Internet entrepreneur pointed to Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club’s disruption of the personal care products industry as an example of the market shifts that are taking shape due to the pandemic.

    “Both Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s are both billion dollar companies just going after that one small sub-sector,” Ryan explained, adding, “You’re going to see other examples of that that are occurring in deodorant, that are occurring in skincare, in suntan lotion – across the board. No area is off touch to entrepreneurs now.”

    He told Connolly it was previously unheard of for a small business to try to breakthrough in such a crowded market, but leaner businesses actually have an advantage.

    “When you’re a startup, you want to be competing with very large companies, which sounds the opposite of what you would think. But, it’s always more dangerous to be competing with a small, scrappy startup that’s moving very quickly that’s getting very good people,” he said. “Large companies have 50 different priorities; they don’t get to it.”

    LEAN AND MEAN

    Zola, the online wedding registry, gained market share by filling a void within a crowded field. Ryan founded Zola through his firm AlleyCorp when he saw large department stores had very limited wedding registries.

    “You had to offer plates and glasses and forks and things like that, which made sense when the bride and groom were 22 in 1960 and they’re moving into their first apartment. But now, a lot of people had been living together. They’re 32 years old. They already have some plates and knives and forks,” he said.

    Zola separated themselves from the department stories by offering cash gifts and experiences like Knicks tickets. When stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s caught on, Zola introduced adjacent services like online invitations and full-service wedding planning. Ryan said their larger competitors couldn’t keep up.

    DIGITAL SUCCESS STORY

    Connolly invited the founder of another business Ryan invested in on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast. Marc-Kwesi Farrell launched Ten To One Rum in 2019 after nearly three years as the youngest vice president at Starbucks where he worked under former chairman and CEO Howard Schultz who has since become Farrell’s friend and mentor.

    The original plan for the Trinidadian-born entrepreneur was to make it in traditional retail with a new, premium rum brand. But, the pandemic forced him to explore a direct-to-consumer business model and begin marketing his product differently. That’s when Farrell realized that his story was leading to sales as much as the quality of his product.

    “Our business is not just a story of creating another premium rum brand, it’s actually also finding a way to offer a more unique point-of-view on the culture – Caribbean culture, actually – that surrounds the business and the brand,” he told the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast. “The passion and the purpose that surround it certainly seems to be a message that has resonated.”

    Ten To One Rum hosts events and experiences around its brand while boasting more than 12,400 followers on Instagram. Farrell recently brought in singer and songwriter Ciara as an investor, co-owner and director.

    “These are the success stories,” DeBacker beamed.

    “They want to see the real you. They don’t just want a product. They want to be a part of your story, they want to be a part of your brand,” the Shopify executive said of successful digital marketing content. “It’s about creating a meaningful story that they can get behind.”

    See winning sales and marketing strategies on the free WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by Dime Community Bank above.

    MEET OUR EXPERTS:

    Kevin P. Ryan
    CEO and Founder, AlleyCorp

    Kevin P. Ryan
    Photo Credit: Kevin P. Ryan

    Kevin P. Ryan is one of the foremost Internet entrepreneurs in New York, having founded and is Chairman of several businesses, including AlleyCorp, Zola and Nomad Health. Previously he founded and was Chairman of MongoDB, Business Insider and GILT. Combined, these companies have raised more than $700 million in venture capital funding and currently employ almost 2,000 people. Previously, Kevin helped build DoubleClick from 1996 to 2005, first as President and later as CEO. He led DoubleClick’s growth from a 20-person startup to a publicly traded global leader with over 1,500 employees. In 2013, Kevin was named one of “The 100 Most Influential New Yorkers of the Past 25 Years” by the Observer.

    Aside from his professional responsibilities, Kevin serves on the board of Mercy Corps, is Vice Chairman of The Partnership for New York City, is a member of the CFR Committee on Foreign Affairs, is on the Board of TECH:NYC and is Director Emeritus for Human Right Watch. He previously served on the boards of Yale Corporation, INSEAD, the Direct Marketing Association, The Ad Council, HotJobs and the advisory board of Doctors Without Borders. He holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.B.A. from INSEAD graduate business school.

