NYC Entrepreneurs Offer Up Some Seriously Valuable Advice

It takes a lot to make it in NYC — but the city is full of opportunities if you’re ready to seize them. We spoke to seven entrepreneurs about building a business from the ground up in the Big Apple. Here’s what they told us.

On taking action:

“Just get started and put something out there! You can write a business plan for as long as you would like, but you will learn so much more in one minute of someone using your product than hours of online research. Once we started talking to people, we realized that it was not only important to listen to what they said, but also what they meant. We were able to test and iterate to create a product that really helped people create healthy habits based on user feedback.”

—Jenna Tanenbaum, 27, and Amir Cohen, 32, founders of GreenBlender, organic ingredients for superfood smoothies, delivered weekly

Courtesy of Jenna Tanenbaum and Amir Cohen

On being flexible:

“If you are building a business based on your vision but not what the customers want, you have to adapt or you simply will not be in business anymore. For the first two years of Knot Standard, our goal was to create a business that sold only online. The challenge came when customers would come into the office wanting a more traditional retail experience, and we did not offer it at the time. Helping guide and steer the business so that we offered both was a huge challenge. Your vision must be flexible.”

—John Ballay, 31, founder of Knot Standard, a custom suit company that provides the perfect-fitting custom clothing to any man, anywhere in the world

Courtesy of John Ballay

On community-building:

“When Matt and I decided to launch Daybreaker, we had every challenge pushing against us… We realized that it came down to building an authentic community first. So many startups and businesses forget that the key to a scalable and sustainable business is the community they invest in. Community-building is definitely an art, not a science, and it requires patience, thought, vulnerability, and intention.”

—Radha Agrawal, 37, co-founder of Daybreaker, a morning dance party that starts your day with energy and intention

Courtesy of Radha Agrawal

On empowerment:

“A good entrepreneur needs to empower its senior managers to step up and make decisions, including hiring and staffing of resources. I do what I can to hire the best people in the country and get out of the way.”

—Jeffrey S. Rogers, 46, president and CEO of LiftForward, a marketplace loan platform which provides loans to small businesses

On personnel:

“Take care of the people who take care of your company. Personnel is the most important aspect of your business, and staff retention is challenging in any industry. We do our best to pay competitively and foster an incredibly healthy work environment, but in the restaurant world, someone is always calling out or not showing up, even when the workplace is great. My husband often finds himself still filling in pizza shifts or working on the line when there is a lack of good personnel responding to hiring ads.”

—Emily and Matthew Hyland, 34 and 35, owners of Pizza Loves Emily, a cozy gourmet eatery serving wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, rustic small plates, and pastas

Via Courtesy of Emily and Matthew Hyland

On taking risks:

“Sounds overly simple but just start. Most people just talk about their ideas and never get it off the ground. The idea itself has no value if you can’t execute. If you can pull the trigger then it’s about how hard and focused can you work, deal with failure, and adjust. If you are scared of risk you’re likely not meant to be an entrepreneur.”

—John McDonald, 47, founder of Mercer Street Hospitality Group (Sessanta, El Toro Blanco, B&B Winepub, Lure Fishbar, Bowery Meat Company, The Gordon Bar, A60 Rooftop) and co-founder of Tasting Table

Courtesy of John McDonald

On PR:

“I wish someone had told me that you shouldn’t spend on PR until there’s product/market fit. I made the mistake of hiring an agency way too early, and while they told a compelling message to the press, our product wasn’t ready, and we didn’t get a chance to grow organically. If I could do it again, I would have gotten much more early user feedback before announcing we were live in the press.”

—Adam Liebman, 30, founder of Squad, an app that allows groups of friends to meet awesome new people to hang out with together

Courtesy of Adam Liebman


So there you have it — success is just around the corner. Create your passion and make it here with Citi.
































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