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.
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

  • Small Business Comeback Tour: BrownMill Company

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEWARK, NJ (WCBS 880) – This small business has created a local lifestyle brand and an experience in Downtown Newark.

    Justis Pitt-Goodson told Joe Connolly business is “booming” at BrownMill Company since opening a retail location at 49 Halsey St. in June.

    On the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour, sponsored by PSE&G, Pitt-Goodson explained they had built their online brand over the last 12 years, but it was always a dream of his to have a brick-and-mortar store. He took advantage of lower rents during the COVID-19 pandemic and set up shop.

    “The community came out and supported and it’s been up from there,” said Pitt-Goodson.

    Connolly pointed out it seems the custom tailor has a local barbershop feel where customers come to hang out.

    “People consider it a hub of creativity and a place of inspiration,” Pitt-Goodson said.

    Part of that inspiration comes from within. The recent Rutgers University graduate is motivated by his father to pay success forward, so BrownMill Company was founded as a social enterprise.

    The company co-sponsors Giving 1/10th – a community garden in Newark that aims to increase access to fresh and organic vegetables for local residents. BrownMill Company also hosts weekly basketball camps in Pitt-Goodson’s hometown of Piscataway.

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  • Small Business Comeback Tour: Child’s Play Challenge Courses

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ (WCBS 880) – There’s no obstacle this couple can’t crush.

    Lauren and Matt Borawski from Scotch Plains, Union County are the founders of Child’s Play Challenge Courses, which designs portable obstacle courses for people ages 2 and up. They’ve become the toast of kids’ birthday parties, but they also run programs for adults and special needs individuals of all physical abilities.

    “We didn’t want to compete with all of the other ninja gyms,” Lauren told Joe Connolly. “We come to you.”

    On the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour, sponsored by PSE&G, the couple explained how they pivoted to meet demand for COVID-safe outdoor experiences. One of those pivots included setting up obstacle courses at summer camps that kept kids in a so-called bubble to prevent the virus from spreading among unvaccinated age-groups.

    “We go right to the schools, we go right to the camps,” said Lauren who has 30 years of experience in event planning and as a TV operations manager.

    Her husband, Matt, designs the courses, and as a certified personal trainer, he leads their exercise programs.

    Child’s Play Challenge Courses is now operating in seven states and the Borawskis are looking to franchise the business as they finish their strongest year in terms of revenue despite the pandemic.

    “We’ve had over 100,000 people crushing our courses and that’s what’s so great and so unique about us is that we go to wherever this event, party, school, function is.”

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  • New Businesses Flock to Flatiron District as BID Expands in January

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The Flatiron District is seeing growing interest from a variety of new companies looking to set up shop in New York.

    In total, 70 businesses have expressed interest or signed new leases since July 2020, according to the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

    “We’ve seen a continuing trend of tech, media/info organizations,” said Executive Director James Mettham. “We’ve also seen the start of a life science hub on Park Avenue South, which was invested in before the pandemic. It’s all towards this diversifying of the economy and strengthening our neighborhoods.”

    Mettham told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, that the business improvement district (BID) is stronger 20 months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York because it is no longer relying on one type of tenant or industry for the viability of its neighborhoods.

    “We’re not a one industry town anymore,” he said.

    Office occupancies in the Flatiron District are about 30 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The Delta wave pumped the breaks on the return to the office this fall. Now, the target is early next year for many companies.

    “You have a lot of people, employees, that have found a way to make the most of working from their homes and are comfortable in doing that. At the same time, I think everyone sees the value in coming back together in a creative environment that’s not just confined to the walls that you’re in, but just, the air that you breathe in a neighborhood like Flatiron and NoMad where there’s just an abundance of like-minded organizations/companies that are the future of the kind of the digital economy,” said Mettham.

    The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is nearly doubling its footprint in January after the New York City Council approved their expansion proposal to cover 20th Street, the Sixth Avenue gateway to the district, and more of NoMad.

    “The core quality of life work that we bring to the table, and actually, to set the table for more vibrancy through commercial and business growth will be brought to the streets inside of NoMad,” said Mettham, continuing, “That means there are supplemental cleaning services, that means there are public safety officers on the beat working with our city agencies, homeless outreach as well, and then, marketing, concerted marketing and district promotions for the business community that resides in this greater footprint.”

