Business of the Month 2019
An initiative from the Staten Island SBDC to showcase the success and achievements in result of the hard work and efforts formed from business relationships with our expert advisors
November 2019: Phil Esposito Photography
Phil Esposito is a proud native Brooklyn New Yorker with a keen eye for capturing a vast selection of interesting subjects, buildings and landscapes within Brooklyn, Manhattan, other boroughs and more. Over a thirty year period of honing in on his photography skills which display his vision and creativity, Phil established Phil Esposito Photography located in Brooklyn, New York. Overtime, and at the urging of family and friends, Phil created a website which could serve as a platform to exhibit his work.
“Starting up and running a successful business requires the new business owner to possess two very diverse skill sets. The first is obvious the knowledge of your product/service and the talent to produce a consistently high-quality output. The second and not so obvious skill set is business acumen. Without this skill set, the odds of turning your product/service talents into a successful business is very slim at best,” stated Phil Esposito. “The SBDC became my guide on the side in my mastering of this second all important skill set.”
Phil first met SBDC Certified Business Advisor Joe Bottega in 2015. Joe provided Phil with marketing advice and business plan development assistance. In addition to being a fine photographer, Phil is a retired and disabled Naval Petty Officer. Advisor Bottega gave Phil the necessary guidance and direction in order for him to obtain Certification as a Disabled Veteran Small Business Owner. With federal, State and city set-asides for SDVOB companies it opened a whole new side for Phil’s business, one that he has pursued with growing success.
Joe has continued to encourage Phil to network and showcase his work in the community in order to increase his visibility and sales. As a photographer, Phil has grown from selling fine art images on my website to a SDVOB sub-contractor providing the monthly progress photo-documentation that is required on most Federal, State and City construction/renovation contracts. Phil has also been awarded showcase opportunities, such as a Kearny Bank exhibit in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The event was featured here in The Brooklyn Spectator.
To view more of Phil’s work, please visit his website.
“Phil’s dedication and passion for continually refining his photography for delivery to satisfied clients and for donating portions of his proceeds to The Wounded Warrior Project is Testimony in bestowing the Honor of a Veteran Owned Business” – Joe Bottega, Staten Island SBDC Certified Business Advisor
“The SBDC provided exactly what their name (Small Business Development Center) implied. They provide the tools and contacts which allowed me to use my innate Brooklyn hustle and tenacity to learn the business of business and master this second all-important skill set.
The growth of my photography business, Phil Esposito Photography, has not only allowed me to do what I love, photography, it has enabled me to contribute some of this success to the Wounded Warrior Project, an amazing organization who helps my fellow disabled veterans. For all the SBDC has done to guide me … thank you.”– Phil Esposito, Veteran Entrepreneur
October 2019: Grace Kelli Cupcakes
Grace Kelli Cupcakes is a family owned, mother/daughter bakery business bringing a little Southern Charm to Staten Island. Sandra Mathis grew up in North Carolina with her grandmother, who was a pastry chef, and developed a love for baking.
Years later, Sandra moved to the Bronx and needed some extra income. Since Sandra learned as a little girl the importance of being resourceful, she decided to tap into her love for baking. Sandra started creating specialty cupcakes, which were quickly selling where she was working at the time.
With this motivation, Sandra learned about a free business training program for NYC Housing Authority residents after moving to Staten Island. The program proved to be informative and productive, helping her connect with the right professionals to turn her idea into an official LLC.
Sandra first met with Staten Island SBDC Business Advisor Joe Muller in August 2018, seeking answers to some of the challenges that new business owners face. Joe spent time with Sandra going over how to write a business plan and how to develop marketing strategies. Over time, Joe helped Sandra revise her plan to continuously grow her business. Joe encouraged her to get involved in the community and join a networking group to help acquire new customers. Over the past year, Sandra’s treats could be found at many community events, holiday markets, and even CityParks’ SummerStage festival!
Sandra began her cupcake business, inspired by her daughter Grace Kelli, and slowly expanded her line of treats to cookies, cakes, pies, and even vegan friendly desserts! As Grace Kelli Cupcakes began to grow through the use of social media, networking functions and food festivals, Sandra recently launched catering as another facet to her business. With the slogan “Southern Sweet with a Little Jamaican Heat,” Sandra added her passion of cooking and serving Southern Style food to the Staten Island community.
