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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  • Education Secretary on getting kids back in school: ‘We need to go 5 days as quickly as possible’

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    By Lynda Lopez, WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Recently-confirmed U.S Education Secretary Miguel Cardona made his second visit to the Tri-State area this week.

    The former Connecticut public school teacher and education commissioner met with New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter ahead of her announcement Thursday to increase the threshold for COVID-related school closures.

    Under new guidance, the city’s public schools will close for 10 days when there are four or more new COVID-19 cases within a week, rather than just two cases.

    Cardona told anchor Lynda Lopez for the 880 Weekly Rewind that New York City public schools have a smart strategy to begin to address the learning loss that has happened at disproportionate rates in communities of color.

    “The impact of the pandemic for our Black and Brown students or students with disabilities has been significant so we have to make sure that as we’re thinking about reopening, we pay particular attention to how to help those students regain whatever was lost and really make sure that when they come back they’re coming back to a system that looks different than what it did before,” Cardona said. “It’s a very low bar if we say we want to go back to how school was before. So we have to set the bar higher and we have to make sure that the programming that we have… are aimed at those students who the pandemic affected most. We have to be very intentional about that, we have to be unapologetic about that, and we have to be bold to say some communities were hurt more than others. We have to make sure we’re taking care of those communities.”

    Cardona said it is a priority to get as many students back in classrooms full-time as soon as possible and as safely as possible, but he cautions that it’s not a one-size-fit-all approach across the nation as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise in the northeast and upper Midwest.

    “We need to have a level of urgency like we’ve never had to get students in five days a week, but as you know one size does not fit all,” Cardona said. “Not all schools are the same in terms of safety, in terms of ventilation, or not all communities feel as comfortable, or are as vaccinated, and the COVID rates obviously have a lot to do with their level of comfort.”

    For Cardona, the key is maintaining mitigation strategies, such as mask wearing, to clear a path for reopening schools.

    “I see across the country people getting a little comfortable taking off their masks. That’s going to lead to school closings,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re following those mitigation strategies and in schools we need to make sure we’re communicating with all stakeholders so that everybody’s on the same page. Every day that passes is a wasted opportunity for a student to engage with a friend, with a teacher and learn. So we need to have a high level of urgency and we cannot be satisfied with two days a week, that’s not enough. We need to go five days as quickly as possible. Our kids deserve it. They’re waiting for us. We need to to act.”

    As schools focus on reopening, Cardona sees this moment as an opportunity to hit the reset button on a slew of issues that he hopes will fix the education system.

    “There’s tremendous opportunity here,” Cardona said. “Yes, we are coming back from something that created trauma for everyone, and we have to heal together, but we’re going to learn, and we’re going to grow together and we have an opportunity to really move education in a direction that it hasn’t moved and at a pace that it hasn’t moved in the past. Our students deserve it, they’ve been sitting at home, many of them, for a whole year, and it’s really, for me, an opportunity to lead at a time when our country needed it most.”

    U.S. Eduction Secretary Miguel Cardona with WCBS 880 anchor Lynda Lopez. Photo credit: Peter Haskell.

    Achievement disparities and improving pathways to career options are among the issues he’d like to address.

    “My role as commissioner of education in Connecticut over this past year really cemented a strategy that I think is necessary in order for our kids to achieve their potential and that is working together with colleagues, different stakeholders, making sure that we have people’s different voices at the table early so it’s a shared purpose and a shared strategy to improve the outcomes for all students,” Cardona said. “During the pandemic, we were forced to problem solve together, and we didn’t always agree with all the stakeholders that were around the table, but we listened to different perspectives.”

    Cardona said as the country comes out of the pandemic it’s important to run with that collaboraticve strategy to build better opportunities for all students.

    A $130 billion investment in the American Rescue Plan to invest in schools and the long-term recovery process will go a long way in improving the country’s education system, beyond just turning on the lights, buying new filters and purchasing face masks, Cardona said.

    “It means making sure that our schools are equipped with social, emotional supports that our students and staff are going to need for the next several years, it’s ensuring that we have wraparound services, it’s ensuring that we have good summer learning opportunities for students,” Cardona said. “It’s about giving them rich experiences with relationships so that students can grow and really reengage in schools. We have to heal together and again the American Rescue Plan provides funds for, not only making sure schools are safe, but making sure that the schools that we prepare for our students in the future are better than the schools that they left last March.”

