A Greenhouse grew in the Brooklyn Navy Yard: New York entrepreneur renovates huge building for eco-friendly activities

Baldev Duggal came to New York in 1957 from India with $200 and no ticket home. Now he’s poised to change the world. Duggal, who first made a name for himself when he founded a photo studio in the early 1960s that later became one of the largest visual production houses in the country, now controls 100,000 square feet in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, including a huge eco-friendly building that was once an asbestos-filled abandoned monstrosity. Called the Duggal Greenhouse, the just-opened building is the center of Duggal Energy Solutions, a company devoted to solving global electricity, water, and agriculture problems. The company's first product, Lumi-Solair, is an off-grid solar powered streetlamp. It comes in three models-Classic for residential areas, the Swan for roadways or industrial areas, and Original, powered by wind, sun or a combination of the two.. Over 50 “Lumis” are installed in the Navy Yard with others being used at the Charlotte Airport, Monmouth County courthouse, and Atlantic City boardwalk, where it was the only street light to work through Superstorm Sandy. Electricity was Duggal’s first research initiative because future green objectives would need power. Now, Duggal is looking at “other key areas like food and water," he said. "This is my legacy. I want to leave the world a better place than how I found it. All of this will happen right here, in New York, the greatest place on Earth, in the city and country that gave me the opportunity to do this." The building is not just for business, but pleasure, too. Heineken threw a 1,300 person party in the building to launch a new bottle. Guests arrived and departed via boat to a dock facing the Manhattan skyline. Beyonce secretly rehearsed for her new tour in the structure. But being an eco-visionary is Continue Reading

New York small businesses are hiring and expanding again as confidence improves

As spring gets underway, the big chill is finally lifting for New York's small businesses. Sentiment among New York area small businesses owners is brightening, as consumer confidence improves and sales start to climb. According to a new survey from Bank of America, more than half of metro New York entrepreneurs expect their revenues to increase over the next year. More than a third will be adding employees and 46% expect the local economy to improve. It isn't all rosy. Business is still spotty, small business owners said, and there are big concerns about the impact of Obamacare which will layer on new costs. But overall, local small businesses appear to be more aggressive than they have been in some time, adding locations, staff and new products. "The outlook is more positive," Christopher Kaminski, Bank of America senior vice president, small business banking for the New York City market, told the Daily News. "A lot of small businesses, in the last couple of years, were riding out the storm. Now they are looking to grow their businesses." Kaminski noted a bank customer - a local hardware store owner - who recently purchased his retail location and is now looking to buy another retail property in Soho. Demand for business loans is on the rise, he said. Through March, Bank of America had extended $317.8 million in credit to small businesses in New York State, up 27% from the same period last year. Seeley Oliver, the owner of Oliver Staffing, an employment firm in midtown Manhattan, said she expects her sales to climb to $9 million this year from $5.1 million in 2012. Oliver said she had faced serious tough times in recent years and almost went under in 2010. But as her customers have rebounded, business has picked up dramatically. A big boost has come from increasing demand from her clients in the investor relations business. She recently added three staffers bringing her total employees to eight. "Our industry is the first Continue Reading

ATM fees a thing of the past? New York entrepreneur has solution, with a catch

A new ATM allows users to avoid pesky transaction fees with one catch: You have to watch an advertisement instead. Clinton Townsend, a 25-year-old from Brooklyn, is behind the company Free ATMs NYC, and has already installed one machine at a music venue in the city. The ad plays on a small screen above the machine while the ATM processes the transaction. "The people want this and the people need this, " Townsend told Business Insider. The ad doesn't make the process longer and lasts no longer than it takes for the machine to dispense money, according to Townsend. The company's first advertiser is Domino Brooklyn, an entertainment app. However, the company is still trying to gain more clients. "Advertisers have yet to come knocking down our door," Townsend said. The company charges $60 a month to each advertiser for each location. Clients can also purchase a vinyl wrap that covers the ATM. If the idea catches on, it could be the end of ATM fees for consumers who use another bank's ATM. Unfortunately, the company can't remove the fees that your own bank charges for using an out-of-network ATM. "We can't control what your bank does," Townsend said. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Standardized tests saved my schooling: A New York entrepreneur answers reform’s foes

Opponents of accountability-based education reform say that student testing has run amok. They argue that students require focused attention, that standardized tests are biased. But for me, a standardized test saved my education. I’m a 32-year old entrepreneur and techie born in Karachi, Pakistan. And although I moved here as a baby and have been a New Yorker for most of my life, I often encounter passersby on the street who comment on my dark eyes and dark hair. I’m even complimented on how well I speak “good English.” I didn’t speak much when I started school in an overcrowded classroom in Queens. The school’s administrators mistook my shy and quiet disposition for not being able to understand the language. No one gave me a test or asked me any questions. Instead, the educators quickly profiled my family as non-English-speaking immigrants, despite the fact that my father graduated from the University of Colorado on a scholarship and my mother was an economics major at a university in Karachi. My parents were told I would be placed in English as a Second Language classes and were instructed to stop speaking to me in their native tongue of Urdu. My 6-year-old self enjoyed ESL. We would play learning games and watch the math show “Square 1” with an instructor who, to me, looked like Cleopatra. But I wasn’t learning much. A few years later, my family left Queens for a New Jersey suburb. The school once again placed me in ESL, and in the third grade, my teachers tracked me into the lowest-level groups for reading and math. During two-hour ESL sessions, I would practice basic sentence formation. It broke up the monotony of school, and I was delighted to have a break. But when fourth grade came around, all students took a required test called the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. I scored the highest in my grade, shocking everyone, including my teacher. The administration thought that there had been a mistake Continue Reading

