Small business program produces success stories


| tcimino@queenscourier.com |

Photos Courtesy of Marcela Cussolin
Photos Courtesy of Marcela Cussolin

Leslie Nilsson-Pedace is one of the many success stories to come out of the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative.

Since 2010, when Goldman Sachs selected LaGuardia Community College to be its first partner in its 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, over 170 small business owners have taken advantage of this free education program that is designed to help them grow their businesses.

All enrolled in the program, which is given at LaGuardia, for different reasons. Laura Catena, president/CEO of Long Island City’s City Gardens of New York, Inc., had to learn every aspect of running a business when her father suddenly died, leaving her to take over the family-owned company.

Without any knowledge of running a small business, she helplessly watched as her father’s thriving landscaping business sank from $700,000 in revenue the year he passed away, to $275,000.

But after participating in the program, the business has seen a 70 percent increase in sales and she has gotten a slew of new clients. Also, her staff has grown. Along with her foreman, designer/project manager and crewman, her husband joined the business as the general manager, and she recently hired a part-time office manager/account manager. And now that she is the middle of the busy season she said she will be hiring two or three more crewmen.

Mario Fichera, chief operating officer of Visual Millworks, a 78-year-old family business in Woodside, was desperately looking for answers on how to keep his manufacturing business afloat during these hard economic times.

Since graduating from the program in February 2012, Fichera has reversed the company’s downward spiral and got it back on track. He has developed the company’s first-ever structured budget; he took steps to ensure that his small business is being correctly evaluated by insurance companies; and he began to better handle its costs.

“Being a small business owner is very isolating; you become a prisoner in your own brain,” Fichera said. “But by bringing small business owners together, the program allowed us to discover that we are all going through the same experiences and that our situations are not unique. You suddenly realize that you are not alone.”

Leslie Nilsson-Pedace, president and CEO of Sage General Store and Sage Events, had to learn how to reinvent herself when she lost her successful restaurant.

“The great thing about the program is that it forces you to focus and come up with a game plan that is a roadmap that you really want to follow to the end of the road,” she said.

As a result of participating in 10,000 Small Businesses, all three have success stories to tell.

In fact, of the 170 small business owners who graduated from the program, 75 percent have increased their revenue and more that 50 percent are creating new jobs.

To learn more about the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, visit www.laguardia.edu/10ksb; call 718-730-7400 or email 10KSB@lagcc.cuny.edu.