To learn more about Grace Kelli Cupcakes and to follow Sandra’s new venture with Southern Style catering, please visit their website and follow them on social media:
“Sandra is very motivated to expand her business from cupcakes to full catering. I look forward to working with Sandra to escalate her business to a new high. The SBDC will continue to work with her to fulfill her needs in her business and in the food industry.” – Staten Island SBDC Business Advisor Joseph Muller
“Grace Kelli Cupcakes is a family company. We specialize in vegan and non-vegan desserts. We accept orders over the phone, email, and all social media. My inspiration for the company and manager is my daughter, eight-year-old Grace Kelli. We went from living in a shelter to living the American dream owning our own company. With the help of so many free city agencies like the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Business Advisor Joe Muller helped us with one-on-one confidential assistance. Joe also introduced us to a program offered by the SBDC known as BidLinx which is a web-based service that identifies and locates request for proposals from government entities. I just wanted to thank the SBDC for being a place to help someone achieve their dreams.” – Sandra Mathis, Owner of Grace Kelli Cupcakes
September 2019: Visions by Victoria Rose
Visions by Victoria Rose is a Staten Island optical store with a mission to preserve, restore and enhance the vision of every member of your family. Visions by VR offers routine eye exams, frames, contact lenses, as well as children’s exams and frames.
Victoria Rose Nieto, owner, has over 15 years of experience as a licensed optician. When Victoria was ready to dive into her own business, with her husband Robert as a certified accountant, the pair seemed destined to further pursue their partnership.
Victoria and Robert first met with Staten Island SBDC Certified Business Advisor Joe Bottega in March of 2015. Joe expressed in detail that the first necessary step to launching a successful business was to write out a business plan. The SBDC assisted in revising their business plan, while also advising on financial planning, marketing and advertising.
After several months of planning, Joe attended the Grand Opening of “Visions by Victoria Rose” in September 2015. The store was filled with family members, friends and potential customers who viewed the creatively displayed showcases full of eyewear and accessories.
Joe’s ongoing assistance with Robert and Victoria proved highly beneficial and productive, as they still meet and review their business activity to continue to grow their business.
Victoria has grown her customer base through the importance of networking and positive client satisfaction. She has achieved this through her professional work, dedication, creativity, and attention to detail. Victoria and her skilled staff have a passion for providing solutions to meet the needs of each customer.
Clients who purchase their eyewear from Victoria Rose will find a very wide selection of designer frames to suit every style, personality and budget. Some of their selection of designer frames include, Hugo Boss, Carrera, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Red Rose, Roberto Cavalli, Sama Eyewear, Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Zac Posen and more!
To learn more about Visions by Victoria Rose, stop by the storefront or visit them online:
“Victoria Rose’s excellent customer service, professional expertise and passion for providing an outstanding customer experience are the hallmark characteristics of her business”. – Staten Island SBDC Certified Business Advisor Joseph Bottega
August 2019: GiGi Specialty Pharmacy
Gigi Specialty Pharmacy is a new, unique pharmacy dedicated to clinical expertise along with superior customer service & a gift shop experience. Located at 55 Page Avenue, their motto is “A Dose Of Kindness With Every Prescription.” Gihan “Gigi” Tadoros, owner of Gigi Specialty Pharmacy stated has two major passions in her life – one for pharmacy and one for customers. Gigi believes “When you combine both together, you get the best customer service.”
A visit to Gigi Specialty Pharmacy feels more like a visit to a boutique than a pharmacy. Although many of the shelves are filled with medical products and a full line of medical supplies, you can also find unique specialty products from around the world like scented candles, handmade soaps, crystal picture frames and essential oils.
Gigi’s love for her customers and helping others was something she was always passionate about. Her 25 years of experience as a pharmacist, working for some major pharmacies, a background in retail, and working in hospitals has enabled her to fulfill those passions.
