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: Manny Stone Decorators

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    MANALAPAN, N.J. (WCBS 880) — This hard-hit business is making a comeback thanks to multiple pivots.

    Manny Stone Decorators creates trade show booths for conventions at the Jacob Javits Center and other local sites. Running the business the last two years has been an “acrobatic act” for second-generation president Lloyd Stone.

    “I decided I need to either prepare to go out of business or prepare for the new normal. And it was a parallel route,” said Stone on the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour, sponsored by PSE&G.

    He downsized his production studio, and from there, Stone transformed his operations from custom-made booths to prefabricated ones.

    “I call them ‘booth in a box,'” he said.

    The “booth in a box” includes instructions, prefabricated materials and a floor plan. Stone also makes himself available to FaceTime his clients from the convention center.

    “I would give them virtual direction by seeing how they’re doing it and instructing them on what the priority should be on how to fabricate things.”

    Manny Stone Decorators, founded by Stone’s father Manny, has created booths for S’well, Mac Duggal, Micro Wheels and other popular brands.

    “My whole concept is, ‘We will get you going. We’ll get you noticed,'” said Stone.

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  • Amid worsening supply chain issues, NJ uniform maker moves manufacturing in-house

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    ELMWOOD PARK, NJ (WCBS 880) — The supply chain woes appear to be getting worse.

    Bergen County-based Turn 2 Sports, LLC makes sports equipment and uniforms for schools. Their production times have dramatically increased during the pandemic, and now, major brands such as Adidas and Nike are already placing orders for next year.

    “In the old days, you could be able to order for next week and be readily available. Now, it’s order four to six months in advance and hope that you get it,” said Turn 2 Sports founder James T. Gregory on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    “We had orders that we placed in November that are due to ship in June and we’re being told that they’re going to be delayed until September/October,” he said. “So, the supply chain issues are 100 percent getting worse.”

    Gregory said he has had to tell school officials to track down foul balls at baseball games because they do not have enough inventory to replace sports equipment.

    “We’re trying to change our approach to if we see something available, you got to go out and get it. You can’t just hope that it’s going to be there in six months or even a month from now because somebody already went and picked it up,” he said.

    The Turn 2 Sports owner told WCBS 880 he blames the supply crunch on steep competition against larger companies, labor shortages, and COVID-19 lockdowns in China that have crippled global supply chains.

    “You have a lot of manufacturers who are trying to keep up with the demand just like every other manufacturer out there, but it’s just this domino effect. If you don’t have truck drivers to get product into warehouses, if you don’t have warehouse labor to unload those trucks, you can’t keep up with everything that’s going on,” said Gregory.

    In an effort to cut out the middle man, Turn 2 Sports brought its manufacturing home.

    “We brought in our own manufacturing to cut out the contracting that we were giving out,” he said.

    Doing all embroidery and shirt printing in their Elmwood Park, NJ headquarters has streamlined their production process.

    “It’s an investment into the business but I think for us to be able to continue to sustain our business and our growth, we had to bring in our own manufacturing and our own supply chain management.”

    Gregory believes the short-term costs to produce clothing in-house will pay off long-term.

    See the full story on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Small Business Comeback Tour: Sterile Space Infection Defense

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    West Orange, NJ (WCBS 880) — Sterile Space Infection Defense was ahead of its time, but it’s now in high demand at workplaces, childcare centers and schools.

    “We go around and provide infection prevention, control, and eradication services,” said owner Irwin Stromeyer on the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour, sponsored by PSE&G.

    Unlike a cleaning service, West Orange-based Sterile Space Infection Defense sprays an EPA-registered antimicrobial coating on all surfaces where germs can spread.

    “If you could see the coating on a microscopic level, it would look like zillions of little swords sticking up and as that cell comes down, it gets impaled on the coating and the coating has an opposing electrical charge, which in essence electrocutes those cells so they are in essence rendered neutralized,” he said.

    Stromeyer founded the business in 2013 at the time that his father, who was a physician, was struggling with numerous infections that ultimately took his life.

    “Unfortunately when somebody said the word ‘pandemic’ in March of 2020, that really catapulted the business, but we were in business long before the pandemic.”

    Before running Sterile Space, Stromeyer sourced and supplied surgical instruments and other medical equipment to hospitals and doctors’ offices.

    “Forever, we have felt that if it looks clean and smells clean, it’s got to be clean and safe, which is so far from the truth, it’s not funny,” he said. “People get sick most often by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.”

    With a focus on health during the pandemic, finding customers has become easier.

    “It’s been mostly word of mouth,” said Stromeyer.

    See more on Sterile Space Infection Defense on the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour video above.

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  • Top Business Leader Says Crime is Slowing NYC’s Recovery

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — New York City’s crime surge is threatening the economic recovery as many workers resist the return to offices.

    “This is a setback,” said Partnership for New York City president and chief executive officer Kathryn S. Wylde on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.

