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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  • WCBS 880 Weekly Rewind: Masking in Schools and Combating Vaccine Disinformation on Facebook

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    Produced by Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The global surge of the highly contagious Delta Variant of COVID-19 has sparked a divisive debate about whether kids should wear masks in schools. On The 880 Weekly Rewind, a pediatrician tells WCBS why he is adamant about utilizing the effective mitigation measure.

    Lynda Lopez also looks at how Facebook can tackle vaccine disinformation with CNET Editor at Large Ian Sherr after President Joe Biden accused the social media company of “killing people.”

    We also look at mounting pressure for a congestion pricing plan as Tri-State traffic headaches return for New York City commuters and explore the billionaire space race between entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.

    Subscribe and download The 880 Weekly Rewind podcast for in-depth reporting and deeper analysis of the top stories of the week, produced by Neil A. Carousso, for WCBS-AM New York.

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  • Hometown Flower Collective Expands Flourishing Mobile, Digital Business

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — This business has mastered digital sales and is now doing the reverse pivot in their expansion.

    On the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso caught up with Jaclyn Rutigliano of Hometown Flower Collective who brought her 1976 Ford F100 to Huntington for the WCBS Business Breakfast in October 2019.

    Jaclyn was positioned to succeed in the pandemic with a digital and mobile-first business that has since accelerated with her strategic use of Instagram and local partnerships.

    “Since day one, we really knocked on all the doors of any like-minded businesses just to say, ‘Hey what can we do?’ From a photo shoot to an event to a workshop to free flowers to a giveaway, anything, collaboration has been the number one focus and the number one growth tool for us,” she said.

    “If you’re looking to go online, pay attention to that and try to offer ways to help other small businesses because that’s really what we try to do. Help us, help you.”

    Hometown Flower Co. is increasing their mileage. They recently expanded their footprint from Long Island to Brooklyn and Queens.

    “There are some incredible designers, especially in Brooklyn, so it’s definitely humbling,” Rutigliano said.  “Our design aesthetic really has resonated with a certain group, especially in Brooklyn and Long Island City and those parts. It’s been fun and it’s also attracted some people in the media landscape and fashion world.”

    The public relations professional told Connolly and Carousso that the city can be intimidating, but called it “validating” for her business.

    Hometown Flower offers monthly, weekly and annual subscription services to its customers, sourcing from 10 to 12 Long Island farmers. They played an important role helping their customers cope with the sadness of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, they are being approached for large-scale and private events.

    “We’ve increased our wedding work, which is something we never thought we would be doing,” Rutigliano said.

    She and her husband Marc Iervolino have also opened their first brick-and-mortar store in Huntington Village to service pickups across Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Rutigliano realized she and her Ford truck cannot be everywhere at once.

    By all accounts Hometown Flower Co. is operating on all cylinders, but Jaclyn and Marc are struggling to find skilled workers, which is hindering their ability to scale.

    “It’s been very difficult to find drivers, it’s been very difficult to find administrative and associate-level support as well. It’s tough and we can’t scale if we don’t have the support. It’s just not sustainable,” she said.

    They were able to find a designer who Jaclyn refers to as her “right hand.” Before the hire, Jaclyn had been designing until 3-4 AM every night. But, in order for them to grow even more, Hometown Flower will need support staff. Meantime, they’ve had to turn down some events that are coming back in full force this summer.

    See this creative, flourishing business in-action and see how Hometown Flower Co. is managing fast growth on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • WCBS 880 Weekly Rewind: New Jersey Parents Wage War Against Masks in Schools

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    Produced by Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY (WCBS 880) — A group of New Jersey parents want their kids to have freedom.

    Parents suing Gov. Phil Murphy and members of his administration argue that children are at lower risk and that masks, as well as plastic partitions around school desks, do irreparable harm and violate children’s civil rights, said Kelly Ford, who started the group Free NJ Kids.

    “We have pictures of masks with nose bleeds in them,” Ford said. “We have a story of one parent whose daughter threw up in the mask and did not remove it because she was afraid of getting in trouble.”

    Masks are proven effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. The Delta Variant of COVID-19 is responsible for soaring infections in 48 states plus Washington, D.C. with severe cases attacking mostly unvaccinated people.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is maintaining the mask mandate for students and teachers in the city’s public schools as the COVID positivity rate accelerates in the five boroughs. It’s most prevalent on Staten Island where vaccination rates are lowest and the positivity rate is above two percent. On The 880 Weekly Rewind, WCBS reporter Marla Diamond covers the nuanced issue around mask requirements.

