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.

    Technology

  • WCBS 880 business tips: 5 ways to change your sales

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Business owners are changing the way they sell to recover and grow during the coronavirus pandemic.

    All three entrepreneurs on the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast panel with Joe Connolly have adjusted their sales operations and strategies, increasing revenue as a result; they share advice to other owners on how to boost sales even in this tough economic climate.

    1. Reduce Overhead

    Satisfi Labs Co-Founder and CEO Don White says vendors are currently offering incentives for suppliers. You may be in a good position to negotiate.

    “Now is a great time to shop for a better rate or a better priced option,” White said. “We were able to reduce our health costs by 40 percent going into 2021 just because of how we worked with our partner who wanted to retain us, and even though it’s 25 employees, they were very interested in offering us the ability to do that.”

    The savvy tech entrepreneur says now is a great time to reduce your overhead going into next year.

    2. Pivot to Boost Revenue

    NTWRK president Moksha Fitzgibbons says small retailers should pivot online and attempt to move their current customer base to their e-commerce platform.

    “I would say do as much as you can to build that online revenue and try to grow that as efficiently, as effectively as you can, and then, reopen that store in a safe way to bring back your customer base, as best you can, and introduce them to your online piece,” Fitzgibbons said in response to an audience question from Anita Manfredonia who owns a boutique in Flushing, Queens named Pippy & Lily.

    NTWRK is a livestreaming e-commerce application that has helped retailers pivot from brick and mortar to grow digital sales.

    One example Fitzgibbons shares on the Virtual Business Breakfast is Chelsea-based artist Mr. Flower Fantastic who designs elaborate floral pieces for live events and showcases, including making a floral masterpiece of Serena Williams’ Nike Air Max 97 sneaker for the 2018 U.S. Open. NTWRK has a creative content deal with MFF that will rake in “seven figures plus” in revenue this year after event cancellations temporarily set the floral artist’s business back.

    3. Know Who Your Customers Are

    A key to changing your sales is understanding who your customers are by digging into your transaction data and social media analytics.

    “When we saw that it was a reorder, we put a handwritten note in there with an extra two-ounce bottle thanking them for ordering from us,” Jennifer Decker of Long Island-based 3 Moms Organics said of her personal touch.

    Her customers became the company’s most influential spokespeople during the pandemic as they made their own posts and videos explaining and showing how their DEET-free product TickWise works to repel ticks and insects.

    A combination of genuine influencer marketing and targeted Facebook advertisements accelerated 3 Moms Organics’ sales over 1,000 percent this year.

    4. Help Others Who Are Struggling

    White shared his conviction that the business community should help others who have been laid-off due to this crisis. One way to do that is through virtual networking made easier on LinkedIn.

    “Some of those relationships have really benefited our company,” White said, noting that was not his objective. “I was able to provide them some benefits of either talking through what opportunities they were looking for, ways they can potentially help us, and then they would in turn say, ‘well, how can I help you?’ There was a reciprocal opportunity.”

    His startup’s revenue doubled after shifting his sales operations from a regionally focused sales team to a vertical sales team whereby staffers focused on areas of expertise rather than geographic location since business travel was halted.

    5. Be a Business for the Future

    Fitzgibbons believes consumer behavior has changed permanently and entrepreneurs should look to fulfill needs in the marketplace.

    “I used to go to Whole Foods all the time and now I order it through Amazon Prime.
    I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a Whole Foods or certainly not with the frequency that I once did,” he shared, adding, “You need to think through that need case and make sure that you are well-positioned to be a business for the future and not one of the past.”

    Watch the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly here.

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  • WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast: Growth opportunities in the COVID crisis

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Successful entrepreneurs will often say they find opportunities amid challenges, but the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a curveball at a formerly booming economy that has disrupted industries. Some resilient businesses are now growing after making key adjustments to how they sell.

    Three local entrepreneurs who have pivoted, recovered and increased revenue in the last seven months share how sales has changed in the pandemic economy on the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast, hosted by Joe Connolly.

    “We started to see a lot of consumption late at night, which just spoke to the fact that people were home more, they were social distancing,” said NTWRK president Moksha Fitzgibbons.

    He told the panel he was nervous in March when they were forced to shutter production. NTWRK originally was a platform that hosted highly produced and high-quality video content for businesses. Now, it is part of a hot trend of livestreaming e-commerce in which the NTWRK application hosts vertical live video for retailers that sell their products directly on the app to prospective customers that the startup finds for business owners.

    “The more content consumption equated to more product sales,” said Fitzgibbons whose revenue doubled from March to April after the quick pivot. NTWRK is projecting a 500-600 percent increase year-over-year.

    He explained on the Virtual Business Breakfast how he helps traditional retailers, such as Mr. Flower Fantastic, based in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, make creative content that translates to sales since brick and mortar and experiential businesses are suffering amid the pandemic.

    “In short order, by end of year, we’ll drive seven figures plus revenue for (Mr.
    Flower Fantastic) around exclusive product drops in our livestreaming e-commerce application,” Fitzgibbons said.

    Don White, co-founder and chief executive officer of Manhattan artificial intelligence firm Satisfi Labs, saw revenue plummet to zero when all of his retail and entertainment clients – including Macy’s, Major League Baseball, Universal Orlando Resort and the Georgia Aquarium – were shut down in March. He credits their recovery to a shift of their sales operations from location to industry specialization by his staff since business travel was halted.

