May. 4, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller
A city program designed to assist small business owners in navigating the bureaucratic hurdles of running shop in Gotham has helped over 2,200 small businesses across the city avoid roughly $22 million in fines and violations since Mayor Eric Adams took office, amNewYork Metro has learned.
The city Department of Small Business Services (SBS) program, dubbed NYC Business Express Service Team (BEST), makes a group of roughly a dozen experts available to city small businesses free-of-charge. That group provides one-on-one guidance on how to navigate municipal regulations, save money and move through the city permitting and licensing processes more quickly, according to the mayor’s office.
While NYC Best was officially launched last fall, SBS has been providing businesses with this assistance since January 2022.
The mayor and SBS Commissioner Kevin Kim are set to announce the metrics as an example of NYC Best’s successes at Leidylicious Bake Shop — a new cupcake bakery opening in Forest Hills, Queens served by the program — to kickoff “Small Business Month” Thursday morning.
“Working New Yorkers deserve their fair share, and we are lifting burdens off hard working New Yorkers so they can get their businesses up and running, while simultaneously putting money back into their pockets,” Adams said in a statement to amNewYork Metro. “We are adding the right ingredients to make small businesses grow in New York City. This Small Business Month, I encourage every New Yorker to go out and support your neighborhood stores, and, most importantly, spend money!”
Adams and Kim were joined by Leidy Cardona — the owner of Leidylicious Bake Shop — and other local pols in front of the bakery’s Queens Boulevard storefront to announce the metrics Thursday afternoon. The mayor then noshed on a piece of vegan cake Cardona baked for him.
Kim said the program functions as a sort of “concierge service” to show small business owners the best ways to “cut through” the red tape and bureaucracy often imposed by the city.
“We help small businesses really learn about what violations that they may be getting, if they just continued to operate in the way that they do,” Kim said in an interview. “We have professional compliance advisors who are former inspectors of various regulatory agencies who will go out, meet the small business owner where they are at their place of business, and do walkthroughs to educate them on how to avoid various fines.”
There’s also another SBS team within the program, Kim said, called “Small Business Advocates.” That group is dedicated to helping small enterprises find their way through other city agencies’ processes, such as assisting them with getting through permitting and licensing procedures more speedily or getting an appointment for an inspection.
“We can help make sure that we don’t stand in the way as a city to be able to do what you do best, which is run your own business,” Kim said.
Kim said NYC Best helped Cardona, who’s an immigrant from Colombia, expedite inspections for the necessary city permits and licenses for her business in half the time. The program team aided Cardona with every step of the process, he said, which she just started in January upon discovering NYC Best.
“Ever since she was nine-years-old in Colombia, she used to play with a kitchen set, pretending to bake,” Kim said. “And now, years later, here she is, after having emigrated to the United States, and opening up her first own bakery … It was just such an emotional story to hear her talking about how NYC Best really helped her get opened much faster.”
Small businesses have helped lead the city’s recovery from the economic devastation wrought by COVID-19, Kim said — the city has now gained back 99.7% of pre-pandemic private sector jobs, according to the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL). Over one million New Yorkers are employed by small businesses, according to Kim, which make up for 94% of all private firms in the Big Apple.
Plus, Kim said, 25,000 new small businesses have opened across the city since the pandemic began and they make up one-in-nine businesses formed over the past year.
“One of the things that the mayor often says is that New York City’s economy is not coming back, but it is back,” he said.