E-Space, which is run by the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) out of a building in Long Island City, played host to more than 250 community members and 35 food vendors last Wednesday night.
Since January 2011, the 12,500-square-foot E-Space has helped more than 500 small businesses launch, according to QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein. The space has generated $6 million in revenue and created more than 100 jobs in the last five years.
“It’s hard to develop small businesses,” Bornstein said at the celebration. “We’ve not only developed, we’ve thrived.”
The event also celebrated three women-owned business as part of Women’s History Month. QEDC gave the E-Commerce Award to Nadira El Khang, owner and CEO of NadiraBag, which makes handmade leather bags. E-Space helped El Khang design her logo, business card and banner for her website.
The Family Business Award went to 69th Lane Studio in Maspeth. Selma Trevino, who owns the yoga, Pilates and martial arts studio with her husband William, works with local schools and the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce.
The last accolade, the Phoenix Award, went to Annette Runcie of Pa-Nash Eurosoul Restaurant and Lounge in Rosedale. After an electrical fire burned down her eatery on Mother’s Day, Runcie was able to re-open the restaurant by September.
Bornstein said small businesses are a reflection of Queens because owners are from all walks of life.
Corey Meyer, the owner of Little Bird, a chocolate company that features chocolate-covered candied jalapenos, said he’s been at E-Space for three years. Meyer credited E-Space for walking his company through how to market the business, where to sell, financing and more.
“We couldn’t do what we’re doing now without the help of the Entrepreneur Space and QEDC,” Meyer said. “We were part of the startup program, and we took advantage of everything they offered. It was incredible.”
In three years, Little Bird has gone from small startup to big seller. Their products are now sold in 35 stores across the country, and Meyer said he’s looking to sell his chocolates nationwide.
It all started with Sara, co-owner of Little Bird and Corey’s wife. She was making chocolate-covered orange peels as a present for Corey when she found out how to candy oranges.
“She started candying everything in our house,” Meyer said about his wife. “She saw some jalapenos, and in her mind she thought it was a good idea.
“I told her she was nuts,” he added. “She didn’t listen to me, and it turned into a business.”
Two weeks ago, Little Bird finished its last shift at E-Space. The company is packing up and moving to a new 11,000-square-foot location.
Meyer praised E-Space and the people of Queens for supporting small businesses.
“There is no other place to go other than the Entrepreneur Space to start a business,” he said. “What we’ve gotten out of here is invaluable.”
Bornstein said E-Space boasts numerous successful clients who have come up with wonderful new food ideas.
“We’re excited when they come here and sad when they leave,” he said. “But when they move to new space and start their own successful business, we’re always very happy.”
Bayside Brewery was started by Anthony LoSardo about four years ago and now employs mostly college students.
Jason Rubenfield, a 22-year-old junior at Long Island University-Post and the company’s marketing director, said LoSardo came to LIU and pitched the idea to students to get a team involved.
He said Rob MacKay of QEDC reached out to Bayside Brewery after seeing a video of them on NY1. They were giving out samples and talking to attendees about their beer at last week's celebration.
Rubenfield said they’re looking at expanding the company to Long Island City, where they hope to have a full-scale operation.
“We’re looking to move into a taproom in there and begin our beer manufacturing,” he said.
Another young company based out of E-Space is Luv Michael, a startup that opened its business last July. The company makes organic, gluten-free and nut-free granola.
CEO George Kessaris said one of the reasons they started the company was to employ autistic children. His nephew Michael was 18 years old when they realized how difficult it is for autistic kids without a high school diploma to be gainfully employed.
“He had a passion for cooking,” Kessaris said about his nephew. “We said okay, let’s start with that. We want to employ, support and create jobs for the autistic population.”
Kessaris said Luv Michael is at E-Space two times a week for production and packing. He said the food incubator’s staff is helpful in answering questions about regulations and providing important contacts.
“They’re very helpful and very willing to provide that information,” he said.