Creating her own pharmacy originated from her desire to help people during difficult times, namely when they are sick and need medication. Although pharmacy was her area of expertise, Gigi Specialty Pharmacy is a business committed to providing the best European products handpicked by a team of experts who travel to Europe and bring back the highest quality merchandise. Gigi Specialty Pharmacy also carries specialty medicine, pet medications, homeopathic products, and a full line of surgical/medical supplies.
Gigi first came to the Staten Island SBDC in 2018 to meet with Senior Certified Business Advisor Edward Piszko. Ed helped Gigi develop a financial plan to aid in the leasing of the property she would use for her business, as well as the merchandise she would carry. Gigi continued meeting Ed for assistance in developing marketing strategies and creating her website. Gigi Specialty Pharmacy successfully opened their doors early in 2019, providing care and quality customer service to the Richmond Valley community.
To learn more about Gigi Specialty Pharmacy, stop by the storefront or visit them online:
I worked with Gihan (GiGi) to develop a plan for her to become an entrepreneur and own her own pharmacy. She is an avid listener and questioner. She made sure that she was headed in the right direction. I have visited her pharmacy on Page Avenue and it possesses a truly professional atmosphere. The store has a wide variety of products not available elsewhere. It is a refreshing experience from the “boxstore” retailer where we are a number on a very long line! – Edward Piszko, Staten Island SBDC Senior Certified Business Advisor
July 2019: Threading By Amna
Within the “beauty boom” of salons and services on the North Shore of Staten Island, Threading By Amna has developed a strong brand with rave reviews and dedicated customers. Amna Minhas is the owner and magic hands behind Threading by Amna, located at 857 Forest Avenue in Staten Island. Threading By Amna is a beauty salon focusing on eyebrow threading and tinting, as well as eyelash services and henna.
Amna began her journey to entrepreneurship while she was working toward her Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Maintenance. Amna was working part-time at a busy beauty salon in Jackson Heights, where she developed her skills as a beautician and a threader. After graduating, she realized that her true passion was “enhancing people’s looks, interacting and satisfying her clients.” Amna continued working as a freelancer doing threading, eyebrows, eyelashes, tinting, waxing and facials, while also obtaining her certifications in Kelly Baker Brows, Xtreme Lash, and Elleebana Lash Lift.
Amna and her husband, Professor Mudassar Minhas, first came to the Staten Island SBDC in May 2017 to meet with Certified Business Advisor Joseph Bottega. Amna was anxious to launch her business, however, she was very cautious in her approach to make sure that operating her small business would be cost effective. She had all the characteristics of an entrepreneur who would be successful in any community-based business.
Amna is knowledgeable and meticulous with her beauty skills as well as compliant with all rules and regulations for her industry. Located in a popular and competitive area on Staten Island, Amna and her staff have been trained with outstanding customer service skills and to perform in such a caring manner that makes all of her customers feel special.
Since 2017, Amna and her staff have been meeting with SBDC Advisors Joe Bottega and Megan Ernst to write a business plan and develop marketing strategies. Amna continues to attend SBDC training workshops and is working towards her M/WBE Certification.
Upon launching her business, Amna faced an initial challenge regarding her use of signage. Since her business was located in a commercial zone, it was essential that she obtain clearance from her local community board. Amna requested the SBDC’s assistance and after contacting the proper source, Amna received clearance to use her sign that would later support her brand recognition.
Threading By Amna officially opened its doors on January 18th, 2018. In the past year and a half, Amna’s business has flourished and increased her customer base by 50%. She is currently seeking to expand her services to accommodate the demand from her new and existing customers. Amna’s threading and tinting services have generated a great deal of excitement within the beauty industry on the North Shore of Staten Island.
To learn more about Threading By Amna, stop by the salon or visit them online:
“Amna’s passionate handling of her customer’s beauty needs, along with her excellent customer service skills, makes ‘Threading by Amna” the go to beauty salon on Staten Island’s North Shore.” – Joseph Bottega, Staten Island SBDC Certified Business Advisor
“I mean it when I say this, but I couldn’t have asked for a better planning and support organization than SBDC. My sincerest and special thanks to Joe Bottega, who not only took the time to lay down the whole process for us but also guided us every step of the way. He was always available to answer all my questions. And above all, he showed confidence in me and encouraged me to take the leap when I was having my doubts.” – Amna Minhas, Threading by Amna
June 2019: Annadale Bakery
If you’re looking for a classic family bakery in Annadale of Staten Island, go no further than 821 Annadale Road. The Annadale Bakery first opened its doors in September 2016, when Gary and Maria Tropiano took their years of bakery experience and made something of their own. Maria grew up with a family owned bakery in Brooklyn, NY, so when her & her husband made the decision to open the Annadale Bakery, both were confident that this new business venture would be successful! In fact, Gary & Maria’s family of six children work alongside them to create their decadent desserts and beautiful cakes.
