Natalie Shults and Ryan Arnold are Account Managers at a business resource center operated by Next Street in Queens, NY.
About a year ago, we both joined the team at Next Street and have been working as advisors at the NYC Business Solutions Center in Queens. In our roles, we work with thousands of small business owners across the Queens community, providing consultations and connecting them to resources, capital, and our business education program.
In celebration of Small Business Week, we are reflecting on the past year of working hand-in-hand with small business owners as they persevered in an everchanging pandemic landscape. We share some of the challenges and trends we have seen in the small business community, along with ways we have been inspired and our hopes for the near future.
The past year saw business in Queens working to keep their doors open – or to reopen them – while the pandemic and the economy were in constant flux. We saw businesses being proactive to stay on top of post-Covid regulations by calling our office and attending our informational webinars. A major challenge for business owners came from the financial impact of the pandemic. We are proud to have connected business owners to millions of dollars in grants and financing. One example is Cue Bar in Bayside, Queens who received both a loan and a grant with our assistance and was able to grow their business. Although we celebrate the businesses we have been able to help, we continue to see access to financing and the need to be adaptable as the main challenges facing small business owners today.
Speaking of adaptability, we have seen firsthand that small business owners are at the heart of their communities and are quick to react to the wants and needs of their neighbors. Last year, as many people started going back to work outside of the home, we quickly saw an increase in interest in starting daycare centers for children as well as adult daycare centers for senior citizens who did not want to be home alone all day. For example, we were able to work with Rehobeth Care in Rosedale, Queens which provides daycare for children and adults.
Similarly, as Omicron surged a few months ago, small business owners immediately saw a need for more Covid testing sites, which in turn created new business opportunities. Small business owners are innovative and quick to pivot to meet their community’s needs. If you want to know what is going on in a community, look at what the local small businesses are doing.
Another trend we saw was an increase in hiring as businesses bounced back and the city reopened. We were able to help businesses with their staffing needs, like a law office in Long Island City, Queens, who we assisted in successfully applying to the New York Forward Loan so they could invest in their personnel.
Celebrating Small Business
Having the opportunity to work directly with small businesses has made us feel more connected to the NYC community (a long-time home for one of us, and a recent new home for the other!) and shown us firsthand the direct correlation between thriving small businesses and thriving neighborhoods. As the city continues to emerge and transform post-Covid, we know that small businesses will face new challenges, and we feel fortunate to be on the frontlines providing support and guidance for small businesses, and in turn, for their families, their neighborhoods, and this city we love so much.
At Next Street, our work is anchored in the belief that small businesses are the drivers of economic and community development and the engines of inclusive growth. We believe that when we elevate small businesses, we help individuals, families, and neighborhoods reach their potential. Our hope for you this Small Business Week is that you take the opportunity to try something new and use this week as a starting point for the continuous practice of financially supporting, listening to, and advocating for small businesses all year long!