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.

    Technology

  • 3 tips for growing your business using social media

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Many businesses rely on social media for marketing, which can be quite stressful when companies like Meta and TikTok experiment with algorithm changes that impact sales.

    Socialfly is a leading social-first digital agency and one of the first companies to enter the space nearly a decade ago. The New York-based company works with brands such as Madison Square Garden, Conair and Hudson Yards to modernize their social media strategies and reach younger audiences.

    “The reason why a lot of brands will partner with agencies like Socialfly so we can take that over for them and we stay on the forefront of all the updates and changes and can be those eyes and ears to everything that’s changing, so we can help performance continue to grow and scale,” said Sociafly co-founder Stephanie Cartin on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    For small businesses that cannot afford Socialfly’s services, Cartin and her co-founder Courtney Spritzer launched Entreprenista to offer resources such as events and podcasts to female entrepreneurs who are just starting their business journeys.

    “We always see what works and what doesn’t work, and then, we share this with all of the business owners in our community,” said Cartin.

    The events are recorded for Entreprenista members to watch on-demand.

    Cartin shared some advice for small business owners on the Small Business Spotlight.

    1. Create Videos

    Cartin told WCBS 880 both Instagram and TikTok now prioritize video content. Still photos no longer get the same level of engagement in terms of likes and shares.

    “The key on Instagram right now for success as a, especially a small business owner, is using Instagram Reels,” she said. “So what you want to do is turn the content that maybe you were creating as static photos and turn them into Reels.”

    The social media expert recommends using mobile apps Temply and TrendTok for converting photos to Reels and following trending topics and songs to maximize engagement.

    2. Post Consistently

    Going viral is a thrill, but it has a shelf life when it comes to sales. Socialfly works with companies to tap into an initial strong response to make the business sustainable.

    One example is a business Spritzer started during the height of the pandemic called WorkRobe. Billed as “work from home apparel,” the company makes a robe that doubles as a blouse on Zoom meetings.

    “This is a TikTok creator who loves this robe, and when these videos were posted, her sales went through the roof and she sold out of specific inventory,” said Cartin.

    “When you really lean into different trends on TikTok, you can definitely have your business take off from one video. The key after that is to be consistent. So once you gain that initial traction from these viral TikToks that you’re posting, TikTok sees that, and the more content you’re creating, the more they’ll start to show it to the right audience.”

    3. Be Authentic

    Your followers can probably tell if an influencer actually uses a product. That’s why Cartin and Spritzer only work with clients they truly believe in and use the products themselves. #LoveIt is Socialfly’s guiding principle because they want to love the brands they serve.

    “Can we really embody that brand, understand the ins and outs of the brand, who the customers are?” asked Cartin, rhetorically. “If it doesn’t feel right and it’s not a good fit, like that’s okay. We have also built an incredible strategic network over the years with other agency partners and other business owners, and if it’s not the right fit for us, there’s enough business out there for everyone. That’s what we’ve learned and we’ll pass that and refer that to other business owners as well.”

    Socialfly’s growth has led to three new businesses, including Entreprenista, that spun-off from their original idea. That doesn’t include additional companies Cartin and Spritzer founded during the pandemic.

    Get growth ideas for your business and see examples of successful and profitable social media video campaigns on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight above.

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  • Electric vehicles are coming soon. Here’s what it means for the future of driving.

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    DEEP RIVER, C.T. (WCBS 880) — The Biden Administration has set an aggressive target of 50% electric vehicle sales by 2030. That has car companies scrambling to meet demand and build the charging infrastructure necessary to handle this rapid adoption.

    Viking Equipment of Deep River, C.T. primarily serves car dealerships and repair shops. When it became clear EVs were the future of his industry, owner and president Joe Shomberg shifted his team’s focus to where business is heading.

    “Keep up or get out of business,” Shomberg said of his business philosophy on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “The same way it’s going to affect my customers’ business and that they’re not going to do oil changes anymore, I can’t sell them the equipment to do oil changes anymore. So, I need to grow where they’re going to grow and that’s my plan.”

    He estimates over 100 electric car models on the market by 2025.

    Viking Equipment is now installing three levels of EV chargers for homes, dealerships and gas stations across the country. Level one chargers, Shomberg explained, are 10 volt chargers for the home that are adequate for slow charging and local driving, but it could take days to fully charge an EV. Level two chargers are 220 volts and provide a full charge within hours. Level three chargers are D.C. power units for gas stations and rest stops where drivers can get a recharge within 10-20 minutes.

    “The vast majority of the charging is going to be at your house,” said Shomberg. “You’re going to come home at the end of the day, you’re going to plug your car in, and in the morning, it’s fully charged and ready to go.”

