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.

    Technology

  • 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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  • WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast: New Creative Sales Methods to Rise from the Pandemic

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    Presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC.

    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and barriers to growth upon the reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic, but this panel of business leaders offered optimism and concrete solutions for a recovery.

    Nomad Health Founder Dr. Alexi G. Nazem, Shoptiques Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Lightman, and MadCreek, LLC Founder and Creative Director Andi Jennings shared their approaches and experiences with Business Reporter Joe Connolly on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC.

    Lightman said her company’s mission is to “help small get smarter,” explaining that the pandemic accelerated the shift to digital as consumers were forced online amid the shutdown in March 2020 and subsequent COVID-19 restrictions, which provided an opportunity for them to grow their digital services previously resisted by some boutique owners on Shoptiques’ online marketplace.

    “On the front-end of our business, we have our marketplace where we’re selling to consumers but on the back-end, we’re really just a services and technology company supplying boutiques and small business owners with everything they need to be successful digitally,” she said, continuing, “So, they were all of a sudden, challenging our online tech, forcing us to innovate quickly, innovate faster, innovate more, give them more tools, give them more access, give them more customers, and in a great way, it forced us to really think outside of the box and grow.”

    Lightman, who is overseeing the company’s digital expansion and customer acquisition, told the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast that online sales are picking up for boutiques on her platform this spring. She said customers are now spending about 20 percent more per order than a year ago.

    “They’re now buying outfits to go out and accessories and home goods and gifts for people,” she said.

    880 Business Breakfast

    Managing Fast Growth So You Don’t Grow Out of Business:

    New York-based Nomad Health has been growing exponentially. They digitize the healthcare hiring process to help connect providers with clinicians worldwide to combat staffing shortages and provide competitive career opportunities for doctors and nurses.

    “There has been this war for talent in the technical field and what that has caused us to do is broaden our horizons and start hiring people all across the United States,” he said, noting they are not only competing with other healthcare companies, but also technology firms that have disrupted traditional industries.

    A number of businesses are struggling to hire workers amid a labor shortage while the enhanced unemployment benefits exceed wages in some cases.

    “We’re starting people at higher rates than we used to,” contributed Michael Aboff, third-generation owner of Aboff’s Paints which has 32 locations on Long Island. Aboff’s home improvement business has flourished the last 15 months.

    Nazem, a Yale and Harvard-trained doctor and businessman, agreed with Connolly that fast growth requires him to be selective and focus on his business objectives.

    “There are so many shiny objects and you have to resist the temptation to pick all of them. You have to succeed somewhere before you can succeed everywhere,” he said.

    Nazem added he communicates Nomad Health’s detailed growth strategy with its employees on a regular basis so they can focus on providing exceptional service to their clients and meet company goals.

    Finding New Customers In The Post-Pandemic Economy:

    New Jersey-based MadCreek has an impressive portfolio of clients for design and marketing, including Union Catholic High School, Rutgers University Libraries and Seton Hall Athletics. Many of their customers were forced to pivot to remote work last spring, but Jennings’ team of mostly mothers had already been working from home for years, and thus, became local experts in the virtual space.

    “What we decided to do with our customers or our clients to attract new customers was explain to them that, ‘While your business is maybe slow or while you’re figuring things out, really try to think of other things you’ve always wanted to do with your business.
    And, what are those things? And, how can we help you?'” the creative marketer said.

    Jennings has become more of a “trusted consultant” for her clients in the pandemic, using virtual whiteboards and other collaboration tools internally and externally, which she demonstrated on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast.

    “If they come to us with a very unique problem or a service that we don’t necessarily provide, chances are we’re going to research what type of service they need, find the greatest professional in that industry and provide them with all the tools they need,” she said.

    Lightman told Connolly she loves when boutique owners present her and her team with big ideas. She said Shoptiques will try just about anything.

    “When you stop learning, you stop living,” said Lightman.

    Nazem agreed with that mantra.

    “You have to be willing to try different stuff and fail fast so that you can learn that, ‘Okay, this is an area that probably isn’t right for me.’ But, you have to try multiple things,” he said.

    “Try selling to them in a different way, try hosting events, try anything you can, but thinking digitally first is really important,” said Lightman, adding, “Customers are not going to go back to just shopping in stores.”

    One of the lessons from the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast is ensuring products are diversified. Another is to be diverse in ranks so that workers’ skills complement each other.

    “I think you have to look out of the box and learn and be creative and it really helps to have young people on your team – next generations that know the world of what’s going on today with Instagram and Facebook and TikTok and all those mediums that help you to sell,” said Candy Udell, president of London Jewelers.

