Antun’s of Queens Village, a function room, last week hosted small business owners participating in a restaurant and hospitality referral program organized by Ree Brinn of the Queens Chronicle and the National Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
“We make these businesses thrive and if we don’t work together it won’t happen,” said Brinn, a sales director. “It’s no longer about competition, it’s about uniting into one.”
The purpose of the event was to address the challenges small business owners are facing due to the pandemic, according to Leonard Mancuso, president of the Queens Chapter of the National Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
“We can’t do business as usual,” said Mancuso. “I want to see if by creating these events we will be able to help increase their revenue.”
The US Mortgage Corporation was one of the companies at the event.
“We are reaching out to companies to be part of their hiring packages,” said Tim Kennedy of US Mortgage. “We’re offering all employees a closing expense discount of $ 1,595.”
This will help business owners and their employees looking for new homes save on purchases as US Mortgage, as a direct lender, does not charge any of the fees typically charged with banks.
“When the loan ends, we’ll donate up to $ 300 to a charity of your choice,” said Kennedy of the company’s affinity program.
According to Kennedy, a mortgage lender, US Mortgage has New York City programs that offer down payment assistance, home remodeling assistance, FHA loans, home renovation loans, and conventional loans.
Clifton Stanley Diaz, chairman of the independent community of Rochdale Village, Inc., also participated in the referral initiative.
“When you have these programs, people have someone they can turn to for information and resources,” Diaz said. “For example in Rochdale we have a newspaper that is restricted to Rochdale, but what was good was that we went outside.”
By broadening their horizons through the Hospitality Forum, Rochdale Village representatives were able to reach more people outside of their usual area of responsibility.
Albin Castillo, the founder and master of ceremonies at Cazz NY Events, shared his journey through the pandemic with fellow small business owners.
“I had to pan,” said Castillo, a 25-year-old veteran entrepreneur. “To do it, I teamed up with a printing company and we made birthday and graduation signs. Then we made balloons and decorations. That kept us afloat. “
During the summer, Castillo hosted Zoom weddings and now that the city is reopening he’s back to 100 person weddings.
“For the Zoom weddings, I had an in-ear microphone and worked with a team,” said Castillo. “You would tell me to look into the camera like that.”
Unfortunately, when Castillo restructured his business to adapt to the pandemic conditions, he lost several of his full-time employees. However, as business picked up, the entrepreneur hired home mothers and veterans. He is currently working on hiring a fourth veteran.
“How do I restart when my full-time workers are gone?” Castillo asked when his business was facing a downturn. “So I said, ‘I need someone who has life experience and a great work ethic.’ The veterans are just amazing and go well together. “
Mothers also have great organizational experience, added Castillo, who has taken two under his wing.
Mickey King, the co-owner of Antun’s, was happy to host the event.
“It just seems like a good idea that local business owners should get together and talk at a time when it was literally the most difficult time owning a business,” said King. “The only good thing about the pandemic is that I was able to share not only our frustrations, but other ideas on how to get through this and work together.”
Connecting with other entrepreneurs helped him feel less alone during such a difficult time, and made him feel more communal at the networking event.
With the event space business like Antuns closed until recently, it was nice to have the forum for his father, Joseph King, the former owner, to stop by.
“It was good,” said King. “I think it was great for him and us. It was great to talk to people again. It’s so much a part of our life. “
Catering and event spaces such as King’s will open for up to 500 people until June 15th. Now they can only serve up to 150 people.
“The best part is sharing ideas from different industries,” said Mancuso. “Everyone was thrilled that a new voice listened to their concerns. We look forward to upcoming events. “