2018-06-20 / Front Page

Queens Biz Forum Wraps Up For The Season

By Thomas Cogan
Gregg Bishop is a busy spokesman for Small Business Services, the city department where he serves as commissioner. He was guest speaker last week at the Queens College Business Forum breakfast, his topic being “Small Business Is Big Business in Queens.” 

Bishop said there’s no place better for small business than New York, and Queens is its most diverse borough.  He also said that small business is a personal matter to him and had a recollection to prove it.  However, though it may power the economy, it’s an often difficult way to make a living, especially if the small business entrepreneur’s ambition and willingness to work might be undermined by an inability to secure funding to develop plans and a lack of technological know-how to carry them out.  The city can help, he said, and explained how.

Commissioner Bishop wasn’t far into his address before he said that growing a small business “is personal to me.”  As a small boy growing up on the Caribbean island of Granada, he had ample chances to watch one particular entrepreneur:  his grandmother, who sold food and other items at local markets there.  The work was hard but she was resourceful—perhaps a bit much, sometimes.  For instance, if she had to eke out the supply of milk she was selling, she’d sometimes do it by watering it a little.  He didn’t commend her ethics relative to that but said it was tough to get by and sometimes practices were sharp.  He believes it’s important in New York for the government to assure small businesspersons that help with development is available and desperate measures needn’t be taken.  Government, he said, should be an ally.

Small business powers the economy, but of course, success is not guaranteed.  By being an ally, though, the city allows many in small business to break through to success, Bishop said.  SBS can help entrepreneurs work their way through tortuous rules and regulations or find the best methods of financing so they won’t turn to payday lenders and their like, with their runaway interest rates.  His message for them is that SBS is their “go-to” agency to help them get ahead. 

He said that during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, more than 3,000 businesses have been helped.  Since many of them have no more than five employees, it would seem they are in great need of help and guidance in the big city.  A major means of that is NYC Small Business Support Centers.  For several years, SBS has provided SBSCs in all the boroughs.  The Queens office is located in Jamaica, at 90-27 Sutphin Blvd., fourth floor.  In addition to Small Business itself, city departments with officers there include the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  Such topics of interest to small businesspersons as starting and operating a business, licenses and permits and violations are covered there.  The Queens SBSC is open from Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. 

He was questioned about how best to get in contact with the SBSC in Jamaica.  He said that just going to Sutphin Boulevard during office hours would probably be effective, but a customized request for help might better be handled by addressing the office online at www1.nyc.gov as a start.

Bishop said that Mayor de Blasio is highly supportive of M/WBEs or Men/Women Business Enterprises and is determined that they will be handling 30 percent of city contracts by 2021.  Toward that end, they must become certified.  Bishop said that when pursuing certification, women and men often show up at meetings bearing shoeboxes full of receipts and documents that might help their cause.  

Many entrepreneurs need a lot of schooling about what they are getting into, and need to hear about it in languages they can understand while they’re improving their grasp of English.  SBS has courses in several languages and, as Bishop noted, in Caribbean dialects also. 

In addition to having fixed educational facilities all across the city, the agency can, so to speak, make house calls in mobile units, delivering routine and complex information.  The latter might include commercial leases, a chore for just about anybody.  Bishop said that one-hour classes and connections to business attorneys make it all easier to understand.

Finally, Bishop was asked a question about how well small business entrepreneurs are schooled in technology.  He replied that the city offers education about systems.  But he complained that recruiters from Facebook and other employers don’t give the city the attention it deserves.  He has to make them aware of the computer technologists that CUNY schools alone are turning out.

OUTSTANDING STUDENTS WIN BUSINESS AWARDS AT QC BREAKFAST

At each June breakfast, a precious few academic awards are given to star students.  This year, six students were called to the stage, though only five responded. Missing from the breakfast because of a commitment to a Deutsche Bank internship was Schlomo Klahr, winner of one of the Hank Auffarth Awards of $2,500.  The other winner of the prize given in memory of “Hank of the Bank” was Leah Herzberg, who also took away $2,500.

The two Investors Bank Scholarship Awards, each $2,500, went to Michelle Fang and Raymond Greene.  Winner of the Herbert and June Bienstock Award of $1,000 was Jhuan Marrero and winner of the Queens College Business Forum Scholarship Award of $2,500 was Vincent Patti.

Among the winners, Jhuan Marrero, who takes a great interest in immigration and DACA, is headed to CUNY Law School.  Vincent Patti, who had a 4.0 grade point average (as did Michelle Fang), will be a volunteer at the Securities and Exchange Commission this summer, while Raymond Greene will be an intern next summer at J.P. Morgan.

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