For more than a decade, La Bomboniera Marylu in Astoria has been the place parents make a stop at to pick up accessories for their children’s Quinceanera, First Communion or just about any celebration. Folks come to the South Bronx to snag unique gear that embodies the spirit of the borough from The Bronx Native.
More than 230,000 small businesses like ours dot the five boroughs. They are the lifeblood of New York City, employing more than 1 million people who live in our communities, contributing to our local economies, and adding character to our neighborhoods.
When COVID hit, business came to a halt for many of us. The NY Pause forced us to shut our doors–and many businesses like ours never reopened. The Bronx Native lost 50 percent of its revenue, and our Hunts Point location closed. We fell behind on rent at La Bomboniera Marylu because business was slow. At the same time, I was caring for my husband, who contracted COVID-19.
Both of us turned to the New York City Small Business Resource Network (SBRN), a team of dedicated specialists embedded within the city’s five Chambers of Commerce that work with local entrepreneurs, helping us gain access to a range of programs, services, and funding. SBRN specialists speak multiple languages and know the neighborhoods they’re working in like the back of their hands.
The Small Business Resource Network was launched in response to the crisis facing small businesses in the wake of the pandemic. The public-private partnership is funded by a $2.8 million grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in partnership with the city’s Small Business Services and the five Chambers.
In the case of The Bronx Native, we quickly realized that brick and mortar businesses like ours that lacked a digital presence and relied on foot traffic were at a disadvantage. We signed up for the free program and quickly heard back from a specialist who helped us with our e-commerce business. A dedicated specialist from the Queens Chamber of Commerce helped us at La Bomboniera Marylu secure a $20,000 grant to pay all of our back rent.
The Small Business Resource Network has already assisted thousands of local businesses across the city, helping them in negotiating a commercial lease with a landlord, accessing city and state grants and loans, making their restaurants outdoor dining compliant, getting online, or building a business plan.
And when another crisis hit, the SBRN was there to help. La Bomboniera Maryla was faced with closing after flood waters from Tropical Storm Ida surged into our basement, causing the loss of about $8000- $10,000 in goods and equipment, just as we were getting back on our feet. Once again an SBRN specialist from the Queens Chamber of Commerce came to our aid and assisted us in applying for additional FEMA funding.
Without the Small Business Resource Network, our businesses wouldn’t have survived the last 18 months. Thanks to this public-private partnership we and many other small businesses are on the road to recovery. This is the kind of resource New York City needs to rebuild its economy even stronger than before.
Flores is owner of La Bomboniera Marylu & Amaurys Grullon, and The Bronx Native.