Small Biz Owners are Resilient, but Need More Resources to Thrive

Five years ago, Evette Zayas, the owner of Cake Burgers in East Harlem, left her public service job to try her hand as an entrepreneur. She says the help she received from the Small Business Resource Network, helped her overcome some early hurdles.

| 10 Apr 2024 | 04:17

In November 2019, after a long career in public service, I took a leap towards a dream job: running my own eatery. The thought was simple–combine two tried-and-true culinary favorites, burgers and cake, in one place. Out of that dream Cake Burgers was born. While it hasn’t always been easy, we are doing well. We have a number of loyal customers, great reviews, and we are now donating our time to the local community by teaching young people about entrepreneurship and offering cake decorating classes to kids and older adults.

My story is just one of many small business success stories we’ve seen in neighborhoods across New York City in the past few years. There are currently a record number of jobs in New York City, and we’ve regained all of the jobs lost during the pandemic. Another great sign is that entrepreneurship is vibrant–one in seven businesses were started in the past year, a rate four times higher than the 2019 average.

This progress isn’t an accident. It’s a byproduct of resilient entrepreneurs, collaboration between stakeholders, and investment in innovative programs that support small business owners. In the fall of 2020, the five boroughwide chambers of commerce came together to launch the Small Business Resource Network. This comprehensive approach to small business resiliency offers free, personalized guidance and support to help businesses grow and thrive. To date, the SBRN has reached close to 50,000 businesses, providing direct support to over 13,000, with 76 percent of businesses served being minority and women-owned businesses.

Funding from the City of New York allows SBRN’s team of Business Support Specialists to work one-on-one with small business owners helping them gain access to a range of programs and services offered by the city, state and federal government, as well as the private sector. This includes grants and loans, connections to legal counsel, business coaching, marketing guidance, technology support, and more.

Historically, small businesses in neighborhoods that aren’t served by Business Improvement Districts have struggled to access these services. Crucially, the SBRN is on the ground in neighborhoods across the city, helping fill this gap. This will help ensure our economic recovery is equitable, and we have vibrant commercial corridors throughout all five boroughs. With the help of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the SBRN, I am thriving. I received assistance getting back online and with developing branding and marketing materials. During the pandemic, I received consultations with restaurant specialists who guided me through outdoor dining regulations. Additionally, I connected with legal resources to assist with contract issues. Overall, the best thing I received from the Manhattan Chamber and the SBRN is the ability to have a sounding board for when I do run into issues. They are always there to offer advice and feedback and for that I am grateful.

Small business owners are resourceful and resilient. These traits have helped drive New York City’s economic recovery. To continue our momentum, we need to continue to invest in programs, like the SBRN, that support small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Evette Zayas is the co-owner of Cake Burgers located at 400 East 120th Street in Manhattan.