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

  • Top Business Leader Calls New York’s Post-Pandemic Economy an ‘Industrial Revolution’

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York City office occupancy recently surpassed 50 percent for the first time since COVID-19 hit in 2020. That’s positive news for corporate executives, but it does not tell the full story of what’s happening in the city’s economy.

    Kathryn Wylde leads the influential Partnership for New York City business group that represents corporations, including Goldman Sachs, Amazon and JP Morgan Chase & Co., and conducted that office survey. She told the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, that 82 percent of office workers are now enjoying a hybrid schedule.

    “Prior to the pandemic, we’re talking about maybe 6 percent of the employers allowing people to work remotely,” said Wylde.

    That’s the new normal or what the Partnership for New York City president and CEO labels a new “industrial revolution.”

    “In the 70s, we had a dramatic experience of going from the old industrial economy to the service economy. Well, this is from the service economy to the digital economy. And instead of happening gradually over one or two decades, it happened instantaneously.”

    Wylde noted entire industries have changed to be centered around technology.

    “We have remote education, telemedicine, remote health, we’ve got remote work, remote entertainment, remote cultural experiences,” she said. “All of that has changed and I don’t think we know the implications yet.”

    Wylde, like many traditional business leaders, believes strongly in in-person work, but she acknowledges Zoom has its place.

    “We can fit more into our day when we can do Zoom instead of running to Midtown,” she said. “We just have to learn how to use that tool in a way that doesn’t interfere with building relationships and with the kind of mentoring and support and development that particularly young people need in their careers.”

    Remote work has held back Manhattan’s recovery. The Partnership for New York City sees small and mid-size businesses in the outer boroughs and the suburbs growing at a record clip, but shrinking in Manhattan as rents remain near record highs.

    “We have 32,000 new businesses formed in New York City in the last year. Manhattan’s the only one that didn’t have net growth in new businesses. Most of them are in Queens. Brooklyn is the number one. So, we’re seeing the city as a whole – its neighborhoods, its local business districts across the five boroughs and our surrounding suburbs – the economy’s pretty good,” said Wylde.

    The main reason business groups see growth in the outer boroughs and the suburbs is that remote work has enabled people to shop in their communities during the week. Wylde said she is confident in Manhattan’s resurgence but it may take some time.

    “The value of Midtown properties is going to spring back and it’s not going to be exactly the same as it was pre-pandemic. We’re going to see more residential, I think we know that, and that’s a good thing. It’ll make the streets safer on a 24/7 basis. It’ll bring back customers to local business.”

    Watch the full conversation with Kathryn Wylde on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Pro Dancer Launches ‘Unconventional’ Dance Studio for Underserved New Yorkers

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A new type of dance studio is coming to New York City.

    Busola George is an accomplished dancer who started SoL-I Movement Center to improve access to dance rehearsal spaces in Manhattan that are more affordable. Rehearsal spaces in the borough, she says, can cost dancers upwards of $40 an hour, which can add up quickly given the time needed to perfect the craft.

    “The need I saw was at the foundation, the access to affordable rehearsal space, as well as the need for a community,” said George on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “SoL-I Movement Center is a studio that uses an unconventional shared space model to offer affordable rehearsal space to aspiring professional dance and theater performers as well as offer career advancing services, wellness classes, and professional training.”

    Career guidance, mentorship and networking is what separates the center from other dance studios. George’s classes also add socialization and wellness techniques, including meditation.

    “I’ve pivoted in the sense of adding kind of more services, more nuanced services, and also really zoning in on who my target market is,” she said. “I was able to realize how much community is needed for dancers and how they don’t really have that. That’s why some of the services that we have are going to induce a collaborative environment for dancers.”

    George recently won the grand prize of $20,000 at the Brooklyn Public Library’s PowerUP! business plan competition.

    Watch the Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Small DIY Home Furniture Business Turns to Organic Social Media Content to Elevate Engagement

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Digital advertisements were a slam dunk for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, but recent changes to Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms have made it difficult to break through and expensive to generate sales. A Brooklyn home furniture company found a strategy that works for their business.

    Hoek Home creates modular, quick assembly desks, tables and stools from their factory in Brooklyn. Brian Chu and Conor Coghlan started the business after hearing from family and friends about how difficult it was to set up and move furniture.

    “It’s not really about an aesthetic for us. It’s more about a system and simplifying people’s lives,” said Coghlan on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Coghlan and Chu met while studying architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. They reconnected years later to start their own design and fabrication firm, A05 Studio and later Hoek Home.

    Initially, Hoek Home got a sales boost by promoting their home office videos on Facebook and Instagram. Within the last few months, their customer acquisition costs have skyrocketed. Now, they rely on user-generated content.

    “We would ask our customers to send videos of themselves assembling the desk and share it on their story. So essentially what we’re trying to do is advertise through word-of-mouth,” Chu said.

    They’ve also partnered with micro-influencers to promote their furniture on social media.

    “We’ve gained quite a following through some partners that we work with, some advisors that have really helped us out,” said Chu.

    Hoek’s Home Office Desk sells for $495 on their website and accounts for 60-70% of their sales.

    “It really offers a huge amount of value to have your desk set up during the week, and then, say you’re having friends over for dinner, you’re having a party on the weekend, and you just need that extra space, you just click it back together. You can hang it on the wall, you can slide it under your bed,” Coghlan said.

    Coghlan and Chu say listening to customers’ feedback has helped them grow. They even have a whiteboard in their factory with a list of what they call “expanded ideas.”

    “We actually have outreach to our customers to hear what their experiences are with the furniture that they have so we can take their comments and really try to fine-tune and tweak certain portions of our design to to come up with a new product or a new feature or just make the product better,” said Chu.

    See growth ideas on the Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Giants Fans Start Super Bowl Dreaming

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    Executive Produced by Carousso Enterprises, LLC.

    Bayside, NY — Fans of the New York Football Giants are hungry for a playoff run after a six year drought. This year’s playoff team comes unexpected as Daniel Jones leads Big Blue into the Divisional Round against their rival Eagles Saturday night.

    Justin Joseph talked to Giants fans at Bourbon Street on Bell Boulevard in Bayside, Queens for NY2C’s On The Call.

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  • Bronx Fashion Entrepreneur Inspires Disadvantaged Youth

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Flora Montes overcame a broken home to become an entrepreneur and mother.

    She found purpose by cooking for corporations in the Bronx after culinary school and developed a network. She later got hooked on fashion after attending Latin Fashion Week in 2012 and launched her own fashion business, Bronx Fashion Week, two years later.

    “Fashion should never just be defined to, you know, six foot tall, size two. So that’s the main mission of Bronx Fashion Week,” said Montes on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Bronx Fashion Week has more events each year than New York Fashion Week and attracts more than a thousand attendees. It highlights local designers and models and benefits non-profit organizations with which they partner.

    “One thing I’ve learned is that fashion is more than fabric and there’s a story behind every stitch and we’re built on those stories.”

    Montes recently expanded to serve schools in the South Bronx, and the response has been overwhelming.

    “They actually came to me and told me that they had gone to the principal and told the principal that we had to come back,” she said. “We teach them fashion history, we’re teaching them the runway, we’re teaching them the behind the scenes of how a fashion house runs.”

    The fashion CEO believes future leaders are in those classrooms and hopes to inspire kids to pursue their career dreams despite disadvantages they might face in their upbringings.

    “For me, the fashion part of it is about the inclusivity and the diversity. And, fashion is in everything, In everything we do. You can wear a pair of pajamas like I tell my students and you’re wearing something that is defining who you are,” said Montes.

    See this uplifting and inspiring story on the Small Business Spotlight video above.

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