Neil A. Carousso is the Segment Producer and Features Editor 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.
Neil A. Carousso produces WCBS Newsradio 880’s Small Business Spotlight with Bloomberg Business reporter Joe Connolly. Click here to watch the weekly video segments with Tri-State Area entrepreneurs for tips on how you can grow sales and expand your business.
  
See Neil A. Carousso’s original reporting on American heroes and veterans-related issues on Entercom’s ConnectingVets.com platform.

    Interview

  • UWS small business finds new customers on e-commerce store

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Retailers that have grown their e-commerce platforms are the ones that are surviving the pandemic.

    Sylvia Parker owns Magpie – a gift store on Amsterdam Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets on the Upper West Side. She told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, “now is the time” for retailers to focus on building and growing their online presence.

    “I know shop owners are really busy, but if they can take these couple of extra minutes or whatever to do it, then it’s worthwhile, obviously worthwhile,” she said.

    Parker, with the help of a “tech savvy staff member,” recently built a new website using a “big e-commerce” platform that has templates. Her product photos stand out on the easy-to-navigate online store. She told WCBS 880 that she purchased a portable photo booth for about $100 from a local camera store to take product photos for her website and Instagram page.

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  • NYC Tech Startup Credits Fast Recovery, Growth To Sales Ops Change

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    Learn how you can spot and take advantage of sales opportunities to recover and grow at the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly on October 15. See the program and how to participate here.

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Don White, co-founder and chief executive officer, of Satisfi Labs, Inc. was not sure his Artificial Intelligence company would survive the coronavirus pandemic, but since March he made several quick pivots that has led to his sales doubling year-over-year.

    “We’ve transitioned from a regional sales team to a vertical sales team,” White told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank.

    His sales team had previously focused on national clients by location, which allowed account executives to schedule a number of in-person meetings with clients and leads to maximize business trips. When the pandemic halted non-essential travel, White, along with many other business owners and individuals, saw the value and efficiency in video conferencing platforms.

    “We give your customers expertise, someone that knows ski resorts in-and-out, someone that knows the museum industry in-and-out, baseball in-and-out,” he explained. “That’s a pretty big shift for us.”

    White believes it is a viable, long-term shift with promising early results.

    Satisfi Labs’ clients are in sports, entertainment, hospitality and retail – all of which had been shut down and severely impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic. His most notable clients include Major League Baseball teams such as the New York Mets, the National Football League, Hilton hotels, Universal Orlando Resort, Macy’s and more. The startup provides automated customer services through its proprietary A.I. platform that allows its clients to swiftly and accurately communicate with customers while enhancing customers’ tangible experience with the brand.

    When gatherings were banned due to the pandemic, Satisfi Labs’ monthly revenue plummeted 85 percent.

    “Now, someone who covers the Georgia Aquarium can now cover an aquarium in California and have the same relationship,” White said, continuing, “We originally felt that at least one or two face-to-face meetings a year were required for relationships, but I think now the world has adopted that digital relationships are just fine and video calls have replaced the fly in.”

    In addition to making a key structural change, Satsifi Labs launched “COVID Assistance” in the early weeks of the pandemic as a way to help other businesses communicate with their customers about their pandemic responses and business changes. White said they are offering the product for free as a way to attract new leads.

    “That’s a way that I think we twisted it to say, ‘Look, let’s help you first, let’s not come at you with a pitch right away, but let’s do something to help you get out of this. And when you come out of this, hopefully, you’ll remember us,'” White said.

    He told Connolly and Carousso launching an adjacent service at the outset is a proactive approach other businesses can learn from in responding to a crisis.

    “It’s just a unique way to build relationships that we hadn’t done in the past,” he said.

    He is hopeful those leads will convert to clients who may want to streamline their customer experiences post-pandemic when it’s clear what market changes and consumer demands have taken shape.

    “Our talent pool has so much increased by having remote has a non-issue,” he said, telling WCBS 880 he is starting to restore salaries before rehiring employees this fall.

    “The workplace of the future, you’re going to see more diversity, which I think is a big focus of a lot of companies,” said White, adding, “And now, you’re going to see all these talent pools that are not typically in your recruiters’ network just open up. I think it’s going to be better for business overall.”

    He noted that mothers who want to return to the workforce, but are raising children, now have an opportunity to work from home and be a productive employee, as it has proven to be efficient for many companies and industries over the past four months.

    “You’re going to see people come back, have families and be able to work more easily,” White said.

    The savvy tech founder and new-age employer evolved in his belief about how A.I. will disrupt the workforce. He told Connolly on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight in December 2018 that Artificial Intelligence would not destroy jobs, rather, it would add an efficiency to compliment skilled laborers. As a result of the pandemic with more than 30 million Americans receiving unemployment benefits, White now tells WCBS 880 it will “replace some roles,” meaning A.I. will replace menial tasks like emails while creating new, advanced jobs.