    Cody DeBacker
    Head of Spaces, Shopify

    Cody DeBacker
    Photo Credit: Cody DeBacker

    Cody DeBacker is the Head of Shopify Spaces. His projects and experiential activations have landed coverage in Forbes, The New York Times, Hypebeast, Complex, and hundreds of other publications around the world.

    Cody’s current role is focused on leading Shopify’s physical spaces, and most recently, his team opened the first ever Shopify entrepreneurial community space in New York that features free one-on-one business support, commerce training workshops, and thought provoking panels and events with the industry’s top entrepreneurs and merchants.

    He has also lead a team that participated in consumer conventions around the world such as Star Wars Celebration, NYCC, Complexcon, Hypefest, Family Style, and more. Cody is also the owner of 143 Worldwide, a DJ, and has been working in the fashion, trade show, and tech space for more than a decade.

    Marc-Kwesi Farrell
    Founder of Ten To One Rum

    Marc-Kwesi Farrell
    Photo Credit: Ten To One Rum

    Marc-Kwesi Farrell launched Ten To One Rum in 2019 after nearly three years as the youngest vice president at Starbucks. Ten To One Rum hosts events and experiences around its brand while boasting more than 12,400 followers on Instagram. Farrell recently brought in singer and songwriter Ciara as an investor, co-owner and director.

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  • New York Back in Sight with Steve Schirripa

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    Produced by Neil A. Carousso, Carousso Enterprises, LLC

    NEW YORK — This Fall, celebrate New York’s reopening with us!

    Join The Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration and our host Steve Schirripa, from The Sopranos and Blue Bloods, as he takes us on a virtual tour of the quintessential New York experiences we’ve been missing. 

    Whet your appetite for our city’s unparalleled food scene with award-winning Chef Dan Kluger of Loring Place.

    Fix yourself a classic New York cocktail with master mixologist Erin Davey from the Tao Group.

    And, return to Broadway as Come From Away playwrights David Hein and Irene Sankoff share their favorite scenes from this joyous musical.

    Register here to watch this virtual New York experience from Thursday, October 14, 2021.

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  • VIDEO: Why Barbara Corcoran Believes Best Investments are in People

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Barbara Corcoran, the self-made “queen of New York real estate,” has always put her customers and her workers, first. That mantra is guiding her businesses out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “I don’t buy businesses. I buy people,” Corcoran told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the latest WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “The reason I was able to build such a large company is because I adored my employees and would do anything for them at any time – anything for them – they came first,” she said. “You have to have that attitude toward employees if you want to do well with them.”

    A tight labor market has left many job postings unfilled. The “Shark Tank” star said the businesses that have survived the pandemic are growing, but their biggest challenge is hiring and retaining workers.

    “It’s not just at your local restaurants, it’s at your dry cleaners, it’s at your technology companies. Everyone across the board is having a hard time attracting employees,” she said.

    Corcoran noted one way to limit turnover is to pay more competitive salaries. She explained many customers are willing to support small businesses in their communities.

    “They’re very amiable to helping small businesses if they think they’re helping a good business get ahead. So, you can pass on a lot of those costs, but you have to pay people more,” said Corcoran.

    Barbara Corcoran
    Barbara Corcoran listens to a pitch on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Photo Credit: ABC)

    She told WCBS 880 businesses must be more flexible with remote work, too.

    “You have to give them the latitude and the freedom to work different hours, which now, people have been spoiled by because of COVID. Anybody who’s dictating that you must be here 9 to 5, come every day of the week, is not getting the employees because employees have other choices. They just move on and get a better boss so you have to be a phenomenally good boss and do everything you can to help that employee and that’s how you get them,” Corcoran said.

    She describes “good bosses” as those who put the needs of their customers and employees before their own. She believes that’s the primary reason that The Corcoran Group blossomed into a $5 billion company when she sold it in 2001.

    Corcoran called companies that are still not embracing remote work “stupid.”

    “If you’re not budging, you’re stupid because you’re not doing what is the basic, core essence of all business: it’s called change,” she said, noting the seismic shifts businesses have been forced to adapt to over the past 19 months. “Let me tell you, if you don’t acknowledge the change that happens, you don’t stay in business.”