    Hear comprehensive analysis of the top stories of the week and original reporting on The 880 Weekly Rewind hosted by Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS-AM New York. Listen to this week’s full show, produced by Neil A. Carousso, on the media player above.

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  • 880 Weekly Rewind: Self-Defense Tactics for Asian Americans, Border Crisis Heats Up, Cuomo Accused Again as Investigations Advance

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Asian Americans are pleading for safety as hate crimes against them spike. WCBS anchor Lynda Lopez talks to Asian American Federation Deputy Director Joo Han about how they are promoting self-defense techniques.

    Plus, the influx of migrants at the U.S. Southern Border reaches the highest level in 20 years amid a change in policy from the Biden Administration.

    WCBS reporter Steve Burns reports on the latest scandals involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who refuses to answer questions while two investigations into his alleged sexual harassment and assault proceed.

    Hear comprehensive analysis of the top stories of the week and original reporting on The 880 Weekly Rewind hosted by Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS-AM New York. Listen to this week’s full show, produced by Neil A. Carousso, on the media player above.

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  • WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast: ‘Shark Tank’ Star Kevin O’Leary Boasts of ‘Digital 2.0 America’ in Growing Out of Pandemic

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Kevin O’Leary, the self-made entrepreneur turned TV “Shark,” brought his straight-shooting, no-frills flare to the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly, presented by The First National Bank of Long Island, in sharing how to grow one’s business again.

    O’Leary, who was nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful” by co-star Barbara Corcoran in season one of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank,” praised business owners for their grit and resilience during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic that has levied a burden on the economy over the past year and shut down major industries, namely restaurants and hospitality companies.

    “The great thing about the American entrepreneur is they don’t let failure stop them,” he said. “The majority of them try again and learn from their mistakes.”

    O’Leary emphasized a changed economy, telling Connolly owners must pursue a digital “transformation” to survive the pandemic.

    “You’ve got to realize that you have to do a digital pivot,” he explained.

    Mr. Wonderful said only 36 of the 56 companies he had been invested in are still in business a year into the pandemic, noting many of his still-standing “Shark Tank’ companies shifted to using Shopify for their e-commerce platform and incorporated high-quality photography and video to connect and find new customers.

    “They really engaged people for the first time in ways they’ve never done before because they were forced to – everybody was working remotely,” said O’Leary.

    “Retail is really challenged because if you’re just (in a) 1,200 square-foot space in a mall and the traffic’s dropped 20 percent, I don’t think that’s going to work out for anybody because consumer preferences have dramatically changed in the last year towards online retail,” he noted.

    He suggested direct-to-consumer sales will help businesses to cut and manage costs, grow their gross margins, and build for the future.

    O’Leary does not anticipate remote work habits will be broken. He’s actually betting on it to stay by shrinking his real estate portfolio from 31 percent to 8 percent over the next three years while the market adjusts to the post-pandemic economy.

    “I haven’t had a cold or been sick since March 7th of last year and I’m starting to like it,” he said, adding, “I don’t think I’m getting in an elevator in New York going up to the 78th floor with 60 people ever again – not in December. I’m not going into a packed restaurant. That may just be me; I’m a germaphobe, but I’ve talked to lots of other people that have the same concerns.”

    Kathy Wylde, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for New York City, cited the “burnout” some employees feel by working from home where many feel they are always at work. She believes employers and employees want to return when it’s safe to do so. Mr. Wonderful disagrees with her assessment.

    Photo Credit: ABC.

    “They have no interest in coming back to headquarters – not now, not ever,” O’Leary said of his workers. “In fact, if you try and force them, they’re going to find a job somewhere else where they get that flexibility.”

    The O’Leary Financial Group founder told the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast that he hears most of his 10,000 employees enjoy working from home to take care of children and elderly parents while avoiding rough commutes in major metropolitan cities like New York.

    Employers in professional services find productivity is up and they have a widened talent pool across the country and world.

    The “Shark Tank” investor said he has made informed business decisions by listening to others he encounters while working remotely, himself, from his Miami Beach dream house where he joined Connolly virtually from his home studio.

