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.

The Latest

  • How to Win at Business featuring Mark Cuban: WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast LIVE, sponsored by Dime Community Bank

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    Wednesday October 12 – 10 AM EDT

    Streaming at and @WCBS880 on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Join WCBS business reporter Joe Connolly LIVE for a discussion with Mark Cuban, the self-made billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, on Wednesday, October 12 at 10 AM ET.

    You will learn how to capitalize on new opportunities no matter the economic climate. Cuban will also answer your business questions, which you can submit in real time by commenting during the livestream on our TwitterFacebook, and YouTube pages.

    Cuban will opine on what New York’s businesses must do to be competitive and thrive post-pandemic. We know the outspoken shark will be brutally honest when it comes to sales and marketing strategies and economic policy!

    Mark Cuban started his first business at 12 years old by selling garbage bags door-to-door in the Pittsburgh suburb where he was raised. He founded and sold a software company to CompuServe, a subsidiary of H&H Block, in 1990.

    Mark Cuban
    Mark Cuban Photo credit ABC/Christopher Willard

    His next venture was evolutionary. He helped launch one of the first sports streaming networks,, where fans could listen to niche sporting events in other markets online. Cuban always believed streaming would surpass television and saw growing demand for those who wanted to watch games at their desks. The serial entrepreneur sold to Yahoo! in 1999 for $5.7 billion.

    Forbes ranks the Mavericks owner #227 on the Forbes 400 Richest People in America list with an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion.

    Cuban is one of America’s best-known investors on ABC’s “Shark Tank” where he has inspired future generations to pursue entrepreneurship.

    Mark Cuban evaluates an investment opportunity on "Shark Tank."
    Mark Cuban evaluates an investment opportunity on “Shark Tank.” Photo credit ABC

    The shark recently founded Cost Plus Drugs to add transparency to the pharmaceutical industry by communicating drug costs to patients who pay a 15 percent markup on the manufacturing cost of their medications, plus a $3 pharmacy fee and $5 shipping charge. Cuban hopes it will help lower national drug prices of lifesaving medications. He even encourages competition to accomplish that larger goal.

    On the WCBS Virtual Business Breakfast, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, you’ll come away with inspiration and actionable ideas from Cuban to grow your business and pursue your entrepreneurial dreams.

    Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a conversation with one of America’s most popular entrepreneurs!

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  • Slice Keeps Local Pizzerias Thriving through Digital Apparatus

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — This tech company is on a mission to empower independent pizzerias.

    Slice is a digital platform tailor-made for small pizza shops. Ilir Sela founded the company in 2010 when he saw local pizzerias being squeezed by delivery app fees.

    “Slice exists to keep local thriving,” said Sela on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    His love for the pizza business is personal, growing up visiting the pizzeria his grandfather and uncle owned in Manhattan, and later, Brooklyn. That’s also where his father worked.

    Sela chose to pursue computer science at the City University of New York and used his expertise to introduce technology to an old-fashioned industry he knew best.

    “When you apply technology to a business, it becomes a lot more turnkey, becomes a lot more automated, and the more turnkey a business can become, the less reliant it is on actual human labor,” he said, adding, “That’s one of the biggest challenges that these operators have is access to part-time labor in this really challenging environment.”

    Sela said over time, Slice helps to increase revenue, keep costs down and allows blue collar pizzeria owners to spend more time with their families.

    It’s a big change for pizzeria owners who are used to taking orders over the phone, but Sela notices that customers of his 20,000 pizza shop clients are generally placing larger orders and ordering more frequently. Plus, there are fewer mistakes and returns.

    “Most pizzeria owners, they will mail menus, physical menus, to these households in order to remind them to reorder. It’s sort of this old snail mail kind of operation. But if you move that customer online, you have a direct relationship with the customer in real time,” he said.

    While the pizzerias are responsible for their own deliveries, Slice provides upselling and marketing tools.