    The famous entrepreneur said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight that the job of the business owner is to spot trends early and direct their team “on which ways to run.” That’s how, she said, small businesses become big businesses.

    “You know, the great advantage I saw early in my business when I looked around and saw my big competitors was I picked up on their attitude. They were big shots. The minute I saw everyone playing ‘big shot,’ I knew I had a shot,” said Corcoran, adding, “Most big businesses think they’re competing with other big businesses. They’re not. That’s not the enemy. The enemy is the little business that’s going to come up from behind and bite you in the butt.”

    She said she tells companies like Ernst & Young in corporate speeches to think small. As for small businesses, Corcoran advises to learn everything about operating the business; those that are hungry will win the race.

    Corcoran turned a $1,000 loan from a boyfriend in 1973 into a multi-billion dollar real estate empire. She told Connolly and Carousso that she budgeted every cent and hustled for every sale to keep her little business alive in the early days. That’s what she’s seeing new entrepreneurs doing today in season 13 of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

    “So many of the entrepreneurs that were standing before us either got fired or left their job,” Corcoran said. “They had part-time things they liked to do and they just decided they had time to think about it. They weren’t happy with their life and that was the time to make a big change and they took their part-time gig and they made it a full-time business. And, ironically, those were the strongest businesses we saw.”

    See what it takes to make your dreams a reality on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight featuring Barbara Corcoran above.

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  • Commemorating 9/11: Never Forgotten 20 Years Later

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    Produced by Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — At some point, everyone has seen or heard the heartbreaking news coverage of 9/11. Because all the reporters were so busy describing what they saw, it’s not often that they get to share what their personal experiences of the event were — until now.

    This week, WCBS 880 has assembled four veteran journalists who worked and witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Center from varying angles that day.

    Speaking with WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot, former anchors Pat Carroll and Jeff Kaplan join reporters Sean Adams and Tom Kaminski to share each of their own real-time experiences, as well as their reflections since.

    Despite seeing and processing everything differently, nothing was more important than the facts that day.

    “All of your broadcast training, every breaking news story you ever covered in your whole life – suddenly you [realized] that it was preparing you for this moment,” Carroll says.

    While nothing could ever prepare them for a tragedy of that caliber, Carroll adds, “We just went with it as though we had been preparing for this throughout our careers…[we knew] we were important. We were necessary.”

    “It was absolutely impossible to comprehend the enormity of the situation,” Adams added. He was one of the street reporters closest to the towers that day, and witnessed the first building collapse.

    He says he couldn’t believe what was happening, “because [it was] so much larger than anything [he’d] ever experienced before.”

    He also recalled telling himself, “Do not get killed,” that day because he couldn’t be of any use dead. With so much mayhem at the scene, it wasn’t until the South Tower collapsed that he was able to deliver his first live report.

    As crucial as that report was to the people of New York, Adams revealed that the report meant something more to his family because it confirmed to them that he was still alive.

    394261 50: Civilians flee as a tower of the World Trade Center collapses September 11, 2001 after two airplanes slammed into the twin towers in an alleged terrorist attack.
    Civilians flee as a tower of the World Trade Center collapses September 11, 2001 after two airplanes slammed into the twin towers in an alleged terrorist attack. Photo credit (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    Up in the sky that morning, Kaminski was just reporting traffic as usual when he saw what he called “the flash and the fireball” on the North Tower.

    Even as Carroll patched him in to report what he was seeing, it wasn’t until he his pilot received word from air traffic controllers stating, “The airspace has been sterilized,” that they began to worry.

    What scared them the most wasn’t the phrase itself, but rather the fact that as experienced as they were they had never heard it before. That’s when the seriousness of the situation started to settle in.

    Kaminski continued to do his job until his helicopter was finally grounded. In fact, he points to one moment in the broadcast, right after the South Tower was struck, where you can hear him start talking about the traffic.

    “I just needed to center myself,” he says, after realizing his hands started to shake.

