Op-Ed | Transforming a food desert into a nourishing community oasis with LinkNYC

A LinkNYC kiosk in Manhattan.
A LinkNYC kiosk in Manhattan.
Photo courtesy of LinkNYC

For an entrepreneur, New York is the ultimate stage. It’s true what they say: if you can make it here, you make it anywhere. However, women entrepreneurs — and especially women entrepreneurs of color — often encounter unique challenges, including limited access to resources and capital. I experienced this firsthand when I stopped working as a public relations executive and, in 2017, opened a health food store in the food desert of Southeast Jamaica, Queens with my two young adult children, Owen and Jade. We’ve been serving the community ever since.

My endeavor to establish The Nourish Spot helped me align my career with my life’s purpose and empowered me as a woman entrepreneur — a journey born out of both necessity and passion. When I decided to change careers in 2015, I also embarked on a path to prioritize and improve my health, and I came to believe that the same path could benefit many members of my community, living in an area of the city where healthy food options were scarce and often unaffordable.

One of the most challenging tasks for any small business owner is getting the word out and attracting customers, especially during the hectic holiday season, which can financially make or break a business’s bottom line in any given year.

When we opened, I knew we had to take advantage of every opportunity to get the word out about The Nourish Spot. That’s why, when the Mets highlighted our business as one of their “Taste of Queens” vendors at Citi Field, I looked for creative ways to leverage the moment and promote our brand. My daughter, Jade, had the idea to reach out to LinkNYC about their LinkLocal program, which provides free advertisements for small businesses and community groups; and what began with one email blossomed into a partnership that has played a pivotal role in helping my business thrive.

As a local, independent business owner, seeing my brand light up on LinkNYC kiosks across the city felt like the small business equivalent of taking over a billboard in Times Square — where I helped clients place their advertisements as a PR executive years earlier. Based on the great feedback we received in response to our ads on LinkNYC kiosks around Citi Field, we engaged in the LinkLocal program again when we were featured at the US Open. This time, we were even more prepared and ran a custom advertisement featuring a Black female tennis player on a tennis ball-yellow background. And during Black Business Month in August, we were quick to take advantage of the LinkLocal program once more, when it offered a special promotion for Black-owned businesses across the city, enabling The Nourish Spot to claim advertising space on twice as many LinkNYC kiosks as usual.

Once our ads appeared on LinkNYC screens, customers began pouring into our Southeast Jamaica shop from every borough to tell me they learned about us from LinkNYC kiosks on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, on Flushing Avenue in Queens — our name was everywhere at once.

But LinkNYC’s community impact extends far beyond just advertising for local businesses. These critical pieces of infrastructure serve as hubs for our neighborhoods that empower businesses and communities like mine with vital local information, free public Wi-Fi, device charging, and so much more.

The deployment of LinkNYC kiosks across Queens has also led to enhanced internet access for underserved New Yorkers — not only through the Wi-Fi they broadcast above ground, but also through the underground fiber-optic cable expansions they bring with them. LinkNYC’s growing network is actively strengthening and reinforcing the digital backbone of my borough, which is essential to ensuring businesses like mine can accept online orders, communicate with delivery drivers from Grubhub, Doordash, and EatOkra, and process modern transactions through Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Venmo, not to mention credit cards.

My mother instilled in me the notion that, “to whom much is given, much is required,” and I am proud to give back by serving on Queens Community Board 12. Even in this regard, LinkNYC plays a role in my community by displaying information on nearby kiosks about upcoming Community Board meetings and information on how others can apply to serve as a member, too.

With this year’s holiday season upon us, it’s more important than ever that we continue to support women business owners and small businesses in general. I want every female entrepreneur — whether they’re just getting started or have been in business for years — to know they don’t have to go down the road of opening and running a small business alone, especially during this busy time of year. Don’t be shy about using all the resources available to you, from the many tools offered by NYC Small Business Services to LinkNYC’s LinkLocal program, which is doubling the amount of advertisement space awarded to all small businesses at no extra cost during the month of December. Promoting your business is incredibly important, and these extraordinary programs available to everyone in our city can help make your dreams a reality.

And whenever you’re in Queens in need of a pick-me-up, stop by The Nourish Spot — come let us #NourishU today!