    “Moving to a vertical sales team meant that someone who covered all the other aquariums could speak more intelligently about what aquariums are doing or need to get their customers back,” White explained.

    “That verticalization and expertise goes a long way in terms of understanding of the category and truly being a partner with the client to give them the success that they need on the platform,” Fitzgibbons added.

    Jennifer Decker, co-owner 3 Moms Organics, is up more than 1,000 percent this year, which she attributes to creative and educational content they use in targeted Facebook advertisements. Their most effective advertisement was what they call the “pink paper ad” in which Decker’s partner Lisa-Jae Eggert, who studied entomology and earth science, collected ticks in the high grass on the East End and demonstrates how they stay away from the border of a pink sheet of paper that she sprayed with their product TickWise – a DEET-free tick and insect repellant.

    “She blew dry it to show even when it dries on your clothing that the ticks don’t want to go near it and that ad has definitely given us the most website sales,” Decker told Connolly and the panel.

    White said when he made a “reopening roadmap” for the hospitality industry over the summer, he discovered one piece of content can be used in email newsletters, Facebook posts and advertisements, and other social media campaigns to acquire new customers within a limited marketing budget.

    “I think it’s just very strategic, quality, small investments that can be transferred (across) a lot of channels,” he said.

    Selling direct-to-consumer on their website is now 3 Moms Organics’ focus as opposed to traditional retail. TickWise is on the shelves of about 80 stores – many of which are seasonal on Long Island and closed in March. They are registered through the Environmental Protection Agency to sell in 48 states and Washington, D.C. 3 Moms Organics was recently approved by the EPA to sell in California and are pending approvals for Maine and South Dakota.

    Decker and Eggert used their time wisely in the first three months of the pandemic to apply and receive the Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise Certification (MWBE), which has opened new doors for additional revenue streams.

    “(We’ve) networked within them to learn a little bit more about what we should be doing and what we should be targeting,” Decker said of recent certifications.

    White, in an answer to an audience question from debt settlement attorney Leslie Tayne, Esq. of Tayne Law Group in Melville, Long Island, said he has made connections on LinkedIn that has replaced in-person networking during the pandemic.

    “I have been open to helping people that were unemployed as a result of the pandemic, and honestly, some of those relationships have really benefited our company,” he said, stressing his personal conviction in members of the business community helping each other through crises.

    Learn sales advice, growth strategies and ideas on pivoting and starting a new business to fill a need in the pandemic economy on the WCBS BNB Bank Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly. Watch the program above.

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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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  • 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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  • Downtown Brooklyn Looks to Attract Top Talent in a Post-Pandemic World

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — In an eerily quiet dark age of New York City, which was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in March and April, economic development groups see the light at the end of the tunnel as they reimagine and prepare for the post-pandemic workplace.

    Regina Myer is the president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which sees an opportunity to become an innovation hub by attracting talented young professionals who live in walking distance to the growing number of technology, manufacturing and media companies.

    “We’re studying specific streets among Fulton Street, Livingston and Willoughby to see how we can really make those environments more pedestrian friendly,” she said.

    She told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by BNB Bank, about her experience leading the Brooklyn Bridge Park for a decade in which she spearheaded the joint initiative with the City to develop Willoughby Square Park that is set to open in 2022. A portion of the 1.15-acre green space opened last year in Downtown Brooklyn; some workplaces there feature individual air conditioning units, which are essential in the COVID-19 era.

    “I want to do the same thing here in Downtown,” she said.

    Myer told WCBS 880 “shared streets” create space for workers, cyclists and pedestrians and improve the quality of life. She believes that sparks better business practices. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership developed their blueprint from the model of major cities, including Pittsburgh, Seattle and Barcelona.

    “We want amenities that enhance our businesses like outdoor seating, we want it to be very clean, and people feel comfortable,” she said.

    Myer was the senior vice president for planning and design at the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, which counts HBO, SAP, BlackRock, Wells Fargo, and Neiman Marcus among its tenants.

    But the difference between Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn, she said, is that the outer borough relies on foot traffic from locals. Employers find their workers live nearby rather than commuting from the suburbs.

    “When companies decide to locate in Downtown Brooklyn, they know they are accessing a tremendous amount of talent from throughout the borough,” said Myer.

    Foot traffic is key for Downtown Brooklyn businesses to thrive, and right now, survive. Myer told Connolly and Carousso foot traffic is down 50 percent on weekdays, and is 20 percent higher on weekends due to tourist activity that ticked up this summer since the transmission rate of COVID-19 reached pandemic lows in New York City.

    She believes a coronavirus vaccine and therapeutics are the answer for consumer confidence.

    “I want to open, too,” Myer responded to the fact that most business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, are demanding a full reopening as businesses close with tens of millions of Americans unemployed.

    “I just know that people have to feel comfortable doing so,” she added.

    Citing efficiency in remote work, Myer sees companies will usher in a new age of economic growth, and is encouraging businesses to consider locating in Downtown Brooklyn.

    Hear about the opportunity Regina Myer sees for Downtown Brooklyn to lead in the local economic recovery and attract growing new businesses, plus new ways to sell your product or service on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight Podcast on the RADIO.COM app or on the media player above.

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