Category Archives: News

New York SMEs: Making the Connection

The City of New York is attempting to assist small business owners, as well as businesses owned by minority groups.  The way they are doing this is through certification.  One example was what happened with black-owned business Dabar Development Partners back in 2009.  Being certified by the city as a “minority-owned business,” the firm’s owner, Dawanna Williams was thenceforth awarded over $100 million in city contracts. This resulted in an increase in steady revenue as well as putting her and the business more in the spotlight, leading to even more business.

Companies can be certified either as a minority or woman owned-business (M/WBE) within the city of New York.  As if that wasn’t positive enough for NYC, it just so happens that women and minority business owners are at the prime time for opening new businesses.  For the first time ever, city agencies are joining together to assist owners of local small businesses by reducing bureaucracy and streamlining the process of opening a business in the city, thanks to the Small Business First plan.

In addition, the Mayor has recognized that facilitating the building of strong, diverse businesses will ultimately support his work and that of the government in the establishment of a stronger city.

Family Financial Planning on the Rise

Financial planning is on the rise, and especially for families; expenses such as mortgages, insurance, college tuition and retirement often require prior planning. Many families live paycheck to paycheck, which can lead to significant issues later on, and financial planning with the help of qualified advisers is a popular way to take control of your finances and set such a plan in motion.

Sean Flynn, a financial adviser at Essex, Connecticut-based firm Essex Financial Services, recently discussed several issues and tips that families may want to consider when beginning to plan for a future expense such as college tuition. He explained that the first step is developing a plan.

“Parents should be honest with themselves and evaluate their financial capabilities, because as with all aspects of finance, it’s important to have a budget. Being aware of how much they have and how much they spend will help families plan and know realistically how much they can save each month for college without risking the necessities.”

“One of the keys to saving is starting early and often,” he added. “By starting early, you get to see the effect of compounding interest and will start to see your assets grow over time. It is important to create a savings plan and to stick with it throughout the years. Once you set an amount to save, automatic contributions are a great way to ensure you stick to your plan.”

Financial services companies such as Essex Financial focus on each client’s needs and help them set up the best strategies for their situations, allowing them to manage their finances independently for a more secure future.


Trump Bump NY Tourism

At one point there was some anticipation in loss of revenue in tourism due to the Presidential election (and the resulting anti-immigrant rhetoric). That has been eliminated and replaced with what people are terming the “Trump Bump” as tourism-related revenues have increased this year compared to the same period in 2016.

Indeed, if you look at the latest report from the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Trends Index, there was a 6.6 percent growth in international travel to America in April and 5 percent growth in May compared with the same months last year. In addition, STR (hotel tracking industry) ’s senior VP Jan Freitag said that the first five months of 2017 witnessed higher hotel occupancy “than ever before.” And there has been no deceleration in US meetings/events recorded by AMEX Meetings & Events.

New York will, no matter what, always be an icon and a place people from around the world will flock to visit.  Clearly the alleged Trump Trauma has not put a damper on that.

Wealth Management Systems

There are many avenues for securing financial advice.  For SME owners and HNWIs seeking guidance from credentialed fiscal specialists, wealth managers – and the platforms they use – are often approached.  Using these experts and their systems facilitates the process of the coordination and implementation of estate planning, investments, retail banking, legal resources, etc.

When one decides to use a service however, which one should be used?  Black Diamond® Wealth Platform has recently a very popular choice, with over 1,000 advisory firms choosing it to enhance their client experience, advance operational efficiencies, and expand with scale.  This solution has significantly assisted Essex Financial Services with their headquarters in Essex, Connecticut.  As Essex Financial CEO, Charles “Chuck” Cumello, noted:

“We can handle a broad range of client situations, from the fairly routine retirement planning and college funding aspects, all the way up to the unique needs for intergenerational wealth transfer and legacy planning of high net worth clients,” which is very useful since the company’s focus (95%) is on the Registered Investment Advisory sector.

Black Diamond® Wealth Platform has been chosen by many other firms also.  Indeed, 60% of the top 100 advisors are using it, along with 58% of the fastest growing advisory firms. Some of these include: Decker Wealth Management, Fieldpoint Private, Homerich Berg Wealth Management, Lourd Murray and Radius Wealth Management LLC.

