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.

The Latest

  • NYC Tech Firm Embraces Remote Work in Brooklyn Apartment Building

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Co-working from your apartment building could be part of the post-pandemic hybrid workplace.

    Remote work may be here to stay, but Metro Tech Services has put a new spin on it by operating out of a new co-working space in a Brooklyn apartment building.

    Tony Dopazo’s Williamsburg apartment building Level converted party rooms on the first and ninth floors to fully functioning work spaces with desks, computers and private conference rooms that are free for those who live there. Dopazo also pays about $80 a month for space on the balcony that offers picturesque views of the city and meets the technology standards of a growing New York tech company.

    “Signing that long-term lease, the huge capital outlay to design and build out your office space, I think, that people are thinking long and hard about that now,” Dopazo said on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    He calls co-working in apartment buildings a “piece of the puzzle” for hybrid work that will enable companies to minimize the risk of signing long-term contracts for corporate office spaces when it may not be necessary anymore.

    “Other enterprises right now are really looking at that as a good model for them in the near-term,” Dopazo said.

    The Brooklyn tech owner told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that downsizing made sense for his firm to cut costs and he’s enjoying the flexibility, but he noted some workers are not well-equipped to work from home. He’s been getting calls from employers who hire Metro Tech Services to outfit their employees’ remote work spaces to avoid any disruption of their operations.

    “Everyone is moving to voiceover I.P. because it allows you to bring your handset to your home, plug it into your router, and make and receive phone calls from your regular handset,” said Dopazo.

    Metro Tech Services has about 90 clients across various industries.

    Embracing remote work has made Metro Tech and its clients more nimble, but in reducing managerial oversight, it has opened the door to allow talented workers to pursue new opportunities at the same time. Dopazo realized this after turning a couple workers into contractors. One moved to California and the other started his own business.

    “They’re now contractors for me so we maintain that relationship, but I’ll also say, projecting now that things are getting a little hectic, I do need to bring in full-time folks now so this is the next challenge,” he explained.
    “Unfortunately, they’re great, but I don’t see them as full-time. In other words, they’ve gotten spoiled and good for them. I think they’ve both done well.”

    Dopazo now discourages his workers from moving out of New York to work remotely.

    See the co-working space in Dopazo’s Williamsburg apartment building on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Achieving Work-Life Balance in a Pandemic World

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    By Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It’s okay to work hard and play hard.

    The age-old struggle for work-life balance is in overdrive during the pandemic. Those who are working remotely are often working longer hours, feeling like they can never tackle their entire to-do lists. The surging COVID-19 infections this summer are introducing more social anxieties.

    Christy Wright has spoken about balance for 11 years at Ramsey Solutions where she hosts a national radio show based in Nashville, TN focused on personal growth. In her upcoming book “Take Back Your Time: The Guilt-Free Guide to Life Balance,” she writes it’s important to prioritize work and life so you’re “doing the right things at the right time.”

    “If what’s right right now is a busy day at work then it gives me permission to not only shake the guilt from the things I’m not doing, that are not right right now, it also helps me be present for the moment I’m in and be proud of how I’m spending my time,” she told WCBS 880’s Neil A. Carousso, noting, “The opposite is also true.”

    The best-selling author explained that sometimes it’s okay to put your phone down to enjoy family and friends. Other times, your attention should be on work.

    Wright ties balance to guilt. She used to think about her kids when she was working and thinking about work deadlines when spending time with family and found many others were in the same monotonous cycle.

    “If you live your entire life this way, always focused on where you are not, then of course you feel guilty because you’re always focused on what you’re not doing,” she said.

    Wright advises people to be confident in their decisions. She told WCBS 880 that often leads to happier and more fulfilled lives.

    She also mentors women who are looking to start their own businesses and side-hustles and speaks on the topics of confidence and fear. Wright is frequent guest co-host on The Dave Ramsey Show.

    Watch Neil A. Carousso’s full conversation with Christy Wright about ways to achieve work-life balance on the video above.

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  • NYC Tour Company Grows Revenue with New Profitable Services

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A New York City tour business has been growing despite the pandemic shutdown by adding new viable services.

    Cindy VandenBosch and Andrew Gustafson are the husband and wife duo at the helm of Turnstile Tours. Both of them have decades of experience in history, museums and tourism. Over the past 10 years, they’ve built a diverse portfolio of programs with unique New York stories at historic sites such as the South Street Seaport, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

    They focus on the “people in the place” to develop the most compelling content. That recipe translated to virtual tours in the pandemic, which helped them amass an audience outside New York.

    “We’ve just been able to spread our wings and share so many more stories through the virtual format,” VandenBosch told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Quickly, they figured out a way to offer daily virtual tours on a variety of subjects to both educate and entertain. VandenBosch and Gustafson hosted more than a 100 consecutive virtual programs at one point as the coronavirus kept people home.

    As hundreds of people signed up to participate in interactive virtual tours, they launched a monthly membership program.

    “People sign up for a monthly membership, and then, they get access to a certain number of programs per month, and then, they can they can access our library as well,” said Gustafson. “That ongoing revenue has been really important to us.”

    Now that Turnstile Tours is back in-person, they host members-only events to retain repeat customers for its premium service. They plan to continue virtual tours in some capacity even though COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted because of the opportunity to reach a mass audience.

    It was their partnerships with non-profits that helped them become more than a tourism business.

    “We could create this kind of suite of services working behind-the-scenes to help either existing institutions be better at what they do or to help them grow a new program,” Gustafson recalled.

    As they and their team learned video production and editing engaging content to capture a digital audience, Turnstile Tours began offering those in-demand services to partners and clients.