    One example of this is when he struck up a conversation with the nurse who administered his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine recently. She explained that at 24 years old she was uncomfortable with the lack of data around the vaccine and fertility.

    “I had obviously heard of anti-vaxxers before, but I always thought they were the lunatic fringe – the 10 percent that thought the government was injecting them with a chip or something,” O’Leary said.

    “I’m under the impression now, or at least in terms of my investment philosophy, that we’re going to get to a place pretty soon in the next 6 weeks, maybe 8 weeks, where we will have vaccinated two-thirds of the country and we’re going to hit a brick wall. The other third isn’t going to take it,” he believes, thus he’s downsizing his physical footprint, beefing investment in the digital space, and encouraging restaurateurs to re-think their indoor and outdoor dining areas while improving their digital ordering systems for takeout and delivery.

    O’Leary sold his first business, renamed The Learning Company from SoftKey Software Products, to Mattel for $4.2 billion in 1999. Now, he owns O’Leary Financial Group, which is a conglomerate of brands that includes investment firm O’Leary Funds. He also serves as chairman of O’Shares ETFs. Kevin, a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur, owns O’Leary Fine Wines. Mr. Wonderful is also heavily invested in financial literacy firm Beanstox, Inc., which is geared towards young people in their 20s and 30s who are more interested in business and investing because of the pandemic.

    “Basically, we’ve made it so simple that you try and take 100 dollars a week and put it into the markets through indexing,” he told Connolly of Beanstox. “It’s a tool to help people solve a big problem in America: 100 million Americans do not have anything set aside for their retirement.”

    Mr. Wonderful knows how to have fun, too. He shows his lighter side to his 401,000 YouTube subscribers. His hobbies include biking, cooking and playing the guitar.

    “I don’t work 9 to 5, obviously, and I try and find life balance in doing the things I love to do while I’m working,” O’Leary said in response to a question from WCBS Business Producer Neil A. Carousso, adding, “I work seven days a week, but I don’t work every hour.”

    You can see Kevin O’Leary’s routine, his business philosophy, and actionable advice for growing your business again despite the pandemic on the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast with Joe Connolly, presented by The First National Bank of Long Island. Watch the full program above.

    About Kevin O’Leary:

    Photo Credit: ABC

    Kevin O’Leary’s success story starts where most entrepreneurs begin: with a big idea and zero cash.

    Kevin O’Leary was born to a middle class family in 1954. The combination of Kevin’s mother’s family heritage as merchants and his father’s Irish charisma truly meant that O’Leary was born for business. Kevin learned most of his business intuition from his mother. She taught him key business and financial insights from an early age. These became Kevin’s core philosophies, and the pillars upon which he would one day build his empire.

    Kevin’s approach to business went through major changes as a teenager. During his second day on the job at a local ice cream shop, his boss came into the front of the store where Kevin was scooping ice cream. She looked at Kevin and asked him to scrape all the gum between the Mexican tiles on the floor. Kevin refused and he was fired. That was the moment he realized he never wanted to work for someone else again and charted his path into entrepreneurship as a high school student.

    As a university student, Kevin’s innate business sense led him along several different paths – including some very unusual, very entrepreneurial ways of making a profit.

    Not long after he finished his MBA, Kevin had a meeting that changed his life forever.
    He met a man who had a strange idea for a software product – an idea with huge, high-profit potential that Kevin immediately recognized.

    After years of ups, downs, sacrifices, challenges, and lessons learned — not to mention a critical phone call that nearly cost him everything — the opportunity that Kevin saw eventually turned into a computer software giant that was acquired for more than $4 billion dollars.

    After his extraordinary success at the software company, he founded – and a difficult period of obstacles and legal disputes – Kevin eventually found himself on television, quickly becoming a sought-after host and personality on a range of shows – including Discovery’s Project Earth, CBC’s Dragons’ Den, and ABC’s Shark Tank.

    Kevin has since launched O’Leary Funds, an investment fund company; O’Leary Fine Wines; and a best-selling book series on financial literacy.

    In 2014, Kevin founded O’Leary Financial Group – a group of brands and services that share Kevin’s guiding principles of honesty, directness, convenience, and above all, great value.