    Several retail owners have asked Connolly and WCBS Business Producer Neil A. Carousso about finding new customers online now that their stores are not as busy compared to before the pandemic as some consumer behaviors have changed. Carousso asked the panel about acquiring customers.

    “We actually rely really heavily on affiliate marketing,” Lightman responded. “It’s a really big channel for us. You only pay for what you get. There’s little risk in it. So, it’s a really great source.”

    The Shoptiques CMO said they shy away from social media because it’s an overcrowded space and hard to compete against large corporations that have sizable digital marketing budgets.

    “It’s ironic, but for us, our customer base responds really well to SMS and email marketing, still. They really love us putting forth trends and being like a thought provider as to what they should shop and that’s where we see the best results,” said Lightman.

    How To Handle Competitors Undercutting Your Prices:

    One challenge all three panelists have faced is competitors driving their costs down.

    “A lot of times, they’re going to find cheaper online outlets with people that don’t know their business, that don’t care about their business, but they’re just running out there because they need a logo or they need a landing page,” said Jennings. “So, the money that they’re spending out there on these one-shot deals really does not help them grow foundationally.”

    She told Connolly it happens frequently among her smaller clients working on tight budgets, but more often than not, they return because MadCreek is invested in the success of their business.

    Nazem commented that people will pay for higher quality work and personal service as Jennings described, but he’s concerned technology companies are disrupting hard-hit industries and driving prices lower for small businesses that are operating on tight profit margins.

    See solutions, fresh growth strategies and innovative ideas to jump-start sales on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC. Watch the free one-hour program above or on our YouTube page.

    MEET THE PANELISTS

    About Alexi Nazem, Co-Founder & CEO of Nomad Health:

    Alexi Nazem

    Alexi Gharib Nazem, MD, MBA, is the co-founder and CEO of Nomad Health, the first online marketplace for freelance clinical jobs. In addition to leading Nomad, he is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell in New York.

    Previously, he led field operations for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s successful 100,000 Lives Campaign.

    Alexi trained in internal medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston after receiving an MD from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. He also holds a BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale.

    About Lindsay Lightman, Chief Marketing Officer of Shoptiques, Inc.

    Lindsay Lightman

    As Chief Marketing Officer of Shoptiques inc., Lindsay is responsible for developing and managing the companies B2B and B2C marketing strategies; as well as identifying and negotiating strategic partnerships. This includes overseeing the Shoptiques.com marketplace customer acquisition, marketing, merchandising, and support; developing and growing Shoptiques Managed Marketing Services for luxury boutiques; and building the Shoptiques SaaS offerings designed for small business owners, focused on helping small get smarter.

    Lindsay joined the company in 2018, as Head of Support & Business Development, bringing her over 7 years of experience in global marketing and relationships. In this role, Lindsay helped bring to market Shoptiques first tech product, SPOS; was tasked with bringing new business into the portfolio; and developed account management and technical support for Shoptiques VIP boutique partners.

    Prior to joining the organization, Lindsay served as Director of Global Strategic Market

    Development & Chief of Staff to CRO at True Fit. During her tenure at True Fit, she nurtured long-lead retail relationships with enterprise retailers like Nordstrom, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren. Lindsay managed the global events strategy, PR and communications, and social media marketing, developed a client success program and marketing strategies for retailers to grow customer adoption of True Fit, and facilitated the onboarding of new retail brands onto the True Fit SaaS Platform.

    Lindsay received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, and Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Linguistics from Occidental College in California.

    About Andi Jennings, Founder & Creative Director of MadCreek, LLC:

    Andi Jennings

    Andi Jennings has spent 25 years in the advertising and design industry with the majority of her career leading MadCreek, LLC as founder and creative director.

    With an award-winning design portfolio, and a history of diversity and longevity in the MadCreek client roster, their extensive, brand management experience, top-line creative direction expertise, and strategic digital and social management, allows them to stand the test of time and keep their clients current.

    MadCreek’s clients include the athletic programs at Rutgers University and Seton Hall University, Union Catholic High School, AAA, Hoboken Cultural Affairs and JustinTime Foundation.

    They are guided by a strong belief that their job is to function as a problem-solving tool and find ways to turn any idea into reality.

    Andi recently realized that her lust for creativity and problem-solving had no boundaries. She dove into multiple labors of love, creating art societies and town-wide ‘art walks,’ managing fine artists, and co-writing children’s books. She tackled interior design projects, taught software applications, and has even written short stories and memoir essays.

    Her newest adventure is co-founding “Project CheerUP!”, a positivity movement, uniting cheerleaders to “CheerUP!” the world, literally.

    The WCBS Business Breakfast series with Joe Connolly is produced by Neil A. Carousso.