    Also on Rewind, Lynda Lopez looks at a new medical trial that aims to help better treat the most serious breast cancer cases and remembers the tragic TWA Flight 800 explosion off Long Island on its 25th anniversary.

    Subscribe and download The 880 Weekly Rewind podcast for in-depth reporting and deeper analysis of the top stories of the week, produced by Neil A. Carousso, for WCBS-AM New York.

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  • Queens Juice Bar Owner’s Recipe for Success Blends Passion for Nutrition, Mentorship

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Making the leap to start your dream business can be daunting, especially in uncertain economic times.

    While a record number of new businesses have been formed during the pandemic, succeeding in a new venture presents a myriad of challenges, and for that reason, roughly 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Dawn Kelly was let go from Prudential Financial in 2015 after 16 years leading its global communications team. Before that, she spent about nine years with AARP and roughly five years as director of public relations for York College. She combined her severance pay from Prudential and her savings to fund The Nourish Spot – a juice bar she opened in Jamaica, Queens with her daughter.

    “When we started The Nourish Spot, I spent over 30 years as a public relations practitioner for a number of different brands and organizations, so I lean on that for the business,” she told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Now a mentor at the NYC Department of Small Business Services, Kelly says anyone looking to start a business does not necessarily need an infusion of capital. She advises small business owners to never feel shy about promoting themselves because it is essential for marketing any business.

    “I was taking clients before The Nourish Spot opened to help them promote themselves,” Kelly said.

    “This wasn’t really a dream for me. I’m an employee,” she explained on the Small Business Spotlight as her workers made smoothies behind the counter in the background.

    But, her passion for nutrition and mentorship is palpable.

    “I actually thought that I would work until I didn’t anymore. But, God had another idea for me. He gave me this idea to do the juice bar and I’m really proud that it’s actually working,” said Kelly, flashing a smile from ear-to-ear.

    She was accepted into a program through the Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation and took online classes during the pandemic to guide her through managing the business and launching new services.

    While most people walk in to The Nourish Spot to order a smoothie off the menu, Kelly realized there was a market for people with medical conditions. One of her customers is a home health aide in Queens who walks in with a prescription from her client’s doctor.

    “Her client doesn’t eat as much fruits and vegetables as they’re supposed to. And so, the way she makes sure that her client consumes the balanced diet, is she comes and makes a smoothie for them and then takes it to them,” she said.

    She also worked with non-profit organizations during the pandemic to help combat food insecurity in her neighborhood, which was once the epicenter of the coronavirus in the spring of 2020.

    Kelly lives by the principle of treating people the right way. She empowers her workers to pass on joy with a smile and grace. Many of them, Kelly sourced from local non-profits when she opened The Nourish Spot.

    “These young people came into us as interns. And, those that showcased themselves as dependable, honest, passionate about food and people, we’ve hired them,” she told Connolly and Carousso.

    She said she tapped into a “community pipeline” of talented, hard-working people who just need an opportunity to prove themselves and flourish. Some of her employees have worked at the juice bar for nearly four years.

    “We’re really really proud,” said Kelly.

    See her story and pickup ideas for new services on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • WCBS 880 Weekly Rewind: NYC Throws Ticker Tape Parade for Pandemic Heroes; Health Officials Point to Surging COVID Cases in Unvaccinated Locales

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    Produced by Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — We may be spiking the football before the End Zone.

    New York City celebrated frontline workers this week in a parade down the famed Canyon of Heroes, but health officials point to evidence of rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in places where the vaccination rate is low. As the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly across the United States, more variants are emerging, which is fueling concern about weakening vaccine efficacy and the need for booster shots.

    Lynda Lopez explores the top stories from the latest in the pandemic battle to Tropical Storm Elsa complicating the recovery effort at the site of the Surfside, FL condo collapse to Eric Adams winning the Democratic nominee for Mayor of New York on The 880 Weekly Rewind.

    Subscribe and download The 880 Weekly Rewind podcast for in-depth reporting and deeper analysis of the top stories of the week, produced by Neil A. Carousso, for WCBS-AM New York.

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