    The New York business leader noted the Flatiron District’s Instagram page that promotes local businesses has grown above 27,000 followers.

    BIDs play an important role in supporting local businesses, and in Mettham’s words, “uplifting” families and communities. They can be a great resource for business owners when considering renting, expanding or finding new clients in specific neighborhoods. The Flatiron BID executive director told WCBS 880 he takes a hyperlocal approach to economic development.

    “With jobs, with business entrepreneurship, innovation, mixed in with important public realm improvements like our NoMad Piazza and our slow streets on 23rd and 21st and Broadway – all of that comes together and creates a special mix where commerce can grow and people – as we’ve seen in New York City over the past two decades – want to live, work, and play, and visit,” Mettham said.

    Watch the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above for more on how the Flatiron District is rebuilding for the post-pandemic future.

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  • Small Business Comeback Tour: Ulrich, Inc.

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    RIDGEWOOD, N.J. (WCBS 880) – When Joe Connolly spoke with Ulrich, Inc. president Robert Elfers for this week’s WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour, sponsored by PSE&G, the phones in the Bergen County showroom were ringing off the hook.

    Elfers said it’s been that way since June 2020 when they reopened following a three-month pandemic shutdown.

    “You drive around the neighborhoods in Ridgewood and Bergen County, it’s like a traffic jam with the contractors on the road,” he said. “People are doing everything.”

    Ulrich specializes in kitchens and bathrooms, but they’ve accumulated a number of home improvement projects during the pandemic. The timeline for renovations has been “stretched out,” said Elfers, who noted the supply chain issues that have hampered his industry.

    He said there’s a good spirit across Bergen County as people look forward to a post-pandemic economy.

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  • Shift in Sales Strategy Helped Brooklyn Production Company Scale

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It was a eureka moment.

    Matthew Saravay, CEO of Brooklyn-based Wizard Studios, was forced to reimagine his production and events business during the COVID-19 pandemic. While attending a Vistage executive coaching session, a light bulb went off in his head.

    “(The coach) said, ‘Who wants to hire somebody?’ And, I raised my hand and he said, “What do you want to hire?’ I said, ‘I want to hire a salesperson.’ He said, ‘What do you want the salesperson to do?’ I said, ‘I want him to bring in a million dollars in business next year.’ And, he said a question to me that changed everything. He said, ‘How would you like that?’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?  I want it all now.’ And, he said, ‘No, like, do you want 100 $10,000 sales or 10 $100,000 sales.’ That gave me pause. I’m like, oh man, I want 10 $100,000 sales,” Saravay recalled on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    He left that day with a fresh perspective. He revamped his sales strategy and began pursuing local advertising agencies that represent major corporations.

    “In my perfect world, the brand is my customer. In the real world, the brand is never my customer,” Saravay explained. “We’re doing an event currently for Hilton, but there is another company that has hired us to produce the work that we’re delivering.

    He told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that 50 percent of his revenue now comes from local advertising agencies that hire his company to produce events.

    “In the agency world, they own the brand relationships, and then, they go out and find companies like ours that go out and do the physical work and create the sets and incorporate the lighting and the video and the audio components and bring it all to life,” said Saravay.

    Wizard Studios is now scaling beyond its pre-pandemic volume of 350 events a year, which previously came directly from venues. It has produced events at the top of One World Observatory, Tavern on the Green, and for the Biden Campaign and Democratic National Committee.

    While full-scale production and design for in-person events is Wizard Studios’ bread and butter, Saravay has invested in the virtual event space and does not see virtual events going away after the pandemic, because businesses and non-profit organizations are reaching a wider audience.

    “I’m actually at a site visit right now with a non-profit that’s holding their first in-person event since 2019 later this year, and I asked them the question, ‘Did you also want to livestream the event?’ And, they said, ‘Oh, we’re concerned that it might erode some of the attendance if they can see the event livestreamed.’ I said, ‘Well, we could put a gateway on that and charge admission just like you’re charging admission to come to the catered meal and see it live,'” he told Connolly and Carousso.

    By putting virtual events behind a paywall, organizers can also keep track of who has registered to get feedback and upsell them in the future.

    Several non-profits have told WCBS 880 they surpassed their fundraising goals in 2020 and 2021 because of the explosion of virtual events and lower overhead costs.

    See more on Wizard Studios and get ideas for growing sales on the Small Business Spotlight video above.

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