    Read More

  • Small Business Spotlight: StrongArm Technologies CEO on How to Get Big Clients

    Posted by:

    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The key to business is often relationships. But, getting a foot in the door, especially with a prominent brand, is challenging.

    “You have to start with the end user and you have to never lose sight of the individual at all,” suggests StrongArm Technologies CEO Sean Petterson on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    StrongArm Tech counts Walmart and Toyota North America among its clients. Walmart recently reported the Brooklyn-based tech company helped the retailer reduce worker injuries in its factories by 64 percent using StrongArm’s wearable safety devices called FUSE that utilize haptic technology to alert laborers to risk on the job by vibrating. FUSE collects real-time data so companies can make safety improvements.

    “The goal for us is to not overcomplicate anything, but rather just provide small insights throughout your day so you can avoid getting hurt,” he said.

    Petterson told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that the key to gaining big clients has been loyalty to their original ally within large corporations.

    “They may not have the budget to take you globally with the organization, but they are the champions and they are the best voice of customer,” he explained.
    “It’s almost like the old adage ‘treat your new friends like silver and your old like gold.’ That’s really how we try to operate.”

    StrongArm Tech’s first client eight years ago was a small charity distribution center in Upstate New York, which purchased their exoskeletons that provide ergonomic support to industrial workers lifting heavy materials.

    Petterson told WCBS 880 one way they’ve been able to scale is by taking their data “a step further” to help their clients find cost savings.

    “By eliminating those injuries, we don’t simply have the dollars fall on the bottom-line,” he said. “If you’re anticipating a workflow improvement, but you can’t really find the operational budget to do so, there’s a very good chance that there’s a safety ROI hidden in those numbers.”

    He told Connolly and Carousso their clients have been able to increase profits and productivity by placing value in the labor system.

    Petterson tells his clients “if you can measure it, you can manage it.”

    New York City tech companies, like StrongArm, are booming largely because they are introducing needed solutions and upending traditional businesses that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    See ways local tech companies are innovating and growing and get ideas on how to scale a business on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Small Businesses Get Boost as Commuters Return to New York City

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — People returning to New York City are having real positive effects on the local economy.

    “I’ve been hearing schools are reopening more, and being on the Upper West Side, that affects us because there’s a lot of families here, which is why we wanted to be here,” said Kim Duncan, owner of goldenlight visions, on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Duncan opened the custom printing and photo store on 95th and Broadway in December 2019, just three months before the pandemic shutdown.
    She thought her business would always be secure at a prime location strategically near the subway. COVID-19 has forced her to reimagine her business.

    “We always wanted to grow our website and our reach and be found online, but it is difficult,” she explained. “Search engine optimization is a whole world that we are exploring.”

    Kim and her business/life partner Bretton May believe “failure is not an option.” Duncan told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso they plan to make it work.

    “I know we’ll get past this. It’s just been a really long year,” she said.

    Duncan has a background in marketing and customer service and is eager to welcome people back to the Upper West Side. May is an artist who designs the store’s custom vinyl canvases.

    During the shutdown, she took advantage of guidance and support through the NYC Small Business Resource Network to learn digital marketing and e-commerce. They also offer one-on-one personalized assistance with business coaching, financial planning, loans and grants.

    Goldenlight visions began offering a new adjacent service that has taken off: photo tips.

    “Everybody that comes in is concerned about their images,” Duncan told WCBS 880. “Our tips will help people make them better, and then, we can take it to the next level.”

    Now that subway ridership is inching back to nearly 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels, some commuters are just noticing goldenlight visions for the first time.

    “It’s great to finally see people where they’re coming in now saying, ‘Oh, is this new?’ And here, we’ve been here over a year and people are just finding us now,” she said.

    Watch the Small Business Spotlight video above for more on goldenlight visions and Midtown’s recovery.

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  • WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast: Rising from the Depths of the Pandemic

    Posted by:

    Presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC.

    Streaming Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 9 AM EDT

    Submit your questions for Joe Connolly and the panel here or tweet us using #WCBSBizBreakfast.

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Many industries have gone through a seismic shift in the last 15 months, and now, business owners are looking for new growth opportunities and ideas to reinvent their companies for the post-pandemic economy.

    WCBS Business Reporter Joe Connolly will host the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by First National Bank LI, with a panel of New York business leaders in health, technology, marketing, and retail. You can stream the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast here and the WCBS 880 YouTube channel on Thursday, June 17, 2021 beginning at 9 AM.

    Dr. Alexi Nazem, M.D., MBA was ahead of what has proven to be a critical shortage in nursing staff when he founded Nomad Health in 2015. The company digitizes the healthcare hiring process to help clinicians be fully staffed while managing crises more effectively and efficiently. It also points healthcare professionals to career opportunities and higher paying jobs.