    “We can send them text message notifications, push notifications, email marketing,” said Sela. “You kind of know who the customer is, you know their behavior, and you can personalize offers for this customer to come back more often.”

    “The real opportunity for every business is how to make your existing customers more valuable.”

    “So the combination of these things, we’ve seen in many cases, double the business of a pizza shop through the same customer base.”

    Sela told WCBS 880 he sees tremendous growth potential for local pizzerias that use the Slice technology to market to existing and new customers.

    “A Domino’s location on average makes $1.2 million a year in sales. Most of that is digital. An independent pizza shop does about $500,000 a year, and the delta of that $700,000 difference, that’s all online volume.”

    Slice began as a New York tech startup. It now has a staff of more than 900 local representatives, coordinating orders and marketing for small pizzerias across the country.

    See what’s behind Slice’s software and get sales and marketing ideas on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • 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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  • What to do about the vacant offices that are slowing NYC’s economic recovery

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Traffic volume into Manhattan soared after Labor Day as many companies began requiring employees to be in the office at least three days a week and Wall Street firms, including JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, nixed remote work altogether. Still, many office buildings remain mostly empty.

    Office occupancy in New York City was just 38 percent last week, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks building swipes. That’s a 3.5 percent increase from the last week of August when many white collar workers ditch their business suits for bathing suits down the Shore or out East in the Hamptons.

    “This could be a 10 to 20 year painful process where we have vacant buildings that were once assets to our communities, now, will be liabilities unless we put policies in place that streamline the approval process to convert these buildings and provide economic incentives to help facilitate that,” said Scott Rechler, chairman and chief executive officer of RXR, on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Rechler, who sits on the boards of the New York Federal Reserve and the MTA, points to New York’s recovery from 9/11 when rezoning enabled many office buildings in Lower Manhattan to be converted to apartments.

    “If we can do that, we could take that, you know, 10 to 20 year period and bring it down to a five to 10 year period.”

    The real estate developer said those conversions will allow buildings to be competitive in a post-pandemic environment.

    “Buildings that can provide the highest level of experience and engagement and what we call ‘third spaces’ where people can collaborate and bond and become parts of broader communities will actually thrive. But, buildings that are more commodity-like – class B buildings, class C buildings that aren’t close to public transit – frankly are going to become obsolete,” said Rechler.

    RXR is looking at converting some of their Manhattan office buildings into mixed-use buildings where New Yorkers can work and live, which Rechler calls part of the “post-pandemic playbook” to attract more workers to the city.

    “If you look at our multi-family portfolio – and we have 10,000 units of multi-family – we’re 99 percent occupied,” he said. “I’m optimistic because the people is (sic) the fuel that drives the long-term vitality of this economy and they’ve come back.”

    He told WCBS 880 the next step is for real estate developers, like himself, to create affordable housing to attract more talent to the five boroughs. A lack of housing inventory has led to an increase in home prices and rents. Rents in RXR buildings, Rechler said, are 10-20 percent higher than they were before the pandemic.

    New office buildings now include amenities such as health and wellness spaces to incentivize employees to work in-person.

    The firm is also noticing companies headquartered in Manhattan are opening satellite offices in their buildings on Long Island and New Jersey.

    “Companies want to have spots that are closer to where people live both for affordability and convenience,” Rechler said. “So you see a number of banks, for example, have opened up offices in New Jersey or some of the pharmaceutical companies and the same thing we’re seeing in Nassau County.”

    “That will enable people to live closer to home and have a shorter commute for part of the week or the whole week, depending where they are, but still be able to convene in New York City with all their peers where you can focus on culture building, ideation, collaboration, that you can’t get if everyone’s working independently.”

    Rechler sees the city is transitioning from a Manhattan-centric economy to what he calls a “superstar region,” which he believes will be more sustainable post-pandemic.

    See more on the future of the office on the Small Business Spotlight video above.

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