    “This spring, we supported the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for their spring virtual festival. So, we were behind-the-scenes, our team, producing and directing, helping with their ‘Making Brooklyn Bloom’ programming, which they normally do in-person,” said VandenBosch.

    “We were really proud to have developed the skills just through practice,” she added.

    You can get ideas for creating adjacent services to grow revenue on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Hometown Flower Collective Expands Flourishing Mobile, Digital Business

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — This business has mastered digital sales and is now doing the reverse pivot in their expansion.

    On the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso caught up with Jaclyn Rutigliano of Hometown Flower Collective who brought her 1976 Ford F100 to Huntington for the WCBS Business Breakfast in October 2019.

    Jaclyn was positioned to succeed in the pandemic with a digital and mobile-first business that has since accelerated with her strategic use of Instagram and local partnerships.

    “Since day one, we really knocked on all the doors of any like-minded businesses just to say, ‘Hey what can we do?’ From a photo shoot to an event to a workshop to free flowers to a giveaway, anything, collaboration has been the number one focus and the number one growth tool for us,” she said.

    “If you’re looking to go online, pay attention to that and try to offer ways to help other small businesses because that’s really what we try to do. Help us, help you.”

    Hometown Flower Co. is increasing their mileage. They recently expanded their footprint from Long Island to Brooklyn and Queens.

    “There are some incredible designers, especially in Brooklyn, so it’s definitely humbling,” Rutigliano said.  “Our design aesthetic really has resonated with a certain group, especially in Brooklyn and Long Island City and those parts. It’s been fun and it’s also attracted some people in the media landscape and fashion world.”

    The public relations professional told Connolly and Carousso that the city can be intimidating, but called it “validating” for her business.

    Hometown Flower offers monthly, weekly and annual subscription services to its customers, sourcing from 10 to 12 Long Island farmers. They played an important role helping their customers cope with the sadness of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, they are being approached for large-scale and private events.

    “We’ve increased our wedding work, which is something we never thought we would be doing,” Rutigliano said.

    She and her husband Marc Iervolino have also opened their first brick-and-mortar store in Huntington Village to service pickups across Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Rutigliano realized she and her Ford truck cannot be everywhere at once.

    By all accounts Hometown Flower Co. is operating on all cylinders, but Jaclyn and Marc are struggling to find skilled workers, which is hindering their ability to scale.

    “It’s been very difficult to find drivers, it’s been very difficult to find administrative and associate-level support as well. It’s tough and we can’t scale if we don’t have the support. It’s just not sustainable,” she said.

    They were able to find a designer who Jaclyn refers to as her “right hand.” Before the hire, Jaclyn had been designing until 3-4 AM every night. But, in order for them to grow even more, Hometown Flower will need support staff. Meantime, they’ve had to turn down some events that are coming back in full force this summer.

    See this creative, flourishing business in-action and see how Hometown Flower Co. is managing fast growth on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Queens Juice Bar Owner’s Recipe for Success Blends Passion for Nutrition, Mentorship

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Making the leap to start your dream business can be daunting, especially in uncertain economic times.

    While a record number of new businesses have been formed during the pandemic, succeeding in a new venture presents a myriad of challenges, and for that reason, roughly 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Dawn Kelly was let go from Prudential Financial in 2015 after 16 years leading its global communications team. Before that, she spent about nine years with AARP and roughly five years as director of public relations for York College. She combined her severance pay from Prudential and her savings to fund The Nourish Spot – a juice bar she opened in Jamaica, Queens with her daughter.

    “When we started The Nourish Spot, I spent over 30 years as a public relations practitioner for a number of different brands and organizations, so I lean on that for the business,” she told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Now a mentor at the NYC Department of Small Business Services, Kelly says anyone looking to start a business does not necessarily need an infusion of capital. She advises small business owners to never feel shy about promoting themselves because it is essential for marketing any business.

    “I was taking clients before The Nourish Spot opened to help them promote themselves,” Kelly said.

    “This wasn’t really a dream for me. I’m an employee,” she explained on the Small Business Spotlight as her workers made smoothies behind the counter in the background.

    But, her passion for nutrition and mentorship is palpable.

    “I actually thought that I would work until I didn’t anymore. But, God had another idea for me. He gave me this idea to do the juice bar and I’m really proud that it’s actually working,” said Kelly, flashing a smile from ear-to-ear.

    She was accepted into a program through the Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation and took online classes during the pandemic to guide her through managing the business and launching new services.

    While most people walk in to The Nourish Spot to order a smoothie off the menu, Kelly realized there was a market for people with medical conditions. One of her customers is a home health aide in Queens who walks in with a prescription from her client’s doctor.

    “Her client doesn’t eat as much fruits and vegetables as they’re supposed to. And so, the way she makes sure that her client consumes the balanced diet, is she comes and makes a smoothie for them and then takes it to them,” she said.

    She also worked with non-profit organizations during the pandemic to help combat food insecurity in her neighborhood, which was once the epicenter of the coronavirus in the spring of 2020.

    Kelly lives by the principle of treating people the right way. She empowers her workers to pass on joy with a smile and grace. Many of them, Kelly sourced from local non-profits when she opened The Nourish Spot.

    “These young people came into us as interns. And, those that showcased themselves as dependable, honest, passionate about food and people, we’ve hired them,” she told Connolly and Carousso.

    She said she tapped into a “community pipeline” of talented, hard-working people who just need an opportunity to prove themselves and flourish. Some of her employees have worked at the juice bar for nearly four years.

    “We’re really really proud,” said Kelly.

    See her story and pickup ideas for new services on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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