    Nazem, an internal medicine specialist at Weill Cornell Medical College and an attending physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, saw a sharp rise in demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic as hospitals scrambled to fill positions and healthcare workers from around the world stepped up to aid in the fight.  His goal is to transform the healthcare industry with Nomad Health by scaling innovative solutions to issues exacerbated in the pandemic.

    Shoptiques.com is a marketplace for more than 5,000 boutiques across 2,000 cities and 30 countries. This e-commerce site provides sales support to small businesses, including housing a point-of-sale system, an affordable mobile app, and an integrated marketing platform. Lindsay Lightman, Shoptiques Chief Marketing Officer, is taking the company into a new age using new technologies and proven digital strategies to help small business owners mange inventory, scale digitally, and reach new customers – essential to rise from the pandemic.

    Andi Jennings owns New Jersey-based marketing agency MadCreek, LLC, which recently added digital strategy, video production and tech consulting to its traditional branding and advertising services when the pandemic accelerated a shift in consumer behavior to e-commerce. Seven of their top team members are mothers; MadCreek’s pivot into the work from home environment seemed seamless. They are sharing their expertise with their clients, including Rutgers and Seton Hall University’s athletics programs, AAA, and a number of local businesses and non-profits.

    “We made them look professional so they can continue to work during the pandemic,” said Jennings. She will share how to organize your business to grow despite the economic uncertainty on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, presented by First National Bank LI. Member FDIC.

    You can share your questions for Joe Connolly and the panel by submitting the form on this page or Tweet @WCBS880 and @JoeConnollybiz using #WCBSBizBreakfast in your post.

    MEET THE PANELISTS

    About Alexi Nazem, Co-Founder & CEO of Nomad Health:

    Alexi Nazem

    Alexi Gharib Nazem, MD, MBA, is the co-founder and CEO of Nomad Health, the first online marketplace for freelance clinical jobs. In addition to leading Nomad, he is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell in New York.

    Previously, he led field operations for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s successful 100,000 Lives Campaign.

    Alexi trained in internal medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston after receiving an MD from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. He also holds a BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale.

    About Lindsay Lightman, Chief Marketing Officer of Shoptiques, Inc.

    Lindsay Lightman

    As Chief Marketing Officer of Shoptiques inc., Lindsay is responsible for developing and managing the companies B2B and B2C marketing strategies; as well as identifying and negotiating strategic partnerships. This includes overseeing the Shoptiques.com marketplace customer acquisition, marketing, merchandising, and support; developing and growing Shoptiques Managed Marketing Services for luxury boutiques; and building the Shoptiques SaaS offerings designed for small business owners, focused on helping small get smarter.

    Lindsay joined the company in 2018, as Head of Support & Business Development, bringing her over 7 years of experience in global marketing and relationships. In this role, Lindsay helped bring to market Shoptiques first tech product, SPOS; was tasked with bringing new business into the portfolio; and developed account management and technical support for Shoptiques VIP boutique partners.

    Prior to joining the organization, Lindsay served as Director of Global Strategic Market

    Development & Chief of Staff to CRO at True Fit. During her tenure at True Fit, she nurtured long-lead retail relationships with enterprise retailers like Nordstrom, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren. Lindsay managed the global events strategy, PR and communications, and social media marketing, developed a client success program and marketing strategies for retailers to grow customer adoption of True Fit, and facilitated the onboarding of new retail brands onto the True Fit SaaS Platform.

    Lindsay received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, and Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Linguistics from Occidental College in California.

    About Andi Jennings, Founder & Creative Director of MadCreek, LLC:

    Andi Jennings

    Andi Jennings has spent 25 years in the advertising and design industry with the majority of her career leading MadCreek, LLC as founder and creative director.

    With an award-winning design portfolio, and a history of diversity and longevity in the MadCreek client roster, their extensive, brand management experience, top-line creative direction expertise, and strategic digital and social management, allows them to stand the test of time and keep their clients current.

    MadCreek’s clients include the athletic programs at Rutgers University and Seton Hall University, Union Catholic High School, AAA, Hoboken Cultural Affairs and JustinTime Foundation.

    They are guided by a strong belief that their job is to function as a problem-solving tool and find ways to turn any idea into reality.

    Andi recently realized that her lust for creativity and problem-solving had no boundaries. She dove into multiple labors of love, creating art societies and town-wide ‘art walks,’ managing fine artists, and co-writing children’s books. She tackled interior design projects, taught software applications, and has even written short stories and memoir essays.

    Her newest adventure is co-founding “Project CheerUP!”, a positivity movement, uniting cheerleaders to “CheerUP!” the world, literally.

    The WCBS Business Breakfast series with Joe Connolly is produced by Neil A. Carousso.

    Read More

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