New York Businesses

Atena (a diversified healthcare company) is to move into New York in the near future.  Rejecting Boston in favor of the Big Apple, in 2018 the company will be making NYC’s 61 Ninth Avenue its new home, relocating 250 employees.  In addition, innovators from the area’s “deep talent pool,” will, according to Mark T. Bertolini, company Chair and CEO, provide for “an invaluable resource as we consider additional investments in the city going forward.”

This will be a fiscally beneficial move since the office of the New York Mayor has stated the company will receive tax breaks worth $24 million from the state over the next 10 years, facilitating the building of its new headquarters in the region.

Atena is not alone in large companies showing their favoritism to New York. Sportswear giant Nike also showed its adoration with its #NewYorkMade campaign, featuring a slew of community collaborations and interventions around NYC.

Summertime Changes in New York

When the weather starts heating up and the summer months arrive, how does this impact small business owners?  What kind of changes – if any – do businesses implement in the New York area come June?

The feeling is most notably there at Gregorys Coffee.  Owner of the New York coffee place Gregory Zamfotis speaks about the difference in purchase choices between the seasons.  He explained that in the beginning of May he starts to follow the weather forecast and thereafter email his store leaders. Why?  Because according to Zamfotis’ estimation, most of the year, the coffee sold is split 75 percent (hot) and 25 percent (iced).  Come iced-coffee season, the numbers almost completely do a 180 with 65 percent (iced) and 35 percent (hot); changed which can occur literally overnight.  As he explains: “You don’t want to get caught and run out by 9 a.m.,” which is a real possibility since they only use cold-brewed coffee to make their iced coffee – a process which takes 12 hours.  With this “smooth, round and lush” drink that is the result of this long-process, at the peak of the season, Zamfotis believes he sells around 10,000 servings daily!  And there is no way to rush the cold brew process so anticipation of weather changes is crucial.

Penn Station commuters might not be thrilled about the upcoming summer months due to the recent announcement by Amtrak of its summertime service changes (read: reductions) for extensive repairs following the report of derailments and other delays.  It is anticipated that three out of the station’s 21 tracks will be closed (alternately) for around seven weeks come  July. The work was ordered after two recent derailments and numerous other delays. It’ll be the New York commuters most impacted due to the reduction in service between NY/Washington, D.C., (Northeast Regional line) and commuters using the New York/Harrisburg, PA (Keystone service). These will impact commuters from July 10 to September 1, 2017.

In conjunction with IMPACT Melanoma and Bright Guard, NYC Parks is installing 100 sunscreen dispensers in the parks.  As a protective measure, this pilot program will enable sun lovers to protect themselves from the sun’s rays with each dispenser holding 1,000 liters of SPF 30 sunscreen.  Beaches in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island have already received such dispensers.  As IMPACT Melanoma Executive Director Deb Girard said:  “We are thrilled to expand on our highly successful program across the country and continue to offer sunscreen units for public and private distribution throughout the country, NYC is an exciting place for us to bring sunscreen.  We hope sunscreen dispensers will become as commonplace as hand sanitizers over the next few years.”

Recent New York Business Acquisitions

There have been a few interesting business acquisitions (both large corporations and SMEs) in the New York area recently.  Here are three recent examples: Castle Harlan Inc., Verizon Communications and Ascott Residence Trust.

First, in the hedge fund industry, Gold Star Foods (a portfolio company of the NY private equity firm Castle Harlan, Inc.), just acquired A&R Wholesale Distributors. Since its been with Castle Harlan, Gold Star has made two other acquisitions.  The company facilitates how states and local school districts nationwide can comply with complex state and federal regulations covering government funding and nutritional content requirements for school meal programs.

Second, two days ago, in the telecommunications industry, Verizon Communications officially acquired Yahoo! for a $4.5 billion price tag.  This will impact the entire nature of the firm which will be rebranded into Oath – a new subsidiary led by Tim Armstrong, current CEO of AOL.  Armstrong’s public statement included the following:

“We’re building the future of brands using powerful technology, trusted content and differentiated data. Now that the deal is closed, we are excited to set our focus on being the best company for consumer media, and the best partner to our advertising, content and publisher partners.”

Third, in the hospitality industry, Ascott Residence Trust (Ascott Reit) is in the process of purchasing DoubleTree – a luxurious Manhattan hotel near Times Square for $106 million.  If this goes through, this will give Ascott Residence Trust 1,004 hotel rooms spanning three properties (having made two other hotel purchases in the last two years – Sheraton Tribeca New York and the Element New York Times Square West). Other interesting numbers on this are that once completed, 12.3 percent of Ascott Reit’s total asset will be US based, its fourth largest (Singapore, Japan and China taking the first three spots).