New York Today: Free and Cheap Events, January 19 2011

Sarandon serving: Get out your Ping-Pong paddle with Susan Sarandon, who will explain how this simple game can boost brain power. The event will feature help from the pros at SPiN club and the boss herself. 6:30 p.m. Free. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th St. (212) 769-5100.Mr. Darcy, the zombie: Compare the swoon-worthy Mr. Darcy to his zombie counterpart in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” at a book discussion group. 6 p.m. Free. Countee Cullen Library, 104 W. 136th St. (212) 491-2070.'The Fighter:' The Museum of the Moving Image will kick off a review of director David O. Russell���s works with a screening of his most recent film, “The Fighter.” Russell will appear in person, and Spike Jonze will moderate. 7 p.m. $15. Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Ave., at 37th St., Queens. (718) 784-0077.Free pickles: Learn all about pickling at the How to Pickle, Jar & Ferment event hosted by the Edible Brooklyn group and Brooklyn Brewery. The brewery’s beers will be available for $4 along with products from guest speakers. 7:30 p.m. Free with RSVP. Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N. 11th St., Brooklyn. (718) 486-7422.‘Grey Gardens.’ Watch the classic 1975 film about the true story of the aunt Albert Maysles and Muffie Meyer in person. 8 p.m. $16. IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave., at Third St. (212) 924-7771.Free cup o’ joe: Stop into Nolita Mart from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for a complimentary Stumptown coffee and Everything Frosted mini cupcakes. Listen to an acoustic set by Heavy Pennies. 6 p.m. Free. Nolita Mart, 156 Mott St. Network in your spare time: The New York Entrepreneurs’ Business Network will host this networking event at the Tribeca Loft above the BowlMor Lanes in Times Square. Meet potential partners and clients. RSVP in advance. 6 p.m. Free for NYEBN members, $10 for nonmembers. One-drink minimum. BowlMor Lanes Times Square, 222 W. 44th St. (212) 680-0012.Meet an artist: Get Continue Reading

For some New York entrepreneurs, their place of business is wherever customers’ needs take them

The open road is their small biz HQ. To keep costs low, thousands of New York entrepreneurs have cut a big expense from their business plans: the place they work. Instead of an office or retail shop, they're based out of a car, truck or portable bag of tricks as they serve their clients or customers. Your Money spoke with three New Yorkers who make money on the go on how they maximize sales and profits. Claudia and Deborah Caraballoso My Hair & Makeup, Upper West Side A meeting of the two partners of My Hair & Makeup is a family affair. Native New Yorkers Claudia Caraballoso, 33, and her sister Deborah, 35, have spent the last 14 years washing, snipping, curling, highlighting and styling hair. Doing makeup, too. They created a "salon" wherever it was convenient for a customer, such as someone's home or a hotel room. Most revenue came from gatherings at a bride's home or hotel ($200 per bridesmaid, $550 and up for the bride), and models in fashion photo shoots ($500 and up). My Hair & Makeup's corporate customers, such as event planners and magazines, have led them to job sites as far flung as Florida, Vermont and France. Last year, the Caraballosos found 90% of their revenue by traveling. This year, they've been on the road about 40% of the time. The financial difficulties brought on by the recession led the sisters to expand their services late last year to "a full-service salon" in midtown with massage therapists."For us, it's more work," Claudia Caraballoso said.Aurora Anaya-Cerda La Casa Azul, East HarlemFor years, Aurora Anaya-Cerda dreamed about opening a bookstore-café, watching happy customers indulge in a steaming coffee or tea and a compelling book.She came to New York from East Los Angeles in 2005. A year later, she said, "I decided to make it happen." Initially, that meant jobs in bookstores, learning the trade and developing a Plan A and Plan B.Plan A was an actual store, but tight Continue Reading