    He said level two chargers cost $400 to $500, but it will cost extra for an electrician to install the unit.

    “Depending on what state you live in, there are incentives both from the federal government and from your electric company to put these chargers in that can cover the cost either all of or part of the cost to purchase the charger, and all of or part of the cost to install the charger.”

    Shomberg said his company is also redesigning dealerships with new car lifts to accommodate EV chargers.

    He even purchased an electric vehicle for himself so he can experience the issues and limitations of EVs first-hand.

    “For the month of August, I drove it exclusively,” Shomberg told WCBS 880. “I had exactly one time that I visited a fast charger, a level three charger. Other than that, all of my charging was either at home or I have a charger at work and I charge it at work.”

    One week in September, he switched back to his gas-powered car and found himself at a gas station three times within the week.

    “A battery electric vehicle actually got (sic) a lot of advantages to your lifestyle,” said Shomberg.

    He believes EVs will likely replace hybrid cars in the future.

    “The biggest issue is this range anxiety that people need to overcome,” Shomberg said, affirming that a fully charged EV can travel from the New York Metropolitan Area to Maine without needing a boost.

    There are also mobile applications such as PlugShare, which has a map of more than 610,000 EV charging stations where you can plug-in. Other apps calculate the distance one can travel before needing a recharge.

    See more on the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, EV charging, and how life and business will change on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Former ABC President Launches MOJO Sports App to Return Fun to Youth Athletics

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — MOJO Sports is on a mission to keep youth sports fun.

    The company was founded by Ben Sherwood, former Disney-ABC Television Group and ABC News president, who witnessed first-hand how youth sports can be stressful for both kids and parents. For 14 years, he was the soccer coach for his two sons. He often took calls on the practice field from then-Disney CEO Bob Iger while trying to organize drills.

    “I had a PDF from 1994 for a soccer team and a book called ‘Soccer for Dummies’ that I bought at Barnes & Noble – when there used to be these bookstores where you could buy a book – and I did the best I could. And Lord knows I probably messed up a bunch of soccer careers, because I really didn’t have any idea what I was doing,” said Sherwood on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    He started MOJO Sports to put the fun back in youth sports, citing research that roughly 70 percent of kids dropout of organized athletics by the age of 13 because it wasn’t enjoyable anymore.

    “We set out with MOJO to make sports more fun for kids, easier for coaches and stress-free for parents,” said Sherwood. “And so if you can take the stress and the pressure of all that out of the equation, you have more chance(s) of families participating and kids considering the play.”

    He told WCBS 880 the app already has 100,000 monthly active users since its launch in February 2021. It provides training resources and short videos of practice drills.

    “Our machine generates a practice for you that fits the exact amount of time you’ve got, it tells you exactly the equipment you’re going to need, and then, gives you high-quality videos that are about a minute to a minute and a half long that show you the activities that you’re going to do in the order you’re going to do them with coaching tips and coaching points,” he said.

    “All of these activities are age appropriate, developmentally appropriate for your team, and they’ve been vetted and approved by the best organizations in sports.”

    MOJO Sports has partnered with Major League Baseball, NFL Flag Football and Jr. NBA to develop the curriculum. Sherwood told the WCBS Small Business Spotlight that the professional sports leagues recognize the connection between fandom and playing the sport growing up. It is also their talent pipeline.

    The MOJO Sports app, available on iOS and Android, is free for coaches and youth sports teams, but parents can buy additional resources with a subscription.

    “There’s additional content that families can purchase for a subscription fee of about five bucks a month or about 60 bucks a year,” said Sherwood, continuing, “With that additional subscription fee, you get access to additional content that you can work on at home with your kids if you want to give your kids additional benefits and additional video and additional content to help them get better at sports.”

    See how the MOJO Sports app works to keep kids engaged and take the pressure off parent coaches on the Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Bronx Restaurant Grows Revenue during Pandemic after Key Improvement

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Richard Berroa is taking back control from delivery apps that cut into his profit using his own newly-optimized website, which has opened the door to entirely new revenue streams while restaurants like his have suffered numerous setbacks in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Berroa is an FDNY paramedic who opened Claudy’s Kitchen, a Peruvian restaurant in the Bronx, with his wife Claudia in June 2020.

    “We knew that we’d be mostly takeout,” he said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    But, the website Berroa first created on his own did not meet today’s demands for online ordering. The Bronx Chamber of Commerce connected Claudy’s Kitchen with the Small Business Resource Network – a public-private partnership created during the pandemic to help small businesses with digital marketing and technology resources and training.