Maria first met with Staten Island SBDC Business Advisor Joseph Muller in April 2015. When Maria began to work with Joe, she was seeking help in developing a business plan and financial projections to open her business. After years of mentoring, Joe continues to meet with Maria to stay on track with her business goals, updating her business plan and marketing strategies as needed, and even planning for expansions. Advisor Joe Muller utilized the financial expertise of Staten Island SBDC Certified Senior Business Advisor Ed Piszko to analyze equipment costs and determine the best plan of action to prepare loan packages and successfully expand the business.
The Annadale Bakery, a true family affair on Staten Island, will soon celebrate three years in business and continue to create many sweet treats using family recipes passed down from several generations.
To learn more about the Annadale Bakery, stop by the store or visit them online:
“In my experience Joe Muller has been an asset to me. He has helped and guided me in my present business Annadale Bakery and still today we are working on an equipment loan, and a future business plan. He is a pleasure to work with and extremely knowledgeable.” – Maria Tropiano, Owner of Annadale Bakery
“Maria Tropiano and her husband Gary are the driving force in their bakery. Both of them have years of experience in the bakery business. It has been a pleasure working with Maria for the last four years and to see the business prosper. I will continue to work with Maria on her business plan and help her with the expectations to expand.” – Joseph Muller, Staten Island SBDC Business Advisor
May 2019: David Parker
David Parker, like many, was no stranger to putting off today what he thought he would do tomorrow. Being a procrastinator was becoming a way of life for him. As days turned into weeks, David began to realize that his procrastination was wreaking havoc on his moods. This self-awareness motivated David to write and self-publish the award-winning Self-Help book The More You Do The Better You Feel: How to Overcome Procrastination and Live a Happier Life. David’s book focuses on the relationship between habitual procrastination, mental depression, and self-esteem.
David first came to the Staten Island SBDC back in July 2011 to meet with Certified Senior Business Advisor George Telmany. He explained to George that he decided to write his book after he discovered that his lifelong habit of severe procrastination was worsening his low moods. As David explained, “I was living alone in London, separated from my then British-born wife and I found myself in a profound bout of depression. It was then that I recalled the advice a friend in Brooklyn once gave me. He told me that if I found myself in despair, I should immediately write down my bad thoughts because it would take away their power to affect me. I began carrying a small notebook and I took to writing like a duck to water.”
Once David completed his book, he realized that he needed help promoting it. Since he lacked the financial resources necessary to publish his self-help book, David went to ACCESS/VR, a New York State agency that helps disabled individuals to do things like start small businesses or to return to school for job skills. David was able to secure a $10,000 grant from ACCESS/VR after S.I. SBDC counselors George Telmany and Ed Piszko inspected his grant paperwork and wrote a support letter in favor of the grant. With that money, David was able to hire the services of a book publicist to help his book get exposure in the media.
David continues to meet with George for advisement sessions and attends training events hosted by the SBDC in order to manage, maintain and further develop his business. David now offers his own one-on-one counseling sessions to help hardcore procrastinators, as well as gives talks on overcoming procrastination at colleges, libraries, and organizations. You can learn more about David Parker’s self-help book by visiting his website.
“Not only has George met with me at local cafes and diners to analyze my problems and give advice, he’s even shown me his own professional and personal Facebook pages so I could learn how to utilize my own Facebook account.” – David Parker, Author
“David has written an excellent self-help book and he has really made progress in how to market his book. Wishing him continued success in the future!” – George Telmany, Staten Island SBDC Certified Senior Business Advisor
April 2019: T SUIT
There’s a new clothing and product line hitting Staten Island just in time for summer that truly “Fits Every Body to a T.” T SUIT is dedicated to the modern woman who wants to look and feel amazing in a swimsuit. T SUIT was founded by Denise Cesare and operates independently out of Staten Island, New York.