    Listen to the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast on the RADIO.COM app or on the media player above for creative sales methods that could be viable for your company and to hear about Don White’s personal battle with COVID-19 and how he and his family have recovered since they fell ill in March.

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  • I’m Listening: ​​​​​​​Family finds mission in NY doctor’s death

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    Shining the spotlight on mental health needs of health care workers

    This interview is part of Entercom’s “I’m Listening” Campaign for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention. If you are in a crisis or have a family member or friend who needs help, you are not alone: Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741 for immediate help.

    According to Jennifer Feist, her sister, Dr. Lorna Breen was in the middle of “a firestorm of illness” in March and early April dealing with COVID-19 at her Manhattan hospital and simply “couldn’t do it anymore.”

    Dr. Breen’s suicide in late April grabbed headlines in The New York Times, shining a spotlight on the crisis of physician suicide, a crisis her sister said she never knew existed. As a result, Feist, a Charlottesville, Virginia attorney co-founded (with her husband Corey Feist) the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation, dedicated to protecting the well-being of physicians and health care professionals.

    The foundations website says Dr. Breen spent her career in practice at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and became the director of the emergency room at the Allen Hospital in 2008. It was in that same emergency room, early in 2020 that the COVID pandemic hit hard. Dr. Breen’s father, also a physician, told the Times how his daughter described for him “an onslaught of patients who were dying before they could even be taken out of ambulances.”

    Feist sat down for an interview with us for the Entercom “I’m Listening” program, aimed at removing the stigma of asking for mental health help. Dr. Breen’s family had no idea she was struggling so badly early in the year. They knew the pandemic was beginning to arrive and they knew Lorna was working almost nonstop. Dr. Breen had no medical history of mental issues, no challenges that anyone knew of with anxiety and depression. Her risk factor for suicide was “she was a physician.”

    Feist said it was the perfect storm.

    “She was an emergency room physician in a global pandemic in the worst place in the world to be doing the worst job,” Feist said. In the middle of her work, Dr. Breen even contracted COVID-19, but was back at work within days of having been cleared to return. The spiral seemed to continue for Dr. Breen. She took a leave of absence and traveled to Virginia to seek help there. She died by suicide in late April.

    Today, Feist and her husband are advocates for mental health care for front line medical professionals.

    Related:

    “This is a real crisis and I didn’t know about it until my sister died,” Feist said.

    “Physician suicide is at a crisis point in this country as is nurse suicide,” Feist added, pointing out that the rate of burnout anxiety and depression self-reported are “off the charts.”

    The Feists’ are working with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine on a bi-partisan bill in the U.S. Senate called the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. A companion bill for the House is also in the works. Both bills are aimed at preventing physician burnout, suicide in the medical profession, and providing mental health care for professionals who need it in the health care industry.

    Feist said, “I believe there is a culture stigma in the community that says ‘you have to be tough, you can’t be a snowflake to get in here. Don’t say you need help. Don’t say you are scared. Don’t say you are worried.’ That’s got to change.”

    The foundation is also focused on reforming the culture in medicine, including the licensing and credentialing process for doctors and residents.

    “There is no shame. This is part of life,” says Feist. “It’s important what we learn and what we do about it.”

    We asked what we all could do to help our health care providers. Feist said it could be as simple as reaching out to your own doctor or health professional to ask them how they may be doing in this stressful time. She says she often wondered what would have happened if someone would have asked that of Dr. Lorna Breen when they noticed she was struggling.

    Feist says you can also help by supporting the foundation at www.DrLornaBreen.org and use the #StandWithLorna hashtag on social media.

    “I’d like to see health care organizations; I’d like to see hospitals; I’d like to see the hospital where my sister worked; others like that to provide mental health support, not just when there is a crisis and the house is on fire, but before there is a crisis,” Feist said. “Let’s provide the support for these people that they need.”

    Neil A. Carousso executive produced Entercom New York’s video content for “I’m Listening LIVE,” which aired and was published across the digital platforms of WCBS-AM, WFAN-AM & FM, WCBS-FM, WNSH-FM, WNEW-FM, WNYL-FM and WINS-AM.

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  • Retailers Find Pandemic Success In Livestreaming E-Commerce

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Livestreaming e-commerce is the new hot trend that is changing the way retailers sell now and it’s leading to profitability for some business owners who had been struggling to survive.

    “They can sort of take consumers inside their brand,” said NTWRK president Moksha Fitzgibbons on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank.

    He told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that his video app became a marketplace for retailers small and large to become what “Shark Tank” investor and FUBU founder Daymond John called a virtual “events space” on WCBS 880.

    “NTWRK became, really emerged, as that place that consumers can go every day to be entertained, to be educated and get access to that highly desired product,” Fitzgibbons said.