    “Having the third parties did help us survive and move forward, but you know, we’ve gotten past that stage and now we want to keep more of the share,” said Berroa.

    BentoBox specializes in developing websites and digital ordering systems for restaurants while allowing establishments ownership of customer data for marketing, unlike the third-party apps. The company overhauled the website for Claudy’s Kitchen with the goal of matching the customer experience online with the quality of service patrons expect in-person.

    “We really have their whole digital storefront available to them, so that’s become increasingly important through COVID,” said BentoBox chief marketing officer Darcy Kurtz. “I think kind of the post-COVID modern restaurant is going to really have to have all this digital property in place because consumer behavior is just permanently changed at this point.”

    She told WCBS 880 that 77 percent of diners go online before heading to a restaurant.

    “There was a very real concern that technology impeded their most important thing, which was delivering hospitality,” Kurtz said, continuing, “Hospitality at its roots is about relationships. It’s about being in-person. But, what we found is that technology actually can enhance hospitality. It doesn’t have to be a barrier to (it).”

    “The big thing is that we’re getting more in-house orders,” said Berroa. “I see the Grubhub and the Uber orders dipping down while our in-house Bento(Box) is going up. So, so far it’s working.”

    BentoBox’s technology also allows restaurants to upsell and cross-sell customers at checkout in a way that adds value to the customer experience. As a result, Berroa said, Claudy’s Kitchen is getting more combination orders that increase the average per ticket.

    “If you’ve done it lately, you will see things like, ‘Hey, you bought the hamburger. Are you sure you don’t want fries?’ Some of the things that happen naturally in-person when you go to a restaurant, you want your online experience to be able to help do that so that your online ordering is equal or higher total ticket prices than your dine-in. You don’t want that to be some trade-off that you’re having to make,” said Kurtz.

    Claudy’s Kitchen also has a section for events that BentoBox sees as one of many incremental revenue streams that can hedge against COVID surges.

    “You’ve got to find ways whether it’s online ordering, whether it’s selling your merchandise, sell your barbecue sauce, sell your T-shirts, you know, do events, and have event management, but just find something else to give you an ongoing revenue stream so that you can level out some of that variability of the dine-in,” Kurtz explained.

    See the platform BentoBox developed for Claudy’s Kitchen along with growth ideas for restaurants on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • RippleMatch Platform Improves Early Career Hiring Process

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — RippleMatch helps college students and recent graduates launch their careers while improving employee retention rates by using data to find the best fit.

    “If you’ve ever had the experience of applying for a job, it’s often that you throw your resume into a black hole and just sort of hope that someone maybe gets back to you,” said RippleMatch founder and CEO Andrew Myers on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “With RippleMatch, you know, we only present opportunities on the platform when a candidate’s very likely to be a good fit. They generally hear back really, really quickly. They always get an answer,” he said.

    Myers said that 66 percent of candidates on RippleMatch have gotten called for an interview.

    He founded the company in 2015 in his dorm room at Yale University after feeling dejected when he only got three or four job interviews out of 55 applications. Calling the process “overwhelming” and “daunting,” Myers sought a better way for his peers using data predictive analytics to match early career candidates with jobs where they are most likely to succeed.

    “Our mission (is) to replace job boards,” he said.

    RippleMatch is free for candidates. It earns all its revenue from employers that now include Amazon, eBay, and Ernst & Young.

    “One of the deals we make with every company that we work with is they commit to certain standards in terms of candidate experience and how they’re going to get back to candidates, and very typically prioritize the RippleMatch candidates that they’re getting matched with in terms of getting them into the interview process,” said Myers. “We just establish workflows on the back end that sort of get candidates into the company as fast as we possibly can, which is generally an advantage when it comes to candidate experience.”

    He said retention rates among Gen Z employees that used RippleMatch are much higher as a result.

    “The single thing (Gen Z employees) want most is professional development,” Myers said, continuing, “Within our own Gen Z workforce, we’ve seen really good retention within roles and I know a lot of our stronger companies have as well. So I actually think that good professional development with Gen Z employees can actually be a pretty effective strategy even in the heart of the Great Resignation. And, I think that there’s actually more shifting going on in sort of later stage positions than there are with Gen Z compared to millennials who are already pretty jumpy themselves. There’s not like a big Gen Z jump or anything like that that we’re seeing.”

    He said RippleMatch has upended the belief that the best talent comes from prestigious universities and it has the data to support it.

    “If you’re clinging to the notion that a candidate had to go to Princeton or you’re over attached to degree pedigree, I think it can actually mean you miss out on phenomenal talent,” said Myers.

    See how RippleMatch works for both job candidates and employers on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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