The next steps forward for Gold Star Foods, Verizon Communications and Ascott Residence Trust will be interesting to see.

NY’s Labor Law Policies

There are currently no laws/regulations in New York that deal with payroll debit cards and how to use them.  According to the NYDOL (New York Department of Labor), when used voluntarily, payroll debit cards are allowed. Last year a rule was established by the NYDOL for supplementary requirements to use direct deposit consent forms as well as payment by payroll debit card – a rule that was meant to become effective last month.

As such, for those employers paying their employees with payroll debit cards, they would not be able to use this for paying salaries without the employee being able to use at least one ATM offering withdrawal with no fees as well as a way of withdrawing the entire salary for each pay period or the remaining balance (without having to pay a fee).

However, a month before it was to become law, it was invalidated and revoked by the New York State Industrial Board of Appeal, reasoning that the NYDOL did not have the authority to take on the rule due to prohibitions and restrictions outside the Labor Code. The rules, argued the Board “go beyond regulation of the employment relationship and into the area of banking law, which is outside respondent’s competence and expertise in the regulation of employment and occupational safety and health.”

Furthermore, employers are not allowed to prevent employees from asking about/discussing their wages with a colleague.  Employers are allowed to restrict employees who have access to salary data of other employees, according to New York Labor Law §194(4).

Contained in a fact sheet provided by the NYDOL, on the matter of regulated speech between employees, it was written that: “[s]uch restrictions may not specifically reference the inquiry, discussion, and disclosure of wages.” Thus employers would be allowed to tell staff members to discuss matters directly related to their job duties during designated work periods, but this cannot be extended to salary discussions.

Milk Punch Revival with Eamon Rockey

If you live in New York and haven’t heard of the milk punch revival yet, you may want to take note. Milk punch has been popping up as the hottest new trend in alcoholic beverages. It is a sweet, cold blend of milk and liquor that actually dates back centuries.

The drinks are made with cold ingredients that are combined with hot milk to make the milk curdle. The blend is then filtered repeatedly until the liquid actually becomes clear, which can take hours. It then rests for a day or so until served.

Where can such a dream drink be found? Play, a cocktail bar in Midtown, has a Korovazon Milk Punch that is made with pisco. And Eamon Rockey made a strong push to revive the art of milk punch production at the New York restaurant, Betony.

Eamon Rockey reports to the New York Times that he first encountered milk punch at Bar Pleaiades on the Upper East Side in 2009 and he soon adopted the idea, turning it into quite an art in the process. While the ingredients are typically combined beforehand with milk punch, Eamon Rockey’s creations have a milk punch “base” and then offer the drinker the chance to select the spirit to place into it.

As Rockey explained, “I wanted to have there be a guest-specific evolution. It’s antithetical to what the drink classically is.”

As described on, “The whole process takes between one and five days…and exhibits Rockey’s obsession with re-inventing history and personalizing a classic recipe using flavors like Watermelon and Golden Beet & Goat’s Milk.”

Moving Manufacturing Back to NYC

Historically, New York was the place to be when it came to the making of clothing. And given that NYC is still home to one of the world’s most prestigious fashion centers (with the Garment Center at its heart, in Manhattan) wouldn’t it make sense for the garment-making to take place there as well?  Because current figures are suggesting that is not the case.  For example, a Queen’s College Census Data Report found that in 2015, around 23,000 employees over 16 worked making apparel, accessories and finished textile products.  But if you look back to 1950 that figure was 323,669.  By the year 2000 that had dropped to 59,049 but now it’s dropping even more.

Given this, over the last few years, the city of New York has undertaken a variety of initiatives to change the balance. One example of this is the partnership that was formed between the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the NYCEDC (New York’s main City’s main generator for economic development).  Launched in 2013 with $6m, this public-private partnership program was established to bolster local fashion manufacturing and endorse inclusive economic growth throughout the City’s fashion sector which was set up to “support local fashion manufacturing and promote inclusive economic growth.”

And it has done it.  It has given 19 companies grants totaling $1.8 million to pay for technologies that help cut costs and maximize output. Some of the recipients since 2013 have included: Design Incubator, Dye-Namix, Dynotex, New York Embroidery Studio, Oomaru Seisakusho 2, Rainbow Leather, Sunrise Studio, Create-a-Marker, High Production, In Style USA and Martin Greenfield Clothiers.