    The startup doubled its sales from March to April and he expects growth of 600-700 percent year-over-year after seeing the value of connecting brands with willing buyers that purchase products on the NTWRK app as they watch and interact with owners and influencers live.

    NTWRK was founded in 2018. Fitzgibbons joined the company in October 2019 after a couple stints at Complex Networks where he served as chief revenue officer before moving to Valence Media as CRO where he played an integral role in the merger of Media Rights Capital, Dick Clark Productions, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard.

    “Millennials have the most wealth of any generation before them, they aren’t embracing more expensive responsibilities like home ownership and things of that nature, so they’re spending on consumer products, and we’re connecting with them in a medium that’s endemic to them,” said Fitzgibbons.

    It’s not only a pandemic pivot, but also a way to grow a retail business – an industry that’s been battered by the growing convenience of e-commerce, the health crisis and recession.

    Fitzgibbons, who will lend his expertise to business owners of various industries on the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast on Thursday, October 15, told Connolly and Carousso about how one Manhattan designer, Jeff Staple, has benefited from using NTWRK the past six months.

    “What we offer him is an opportunity for him to reach a massive audience outside of New York City, which is his core, and introduce the brand to new consumers and ultimately drive new revenues for him,” he said.

    This speaks to customer behavior over the past decade that’s been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and its related retail shutdowns. Fitzgibbons told WCBS 880 he saw engagement with younger customers, who are willing to spend, increase since March. He believes that could be credited to how customers have been trained subconsciously to buy necessities on e-commerce websites like Amazon for convenience rather than go to the store.

    “The same will be true with NTWRK, although, we will be curated and have a point of view and sort of be that Barneys/Dover Street-type of experience for this demographic,” he said.

    Business owners are encouraged to make their own video content out of their home or store, but NTWRK also offers a video production team and a studio where they collaborate with social media influencers and celebrities to endorse products on a livestream that is watched by prospective customers whom the video app service finds for the retailer.

    Moksha Fitzgibbons will share how any business owner can earn a substantial return on investment through livestream e-commerce at the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast on Thursday, October 15 at 9 AM. Share your questions for Moksha, Joe Connolly and the panel by leaving a message on our listener line at (877) 987-WCBS, and follow the prompts, and we may use your question during the event.

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  • Business Leaders Urge Officials To Clean Up NYC For Economic Recovery

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Business leaders say they need New York City’s quality of life to be improved and rent relief in order to recover and create new jobs.

    “We have to have people on one page, feeling that the city is coming back (and) we’re not going back to the bad old ’70s,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for New York City.

    She spoke with Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, after the nonprofit organization wrote a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, copying New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Comptroller Scott Stringer, calling on them to improve “quality of life” in the Big Apple. More than 160 business leaders signed the letter, including the heads of the local Chambers of Commerce and executives from Citigroup, MasterCard, Nasdaq, Goldman Sachs and Macy’s.

    “There is widespread anxiety over public safety, cleanliness and other quality of life issues that are contributing to deteriorating conditions in commercial districts and neighborhoods across the five boroughs,” the letter dated September 10, 2020 reads.

    They say rising crime and anxiety over public health are fueling low consumer confidence and uncertainty. The business leaders say they need the government’s assistance to fix the issues that will encourage their workers that they can return safely.

    “From a business community standpoint, we believe that’s the first step to economic recovery, because that’s the feedback we’re getting,” Wylde told WCBS 880.

    The lifeblood of the city is mass transit, she said, emphasizing that workers will not return to the office until the MTA’s problems are solved. It is currently in a budget crisis, accelerated by record low ridership. MTA Chairman Pat Foye claims the agency needs $12 billion to fill the hole.

    “The city will not come back to life, and this is all five boroughs, until trust in mass transit is restored and that’s going to take continued funding,” she said.

    Among the Partnership for New York City’s priorities are improving mass transit and infrastructure. She has heard from commuters who are not confident in its cleanliness and reliability.

    Only 26 percent of employees are believe they will return to the office by the end of the year, as of mid-August; that’s down from an expectation of 33 percent in May, according to the Partnership for New York City, which surveys workers.

    But, some businesses will not return either. Commercial rent has consistently risen over the past decade of economic prosperity, but now, there are no businesses willing to take over a high rent lease.

    “This was the crisis that we were facing for the last couple of years before the COVID, because of the inflated values and because of the very high real estate taxes in New York, which get passed along to tenants,” Wylde told Connolly and Carousso, noting, “A third of your rent is just to pay real estate taxes.”

    She said costs must come down to spur growth and attract new businesses to the city as the jobs for the future are being developed now.

    Hear about new job creation, resilient industries and New York City’s recovery plan from business leaders on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast on the RADIO.COM app or on the media player above.

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