    His net worth is estimated at $400 million.

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  • WATCH: NYC Mayoral Candidate Andrew Yang Calls on Cuomo to Step Aside, Lays Out Plans for City’s Recovery

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    By Lynda Lopez, WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Andrew Yang, the leading candidate for mayor of New York City, is concerned local government is handicapped while state lawmakers in Albany investigate the mounting claims of sexual harassment and assault against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

    New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the feds are also investigating whether Cuomo intentionally underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

    Yang has sent a letter to Cuomo asking him to step aside while the investigations play out and he believes that remains the best path forward.

    “We need someone who can do the work of the state and right now that does not seem to be Gov. Cuomo,” Yang said. “I sent a letter asking him to step aside and have the lieutenant governor assume that role pending the conclusion of the investigation, I think that’s the right move, I think that would make everyone feel satisfied that there is someone who is able to lead the state, frankly, not distracted by a continuous drumbeat of accusations and scandals.”

    In a wide-ranging interview for the 880 Weekly Rewind, the entrepreneur and former presidential candidate told anchor Lynda Lopez that the governor and his scandals have become a distraction and are getting in the way of the city’s recovery.

    “The job of the mayor is to deliver for the people of New York City and in order to deliver for the people of New York City, you need to have a good working relationship with the governor and the legislators in Albany. If you don’t have that, then you can’t deliver at high a level,” Yang said. “I talked to a state legislator last night and he said that obviously everything is focused right now on these proceedings against the governor and a lot of other business. Ordinarily right now they’d be focused on the budget, which is enormously important, but that’s not happening right now. So the interests of the city and the state are aligned in the sense that the city is the economic engine of the state, but we need state legislators to be doing their jobs in order for us to be able to do our jobs so it’s one reason why I think Gov. Cuomo stepping aside is the right thing because we need them focused on the business of the state and that affects the city every day.”

    Cuomo on Friday again denied the sexual harassment allegations and insisted that he would not resign, despite growing calls from both political opponents and allies to do so.

    The governor said he doesn’t want to let the allegations be a distraction, and will remain focused on the state budget, the state’s recovery, and ramping up vaccination efforts.

    With his sights set on Gracie Mansion, Yang is fully focused on jumpstarting the economy and bringing the city back.

    “We’re down 60 million tourists and those 60 million tourists supported 300,000 jobs, about half of the jobs we’re missing, so the first order is business is to let everyone know that New York City is open, that we’re welcoming tourists back,” Yang said. “The second thing that everyone can also see around us is we’re missing 82% of commuters and when someone doesn’t come into the office, that’s not just that company, that’s the security guards, the cleaning staff, the food truck operators, the retail storefronts that ordinarily serve those commuters. We need to let companies have the confidence to say to their workers, ‘You need to come back to the office’ because that’s vital for New York City’s recovery.”

    Yang said that he’s been talking to CEOs who are desperate to get people back as soon as the vaccine is distributed broadly enough.

    But that will require building public confidence that it’s safe to come back and Yang said the best way to accomplish that is by letting people know that everyone around them has been fully vaccinated.

    “There are two straightforward possibilities number one is to have an app on your smartphone that’s a vaccine passport,” Yang said. “Israel, which is actually ahead of us on this curve, has actually started distributing bracelets to people where you just have the bracelet and you show the bracelet. It’s like New York City is the biggest VIP section of a club in history where you get the bracelet so you can walk on in. But that’s the kind of measure that we need to adopt and champion for people to feel confident that they’re perfectly safe cause everyone around them has already been vaccinated.”

    Neil A. Carousso produces The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS Newsradio 880. Listen to this week’s full show on the media player above.

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  • Marking One Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It has been one year since COVID-19 reared its ugly head in New York. On The 880 Weekly Rewind this week, Lynda Lopez looks at the past year in the pandemic from the human toll to the lessons learned and how we recover.

    Plus, WCBS reporter Steve Burns covers a tumultuous week for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo whose emergency pandemic powers were rescinded by the state legislature Friday amid dual scandals in how he handled COVID-19 in nursing homes and allegations of sexual harassment from three women.

    Neil A. Carousso produces The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez Friday nights at 7 PM on WCBS Newsradio 880. Listen to this week’s full show on the media player above.

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