    Office occupancy in the city is just 37.1 percent, according to security firm Kastle Systems which tracks building access activity among its partners in the top 10 U.S. markets.

    “I think that for the time being, particularly with the subway shooting that was such a shock to New York City and to commuters but everybody, I do think that we’re going to see actually a slowdown in the return to office temporarily,” Wylde said.

    “What we’ve got to think about is how we rebuild and restore confidence so that we can have a very robust return in the fall of 2022.”

    A recent Morning Consult poll on behalf of the Partnership for New York City found concerns about public safety is the biggest deterrent for commuters. Ninety-four percent of those surveyed said not enough is being done to address homelessness and mental illness in the city, followed by gun violence, namely in the subway system. The poll was conducted online about a month before the April 12 shooting on the N-train in Sunset Park, Brooklyn that left 29 people injured.

    But, Wylde notes most New Yorkers do want to participate in the city’s ongoing pandemic recovery, 70 percent, in fact, according to the group’s survey.

    “New Yorkers are very resilient and very special,” she said. “Living in our city is not easy as you know, but for those who find it the best city in the world, they want to stay here, they want to help rebuild, and I’m confident we’re going to do that.”

    The business leader predicts there will be fewer employees in Manhattan offices going forward, but not that many fewer because younger employees will realize the benefits of in-person work to advance their careers.

    “We have about 60 percent of the office workers are young people who, you know, have gotten used to working from home and don’t appreciate the office culture, and how much you learn, and how you gain mentors, and how you advance is also through personal interactions in the office,” said Wylde.

    Earlier this month, the city broke ground on a new office building in East New York, Brooklyn. It’s phase one of Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to open office buildings in residential neighborhoods outside Manhattan, which have been more populated since COVID hit.

    “As people have worked from home, they’ve really partnered with their local restaurants and merchants and service providers to make sure that they survive. We want to see that in every neighborhood of the city, because we’ve got an infrastructure, we’ve got over 200,000 small businesses and they’re looking for foot traffic,” Wylde, who advises political leaders on business policies, said.

    She told WCBS 880 it would only make sense if the city creates affordable housing in these neighborhoods and if the state, which operates the MTA, rethinks the transportation system to offer direct routes to the outer boroughs.

    “The governor has proposed a Brooklyn to Queens express rail operation, which makes a lot of sense because (of) the people who were going to work both in the city buildings and the other activities that are going on,” said Wylde, adding, “We’re going to have to have a much more flexible and integrated transportation system. And that’s something we ought to be thinking about right now. We shouldn’t just continue with our current plans.”

    The influential Partnership for New York City head said small businesses are the key to the Big Apple’s economic recovery and she confirmed talks with both Mayor Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul about ways to incentivize business development in the city.

    “The first incentive is, do not continue to raise taxes and figure out how we can reduce taxes,” she said, mentioning the cap on state and local tax deductions as part of the 2017 tax reform law that was passed under former President Donald J. Trump.

    “We had a big tax increase on high-earners two years ago that has really created migration out of New York City.”

    Wylde also wants to streamline the city’s regulatory process to make it easier for businesses to open and grow in New York.

    “I talk to small businesses all the time where it takes them three years from the time they find a space to the time they can open their doors. We can’t allow that to continue particularly since small businesses have lost over 200,000 jobs. We still have a restaurant industry that’s down 30 percent of its workers. We have a retail industry that’s down 15 percent of its workers. So, we’ve got a lot to make up for small business,” said Wylde.

    See what it will take to get New York back on its feet on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight video above.

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  • Small Business Comeback Tour: In-Home Personal Training, LLC

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    By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso

    NEW JERSEY (WCBS 880) — Talk about being flexible, this fitness business grew into several adjacent services when their back was against the wall at the height of COVID.

    As the company name suggests, In-Home Personal Training, LLC of New Jersey started with fitness training at clients’ homes. This model forced their business to shut down during the pandemic. In-home services have since struggled to rebound.

    “When COVID started, and like a lot of small businesses, I had no idea how I was going to be able to survive,” said owner Matthew Locascio on the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour, sponsored by PSE&G.

    Naturally, In-Home Personal Training pivoted to virtual training sessions on Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. But, it was the addition of online nutrition classes and yoga instruction that helped the fitness business expand beyond New Jersey.

    “They watch my nutritionist prepare healthy meals and learn how to do it with them, the yoga and Pilates, the same,” said Locascio. “They actually work up to 30 people in a class at a time. It’s quite awesome. And, they’re working with people all over the country, which is something I never imagined for my business.”

    He told WCBS 880 he now has clients throughout the Tri-State and as far as North Carolina.

    In-Home Personal Training now also offers in-home massage therapy and a popular “bridal bootcamp” service.

    “You will never work with a more motivated client than a bribe to be,” Locascio said. “The whole service is kind of adjusted around a game-plan that’s customized completely to their timeline.”

    One bride, he said, lost 75 pounds within a year ahead of her big day.

    See this incredible comeback story on the video above.

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