Nadira el Khang
Nadira El Khang used to make customized, handmade leather bags as a hobby. But in 2011, she sold one, and her career choice became obvious. The Morocco native sought out QEDC’s Women’s Business Center in 2012 and attended roughly 20 sessions with various counselors. She got help designing her logo, business card and a banner she uses on her website. She also learned how to register her company, NadiraBag, and obtained a tax identification number. Then, she got a referral to Acción USA, which gave her a loan.
Since getting the logo and banner, commerce via her website (www.etsy.com/shop/nadirabag) shot up from roughly three bags a month to about two bags a week with orders from as far away as Mexico, Canada and France. Currently, the Jamaica resident nets an estimated $250 per week and she’s just beginning. Nadira is a full-time accounting student at LaGuardia Community College as per the requirements of her international visa. But when she graduates in February 2014, she plans to work full-time at NadiraBag, attending flea markets, contacting stores and selling her products. Then she thinks business will be so good that she’ll need to hire employees.
Queens Economic Development Corporation awarded Leni Calas, www.queensmamas.com website owner, a $12,000 reward as the top-prize winner in the 4th Annual Queens StartUP! Business Plan Competition. Lenis used the money wisely to enhance her website significantly, giving it a complete makeover and to hire help to keep it updated. The website has information of all types, assisting the needs of mothers under different circumstances such as events, advice columns, a newsletter, blogs and much more on pregnancy, babies, toddlers, kids and even tweens. To read full story, please click here.
DAFFY (Dinner’s Almost Finished For You)
Meg LaBarbara worked as a dog groomer, an administrative assistant and even a travel consultant before launching her favorite career about a year ago.
From QEDC’s Entrepreneur Space, she makes a variety of all natural tapenades, salsas, vinaigrettes and hummus dishes for her appetizer company, DAFFY (Dinner’s Almost Finished For You). The lifelong Jackson Heights resident then peddles her delectable products at farmers’ markets in Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island.
Among her most popular items are green olive tapenade, the garlic hummus, scallion vinaigrette and salsa verde. And she is proud to inform that she gets her ingredients from a rooftop farm about one block from the Entrepreneur Space in Long Island City, Brooklyn Grange, so her carbon footprint is tiny.
As LaBarbara looks to the future, she is happy to have found her calling, and she is appreciative of her work situation.
“The E-Space has always been great,” she says. “I’m very fond of that building.”
Doris Del Valle won a $12,000 grant in May from the Queens Economic Development Corp. to jump-start an idea that she admits may not interest the first-time visitor to the city.
She hopes to attract frequent tourists and city residents who have already seen Manhattan’s landmarks and want to explore what else the area has to offer.
“We’re just trying to spread the word about Queens,” said Del Valle, 39.
She accepts reservations at www.boroughexcursions.com or by phone at (646) 301-6241.
Del Valle simulated a tour for the Daily News last week, starting and ending near the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
During the journey, she passed the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, the John Bowne House in Flushing and the Astoria home used for exterior shots of the Costanza abode on “Seinfeld.”
Del Valle is now looking for feeder hotels for the tour.
She has partnered with the Marco Hotel on Northern Blvd. near Main St. in Flushing, which will advertise the tour to guests.
To read full story, please click here.
These Cookies Bring Good Fortune
The snowball keeps on rolling and rolling.
In fall 2010, Carolyn Sevos began her relationship with the Queens Economic Development Corporation. In a meeting with the Women’s Business Center director, she discussed the marketing and general business plans for You Cake, a company she wanted to launch that makes edible toppings for baked goods.
The initial session led to some one-on-one counseling about other aspects of running a business, such as pricing and investment. Soon thereafter, Sevos started renting an office at the Entrepreneur Space, a food-and-business incubator that QEDC operates in Long Island City.
At a 2011 networking event organized by the E-Space, Sevos met Pilar de Guzman, an E-Space client who runs Bonne Fete, a customized baking company famous for ornate and delicious cakes.
A partnership was born.
Clients started sending images—anything from a photo to a logo—to You Cake for Sevos to transform into edible toppings (aka “photo toppers”). Then, de Guzman of Bon Fete would bake personalized cookies and cakes for the toppers. They were getting hired for everything from birthday parties to baby showers to trade shows.
Sevos then entered the 2011 StartUP! Business Plan Competition, a borough-wide contest QEDC runs with Citi’s sponsorship. Contestants attend various business seminars and create business plans that they submit to a panel of Citi judges who determine three winners and give $10,000 to each one.
Sevos was a finalist. She didn’t get the funds, but she was happy to have a solid business plan to use.
Fast forward to summer 2013, and business is so good that Sevos had to move into a bigger office at the E-Space. Sales are about twice a high as last year—she’s making about 5,000 cookies a month these days—and she needed a second printer and more space to dry the freshly baked and topped goods. She recently hired a part-time employee as well.
“This is a very good next step,” said Sevos.
What about the next step? To be determined, but Sevos recently partnered with another E-Space client to make marshmallows with the phrase “I Love Mom” on top for Mothers Day.
69th Lane Studio, Selma and William Trevino
In January 2014, artistic and athletic duo, Selma and William Trevino, launched 69th Lane Studio, a family-friendly center for yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and holistic health. Located in Maspeth, Queens, right off of Grand Avenue, on 69th Lane, their studio offers a variety of classes and private sessions for students of all skill-levels and ages. They’ve also started monthly workshops with guest speakers and practitioners.
“We are credentialed and experienced, but we want to bring in different teachers so that the students can experience a variety of approaches. We’re planning on hiring an additional yoga and Pilates instructor soon,” Selma explained to QEDC Business Services Director Sante Antonelli, during a recent follow-up visit. Since January, Selma and Sante have periodically met to discuss marketing and business strategy.
Each Trevino brings a different expertise to 69th Lane Studio: Selma is a certified Pilates instructor with over 10 years of yoga experience, and her husband William is 4th degree black-belt and certified master instructor in Soo Bahk Do, a traditional Korean martial art, with over 20 years of experience.
The Trevinos are also dancers and artists. In 2001, the couple co-founded Corporeal Arts Incorporated, a physical theater company, where innovate choreography and performances with miming, dance and martial arts. Corporeal Arts Inc. continues to be a success in its own right – the company has performed locally and abroad, in NYC, Finland, Brazil and California – while 69th Lane Studio directs the Trevinos’ creative engine in a new direction: social enterprise. As Selma described, “Our goal is to teach in a community with little access to these kinds of programs, and to do it in a financially sustainable way.
As we build our Pilates/yoga/martial arts student-base, we are also incorporating our theater company into the programming.” In February, they used the studio to create choreography for the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) series “How to create a dance.”
So far, their efforts and collaborations in the community-with local schools and the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce-have paid off: “Since January, we’ve enrolled 30 full-time members and 60 regular students. Our goal right now is to grow even further. This Sunday, we’re participating in Maspeth’s business fair on Grand Avenue to let our neighbors know that we’re here. We also plan to offer classes in public parks this summer to get the word out. Once people know that we’re here, they like us, but the challenge is to get the word out.” To reach more students, they’re launching a June promotion with discounted membership fees and discounted classes for first-time visitors.
As a result of strategic business planning and the quality of the Trevinos’ programming, 69th Lane Studio has seen steady growth. Selma’s warmth and positive attitude puts yoga and Pilates newcomers at ease, while William’s patient instruction inspires students to incorporate the mental and physical confidence and discipline learned through Soo Bahk Do into other areas of their lives. Transforming the health and wellbeing of their community through mind-body training and martial arts, and providing a space for art-making, dance, and health education, the impact of 69th Lane Studio has just begun.