Denise is a wife, mother, and educator who empowers her customers to love the skin they’re in. Her products focus on exactly that! From a swim-friendly cover up to custom bathing suit designs, the T SUIT team is very intentional about selecting and creating swimsuit pieces and accessories to be in their collection. These products focus on four areas: style, fabric, comfort and fit.
Denise has been working with Staten Island SBDC Marketing Business Advisor Megan Ernst since September 2018. Through multiple sessions on marketing strategies and business plan development, T SUIT is reaching new heights and setting higher goals – including a new line of travel essential products released this spring! Denise has learned the keys of success through a variety of marketing and networking tools to grow her start up business.
To learn more about the exclusive T SUIT line and new travel products, check out their upcoming vendor and pop-up events on their website and social media.
“Megan and I connected instantly, which is so important for Woman entrepreneurs. She is a wealth of information, always sharing resources to get you on your way to building a successful business. Most important, she is a beautiful person inside and out. Thank you for believing in me!” – Denise Cesare, Founder and Owner of T SUIT
“Denise has a unique and motivating story that powers not only her business, but her overall success in life. I’m proud to work with such an inspiring entrepreneur and I can’t wait to see where T SUIT will land in the future!” – Megan Ernst, Staten Island SBDC Marketing Business Advisor
March 2019: Meseroll Shop
A new shop for BMX bikes, city bikes, skateboards and a new streetwear brand has just opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – Meseroll. Moving from North Carolina, Andrew York has found not only his niche, but also his home in New York City and there is no place he would rather be. After working out of a test site for a few years, the Meseroll Shop opened its first storefront at 108 Scholes Street this past month.
Two years ago, Andrew began working with Staten Island SBDC Certified Business Advisor George Telmany through their Outreach Office in South Brooklyn. Advisor Telmany worked with Andrew through his test site phase as he fine-tuned his business plan as well as his network. He finally discovered a path to a winning strategy that would meet his goals. Andrew had searched for a new site for over a year as he used a garage-type space to focus on repairs, meet his customer base, and develop relationships with vendors that matched his ultimate clientele.
After brainstorming, Andrew decided to add four vending machines that are an innovative twist to the street biking community. The vending machines provide replacement biking supplies and access around the Williamsburg neighborhood.
Andrew developed his shop for bikes and skateboard enthusiasts and he has been successful in building a valuable relationship with his customers. Eventually, he utilized an opportunity to include a new streetwear brand to his business. George helped him through the process of adjusting his business plan to fit the new addition to his business, and will continue to be a guiding source as Meseroll grows in the Big Apple.
To learn more about Meseroll Shop’s products, services, and events, please visit their website and follow them on social media.
“Through the early years, Andrew created a firm network with customers and grew to become an expert in his industry. Customers are often looking for ‘the best’ and with the addition of his MESEROLL streetwear brand, they not only receive the top-quality service they have come to know but they can also be part of a growing company that presents NY fashion in a casual vibe.” – Staten Island SBDC Senior Certified Business Advisor George Telmany
“As a small business owner you can easily get pulled in many directions. Friends and family can be very critical and it seems that everyone has a ‘better way’. George understands the highs and lows of a small business and having his guidance navigating the ups and downs makes me feel good about my future. I truly feel that George not only sees my vision, but he is just as excited as I am to execute and achieve the goals we have set in place!” – Andrew York, Owner of Meseroll Shop
February 2019: Wise Therapy LCSW
Wise Therapy LCSW is a New York City therapy practice owned and operated by Kelly Wise, PhD, LCSW-R, CST. Wise Therapy is made up of a collaborative group of therapists working together to provide services for the community. They are dedicated to the idea that everybody deserves to have a vibrant, joyful and unafraid life. Wise Therapy actively works towards creating the change we wish to see in the world by being committed to offering sliding scale, promoting social justice, LGBTQ rights, feminism and sex positivity in our personal and work environments.