    Guatemalan pedestrians watch on TV September 11, 2001 in Guatemala City, Guatemala the moment when a second plane commandeered by unknown hijackers slammed into New York's World Trade Center.
    Guatemalan pedestrians watch on TV September 11, 2001 in Guatemala City, Guatemala the moment when a second plane commandeered by unknown hijackers slammed into New York’s World Trade Center. Photo credit (Photo by Andrea Nieto/Getty Images)

    “And doing traffic, which I had done for all these years, was exactly how I did that,” he continued, “I start talking about traffic on West Street, and on Canal Street, and I talked about vehicles coming down into [that] area from every conceivable direction. That was for me.”Guatemalan pedestrians watch on TV September 11, 2001 in Guatemala City, Guatemala the moment when a second plane commandeered by unknown hijackers slammed into New York’s World Trade Center. Photo credit (Photo by Andrea Nieto/Getty Images)

    When he didn’t know what else to do, Kaminski just did his job. Looking back on that day, former 880 anchor Jeff Kaplan agrees that every reporter that day was “on autopilot.”

    He recalls watching a random 9/11 special on TV one year where the entire day was synched up to pictures, video, and audio. It wasn’t until he saw people “gathering around somebody’s radio, holding hands [listening to] our voices…listening with tears coming down their faces,” he wasn’t aware of how much 880’s coverage – or any coverage – meant to the average listener that day.

    He says that seeing, “the way that people perceived what [they] were doing,” made him lose it.

    See WCBS Newsradio 880’s 9/11 anniversary coverage here.

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  • ‘Hope, Resiliency, and Strength:’ Lasting Message of WTC Site 20 Years after 9/11

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The World Trade Center site is a living, breathing memorial of the people lost in the September 11 terrorist attacks, a bustling business district and architectural wonder that stands tall as a sign of freedom and New York’s resilience in recovering from the fateful tragedy.

    “I think there is a responsibility that whatever sadness and tragedy has befallen a place, at the end, there needs to be a message of hope, resilience and strength,” said architect Daniel Libeskind on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    The tear-jerking reflecting pools, the breathtaking Freedom Tower, and the awe-inspiring Oculus Transportation Hub were all part of Libeskind’s master plan to revitalize the site after 9/11.

    “That’s what the spirit of humanity is. It’s not just to give in to the irretrievable and irreversible past. It’s to show that we can overcome it; we will not forget it,” he said.

    Libeskind is a world-famous architect whose designs include the Jewish Museum Berlin and hundreds of modern buildings enjoyed by millions around the world from the United States to Europe and beyond. He was born and raised in Poland to Holocaust survivors and was among the last to immigrate to New York by boat into Ellis Island.

    “You have to be a lucky man to be living in New York to be able to take the subway or walk somewhere into a corner of New York that is maybe 10 blocks away from you but it’s a different New York,” he said, continuing, “That’s the beauty of New York. You move a few blocks and you’re in a different neighborhood. New York is really a kaleidoscope of diversity.”

    Libeskind told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that exploring and experiencing the city is a quintessential act for himself as an architect, but said it can be inspiring for anyone. Attracted to the energy of New York City, he is confident the offices at the World Trade Center will be at full capacity again after the COVID-19 pandemic, because while working from home is convenient, he believes the collaborative and creative work that can be achieved in the social space of the office is unmatched.

    “There’s no doubt that offices will continue to play a key role and I really know it from my own office, which is in Lower Manhattan, that it’s so inspiring to have people back in the office, seeing each other, working together. It’s irreplaceable. You can never do it from your home that way,” Libeskind said.

    He noted many offices are being reconstructed to meet the new pandemic demands of distance and ventilation and supports converting empty offices into residential buildings.

    “When we were building Ground Zero, many of the great office buildings, which were already modern office buildings, were being converted to residential buildings and that has brought a lot of life to Lower Manhattan,” said Libeskind, hopeful that doing so now will improve the city’s affordability.

    He told WCBS 880 he has been working on designing modern New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings for elderly residents in Brooklyn and Long Island City and believes introducing quality architecture and greater living space will attract new, talented people to live and work in New York.

    Watch Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso’s conversation with world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind for a reflection on the World Trade Center revitalization and discussion about New York City’s post-pandemic future on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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