New York entrepreneurs look to profit from rising interest in Chinese business

When Mike Cheng moved from midtown to Shanghai three years ago, he could barely speak Mandarin Chinese. By the time the young Asian-American entrepreneur moved back to New York nine months later, he was on his way toward mastering the language - and starting a business. Knowing he had many friends eager to learn, Cheng, now 28, decided to launch Mando Mandarin, a Chinese-language education company that provides live, Web-based classes taught by instructors in China. With minimal marketing effort, the Rego Park, Queens-based company has grown steadily, with 40 private students currently signed on. Cheng is now making a push into the private school arena. He expects Mando Mandarin's sales to hit $250,000 this year. "With China rising, there has to be a business opportunity," Cheng said in an interview from Shanghai, where he was working on expanding his business. From Chinese-language course providers to book publishers and media startups, New York entrepreneurs are positioning themselves to profit from the exploding interest in Chinese business, language and culture. "A large and growing number of companies throughout the city are taking advantage," said Robin Harvey, founder of Greenwich Village Chinese, an after-school and summer language program whose students range in age from toddlers to eighth graders. China's emergence as an economic and political powerhouse has made learning Mandarin an increasingly important priority for business execs, educators, parents and kids alike. "If you want to be on the cutting edge, you need to speak Chinese," said Harvey, 48, who in addition to running her business is the coordinator of the Project for Developing Chinese Language Teachers at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Grants from the U.S. and Chinese governments have helped spur a boom in Chinese-language programs across this country, which nearly tripled to 779 between 2004 and 2008, according to a survey by the Asia Continue Reading

New York State sets aside $2M to invest in tech businesses owned by minorities, women

New York State has set aside $2 million to invest in new high-tech businesses owned by minorities and women. The initiative is meant to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and promote economic growth around the state, Gov. Cuomo said. The money will be managed by Excell Partners, a venture capital firm based in Rochester. Preference will be given to start-ups in the life sciences, green technology and other high-tech industries. “Under this administration, great strides have been made to support these businesses and encourage diversity in the private sector,” Cuomo said. “This new fund will go a long way toward making those gains permanent and building a brighter future for New York.” To be eligible, companies must be a certified minority- or women-owned business. “It is our hope this fund will be an additional resource for entrepreneurs, encouraging expansion and job creation throughout the state,” said Empire State Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky. With News Wire Services Continue Reading

New York City and Puerto Rico small-biz owners welcomed at Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s first summit

A coalition of Hispanic chambers of commerce is set on establishing a new tradition as part of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade festivities. On Friday, June 12, the first-ever Puerto Rican Hispanic Business Summit will be held in Manhattan to help the metro area's small business owners and entrepreneurs take their companies to another level. The Summit, a one-day event running from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bank of New York Mellon (101 Barclay St.) is open to New York City members of the NYS Hispanic Chamber of Commerce - as well as Puerto Rico's chamber presidents and business members who will be in the city for Sunday's parade. The event comes at a time when small businesses in Puerto Rico are struggling to grow due to factors that include many large U.S. corporations that do business on the island refusing to interact with small companies owned by Puerto Ricans, in addition to a high rate of taxation by the island government." "One of the most important things that will come out of the event is that we're going to decide how we can do business better (on the island), and how we can help the Puerto Rican diaspora do business here," Ignacio Veloz, chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, tells Viva. The agenda will feature speakers, several panels, a "speed" networking event and a special luncheon, "Small To Big - CEO Boot Camp" with Manuel Chinea, COO of Popular Community Bank; and Alberto de la Cruz, chief executive of Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers. Panel topics include tips on creating strategic alliances and ventures, and how to conduct business with the government on the city, state and federal levels. There's also a minority business certification workshop. Among the speakers are Frank Garcia, president of the N.Y. HCC; Henry Comas of HUD; Quenia Abreu, CEO of the N.Y. Women's Chamber of Commerce; Carlos Lopez, president of the InterAmerican Bar Association; Elizabeth Perdomo of the Continue Reading

New York City entrepreneur nails it with ManiCare mobile manicure-pedicure service

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 2, Kate Arian has endured multiple traumas, from repeated hospitalizations to a double lung transplant. But even during her toughest times, Arian, now 26, has always wanted to look good — and now, as a young entrepreneur, she’s betting other women feel the same way. A year ago, Arian launched ManiCare, a Manhattan-based mobile nail service that caters to people who are hospitalized or homebound. Arian, who works full-time as a marketing executive at Verizon, dispatches licensed nail technicians to homes and hospital rooms in the New York area. Ten percent of her profits go to charity. While still a microbusiness with $30,000 in sales to date, ManiCare has been generating close to $5,000 a month, Arian said. The cost of a manicure is $85 — much more than the $10 to $15 one would pay in a salon. Manicure-pedicure packages go for $165. But those premium prices haven’t deterred customers like Anna Peiffer, a 31-year-old executive recruiter from Long Island City who recently bought a mani-pedi gift package for a sick friend who had been hospitalized for cardiac issues. “It was exactly what she needed,” Peiffer told the Daily News. Justina Michaels, a 30-year-old event planner from the Upper West Side, who purchased a discounted ManiCare service via deal site Gilt, had a ManiCare technician come to her home while she was recovering from emergency surgery for Crohn’s disease. The manicurist “took extra care,” Michaels said. Arian got the idea for ManiCare while in recovery from the double lung transplant she received 3½ years ago. “One of the first questions I asked the nurse was, ‘Can I get my nails done?’” Arian told The News. When she learned it was not safe to leave the house, she began researching home manicure services for people with health issues, and came up short. Arian Continue Reading