Kelly Wise first met with Staten Island SBDC Certified Senior Business Advisor George Telmany in 2011. Kelly was passionate as he expressed his dream to open his own therapy practice in Brooklyn. He worked for New York City and was fearful to take the leap and become an entrepreneur but realized that the risk was a chance he was ready to pursue. During Kelly’s initial meetings with Advisor Telmany, it was decided that it would be best for Kelly to test the idea by renting office space for one day per weekend. Although the first six months were difficult in reaching his initial clients, after nine months things began to change dramatically and suddenly Kelly’s dream began to take shape and became more of a reality.
Within two years, Kelly built a practice that afforded him his own practice with an office for himself in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Finally, Kelly was able to quit his day job completely and fly solo. Two years later, he signed a lease for additional office space in Brooklyn while adding staff. Kelly Wise has now built a team of therapists that are successfully supporting the NYC community.
Since Kelly expressed his business concept to George Telmany of the Staten Island SBDC, he has actively met with George on several occasions and has consistently worked towards his goals.
To learn more about Wise Therapy LCSW, visit their website.
“Kelly has worked diligently to build his skills as a therapist, leader and business owner. He has pursued continued leadership in his field, set an example of excellence as he developed his team and did not overlook the importance of business management skills along the way.” – Staten Island SBDC Certified Business Advisor George Telmany
“Meeting with George helped me feel confident moving forward with my private practice. He helped me honor my own timeframe which allowed the business to build in a way that felt comfortable to me. Without his help, my doubts would have taken over and I would not be where I am today. Thank you so much George”! – Kelly Wise, PhD, LCSW-R, CST
January 2019: Phil-Am Kusina
Phil-Am Kusina is Staten Island’s only sit-down Filipino restaurant, located at 556 Tompkins Avenue. Phil-Am Kusina serves authentic eats and recently expanded to a mobile food truck known as Sisig City to serve the rest of the NYC area. Manny Imperial is the man behind these operations, a family-man and food-enthusiast who can be found on the tennis courts in his free time.
Manny’s inspiration to become an entrepreneur began while working at his family’s Filipino grocery store, Phil-Am Foods. Manny enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Program at the College of Staten Island when he first met Joseph Bottega, Certified Business Advisor at the Staten Island SBDC. Since completing that program, Manny continues to meet with Advisor Bottega to this day for business counseling. Advisor Bottega initially guided Manny throughout the business plan writing process that he later used as a guide to open his first restaurant. Phil-Am Kusina officially opened in 2014, conveniently across the street from his family’s grocery store that inspired him. Advisor Bottega and the SBDC team continue to support Manny with advisement on marketing tactics, networking connections, and growth strategies.
Since Manny was motivated to provide his patrons with an authentic Asian-style restaurant experience, Phil-Am Kusina’s menu and décor from peach and khaki green walls to tables that are protected with glass wrapped in butcher paper does just that. The menu includes favorable dishes such as: pinoy ribs pork ribs in a Filipino style barbecue sauce; beef sirloin in soy lemon sauce with onion rings; crispy pork with shrimp paste in coconut milk; and leche flan crème caramel custard. At Phil-Am Kusina, you can find dinners for large and small parties at reasonable prices.
Phil-Am Kusina has become a very popular spot for Asian and Filipino residents in Staten Island and New Jersey. Many of the patrons can expect the traditional Filipino dishes with exotic flavors that reflect the cuisine and culture. As Phil-Am Kusina continues to gain popularity, Manny has took his business to the next level by opening his food truck for business. The food truck is used at local events throughout the NYC and NJ areas where customers can sample a variety of menu items like of lechon sliders, mini dogs, and crispy bicol. The mobility of this cuisine has offered a chance for a large audience to experience his authentic culinary abilities.
To learn more about Phil-Am Kusina and to check out their menu, visit their website and follow them on social media:
“Manny’s in depth knowledge of Filipino culinary culture along with his excellent and innovative cooking skills have made Phil-Am Kusina one of the top Filipino Restaurants in the NYC Area.” – Staten Island SBDC Certified Business Advisor Joseph Bottega
“You don’t build a business. You build people and the people build your business. That’s how the Small Business Development Center of Staten Island pertains to Phil-Am Kusina.” – Manny Imperial, Owner of Phil-Am Kusina