Op-Ed | Real People, Real Business, Real Solutions: the NYC Small Business Expo

Real estate agent with couple shaking hands
Photo via Getty Images

Aneesa Waheed, the owner of Tara Kitchen, emigrated with her parents from Mumbai when she was a young child. After entering the restaurant industry in Schenectady, NY, she decided to pursue her dream of opening a restaurant in Lower Manhattan in 2022.

Aneesa knew what all entrepreneurs know: starting a business anywhere is hard, let alone in New York City. But she also knew where to find help—and that’s where the New York City Department of Small Business Services (“SBS”) enters into her story. 

As Aneesa planned her restaurant’s opening, she quickly faced challenges navigating the permit process—so she reached out to SBS’s NYC Business Express Service Team (“NYC BEST”). Thanks to SBS’s expert advocates, Aneesa was able to open her soon-to-be-thriving business in half the time it would have taken without SBS assistance. And this story has a happy continuum; this year, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized Aneesa as its New York State Small Business Person of the Year, showing just how far our entrepreneurs can go with the right support. 

New York City is home to more than 200,000 New Yorkers who share the same American dream as Aneesa of starting, operating, and growing their own successful small business. Along their entrepreneurial journey, these business owners together are responsible for more than 1,000,000 private jobs, demonstrating exactly why we often-say that small businesses are the ‘backbone’ of our communities. 

I know first-hand what it means to Aneesa and her family to operate a successful small business. My parents emigrated from South Korea to Queens in 1975 when I was a young child. Speaking very little English, my mother designed artificial flowers and my father, who had a law degree from the top university in Korea, would take her flower designs and go door-to-door in the garment district until wholesalers began buying her design. It took about seven years to build a successful business, but as a result, today I get to serve as the first NYC Commissioner of Korean descent helping thousands of other small business owners achieve their American dream.     

As Commissioner of SBS it’s my personal mission to help entrepreneurs like Aneesa thrive, and make sure that every small business owner has the resources they need to succeed, which is why I am excited to announce the first-ever New York City Small Business Expo (“Expo”), coming to downtown Manhattan on Wednesday, May 29th to help so many other small business owners.

For the first time ever, all the free New York City government resources available to small businesses will be showcased under one roof. The full-day event will bring the full weight of city government with 40 city agencies, dozens of community financial development institutions, and community-based development organizations together to advance a single goal: deliver the answers, contacts, and resources that every current and aspiring New York City business owner could possibly need.

Our mega Expo is an extension of the work New York City and SBS has been doing day in and day out ever since the beginning of the Adams administration. We have helped over 5,000 small businesses in NYC save over $31 million in fines, fees, and startup costs. Our landmark NYC Small Business Opportunity Fund — the largest public-private partnership for small businesses in the city’s history – helped 1,046 businesses with loans of up to $250,000, with the majority of the funds going to businesses owned by women and people of color. Our 18 SBS Workforce1 Career Centers have connected over 45,000 New Yorkers to jobs and also served hundreds of businesses looking to hire, in all five boroughs.

Since Mayor Adams took office, the economic comeback of New York City has been remarkable. One in six businesses open today started during this administration. We achieved a record number of private sector jobs—over 4.7 million—with 45% of our total job growth driven by small businesses. Our recovery was led by small businesses, and SBS was there every step of the way.

SBS’s outlook on the overall state of the small business economy is bright because every day we get to work with entrepreneurs who have a vision and see what hard work and perseverance can accomplish. We know that when we pause and connect with the real people, sights, and sounds that make New York City the greatest place to live, there’s a different story to be told—and it starts like this: New York City isn’t coming back – it is back.

If you are starting, operating, or growing a business, or have a thought about starting one, please join us on May 29th at our mega Expo, or give us a call at 888-SBS-4NYC so we can help you achieve your own American dream.

Kevin D. Kim is the Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services (SBS).