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.


  • 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.


    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.”


    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.


    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.


    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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  • How Businesses Can Leverage Influencer Marketing

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — With many business focusing on growing direct-to-consumer sales online, owners and operators are looking for ways to separate themselves from their competitors. Influencer marketing has taken off as a way businesses are finding new customers during the pandemic.

    “We help prospect, negotiate, and then, manage the relationship,” said Rachel Maeng Brown, co-founder and CEO of Loot Agency, on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    At 25 years old, Brown has already secured marketing contracts with Macy’s, TurboTax, and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. She began her social media marketing career as an influencer, herself, when she shared her experiences on the Rutgers University rowing team with her followers, which got the attention of large brands.

    “If we’re talking about somebody’s skin ruin like where they have some rough skin and it’s something that happened because they’re in and out of the cold tub so much as being an athlete. And then, they talk about Jergens, because Jergens might be the skincare that they actually use to help them combat their dry skin. It’s a really easy and really seamless transition into using a marketing plan partner,” said Brown of how she began working with Jergens.

    The young entrepreneur advises her business and influencer clients to tell their story in an authentic way on social media because it will resonate with people. She notes businesses do not necessarily need to hire an influencer who has a ton of followers. So-called “micro-influencers” can be more effective because they have a dedicated following within a specific area.

    “We make sure that the campaign makes sense for their audience because their audience are loyal followers,” said Brown, adding, “You want to make sure that whatever the brand our creators are working with are also brands that our creator would not only use but they would suggest for our audience, too.”

    Some business owners have started creating their own content around their products as a way to boost direct sales. For them, Rachel advises, try to emulate what successful micro-influencers are doing.

    “Something that’s come about now with this rise of influencers and creators is actually looking at influencers and creators kind as a way to almost replicate, copy and get ideas because there’s already a proven way that is successful for creators to get their message out there whether their a business owner (or) whether their a creator talking about their story,” she explained to Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso.

    When new NCAA rules in July opened the door for student-athletes to capitalize on their celebrity, Brown launched a new division of her social media marketing agency. Loot Agency is now helping college athletes pursue deals using their name, image and likeness (NIL).

    “We not only help student-athletes learn a little bit more about how they can become and influencer and also protect themselves legally, tax wise, all of that, but we also help colleges learn a little bit more for their student-athletes about what this whole space of the NIL is,” she said.

    She is proposing endorsement deals for schools and student-athletes with brands that are hoping to tap into the millennial and Gen Z consumer markets. Brown told WCBS 880 that she believes all student-athletes should take business classes and hopes more schools will require financial literacy classes.

    Brown launched The Legacy Brand sole proprietorship in 2019 when she took an interest in the business side of influencer marketing and began consulting brands on the types of content that drives digital sales. She co-founded Loot Agency, Inc. in March where she helps creators manage contracts and ink major endorsement deals. She was recently named to Crain’s New York Business’ “20 in their Twenties 2021” list.

    See how your business can benefit from micro-influencing on our WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • NYC Tech Firm Embraces Remote Work in Brooklyn Apartment Building

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Co-working from your apartment building could be part of the post-pandemic hybrid workplace.

    Remote work may be here to stay, but Metro Tech Services has put a new spin on it by operating out of a new co-working space in a Brooklyn apartment building.

    Tony Dopazo’s Williamsburg apartment building Level converted party rooms on the first and ninth floors to fully functioning work spaces with desks, computers and private conference rooms that are free for those who live there. Dopazo also pays about $80 a month for space on the balcony that offers picturesque views of the city and meets the technology standards of a growing New York tech company.

    “Signing that long-term lease, the huge capital outlay to design and build out your office space, I think, that people are thinking long and hard about that now,” Dopazo said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    He calls co-working in apartment buildings a “piece of the puzzle” for hybrid work that will enable companies to minimize the risk of signing long-term contracts for corporate office spaces when it may not be necessary anymore.

    “Other enterprises right now are really looking at that as a good model for them in the near-term,” Dopazo said.

    The Brooklyn tech owner told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that downsizing made sense for his firm to cut costs and he’s enjoying the flexibility, but he noted some workers are not well-equipped to work from home. He’s been getting calls from employers who hire Metro Tech Services to outfit their employees’ remote work spaces to avoid any disruption of their operations.

    “Everyone is moving to voiceover I.P. because it allows you to bring your handset to your home, plug it into your router, and make and receive phone calls from your regular handset,” said Dopazo.

    Metro Tech Services has about 90 clients across various industries.

    Embracing remote work has made Metro Tech and its clients more nimble, but in reducing managerial oversight, it has opened the door to allow talented workers to pursue new opportunities at the same time. Dopazo realized this after turning a couple workers into contractors. One moved to California and the other started his own business.

    “They’re now contractors for me so we maintain that relationship, but I’ll also say, projecting now that things are getting a little hectic, I do need to bring in full-time folks now so this is the next challenge,” he explained.
    “Unfortunately, they’re great, but I don’t see them as full-time. In other words, they’ve gotten spoiled and good for them. I think they’ve both done well.”

    Dopazo now discourages his workers from moving out of New York to work remotely.

    See the co-working space in Dopazo’s Williamsburg apartment building on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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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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  • 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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