Interview with Pedro Suarez
NYC Business Solutions
By Kathryn Gordon
Food Startup Help recently met Pedro when he attended one of our “How to Start a Successful Bakery Related Business” classes at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), and we followed up by turning the tables and interviewing him!
Kathryn: Pedro, what is the mandate of NYC Business Solutions?
Pedro: We serve NY State businesses, and specifically help small businesses operate and expand in NYC.
Kathryn: What’s your specific focus within the organization?
Pedro: I primarily work with restaurants. I analyze the needs of their market, and work with business owners to help achieve their growth potential on a one-on-one basis. So I am constantly addressing the needs of the restaurant industry to the best of my ability. That’s why I was interested in attending your class at ICE, to make sure I am covering all of my client needs!
Kathryn: Do you work with small businesses such as new restaurants or bakeries at any stage of the process?
Pedro: Primarily I happen to work with them in the beginning stages, early on when their needs are greatest and when they need some direction working with SBA (Small Business Association) lenders, investors or possibly finding business partners. Our agency can help develop cash flow projections – we also have financing and account managers who review business plans.
Kathryn: So you can help small restaurant businesses navigate the bureaucracy of other city and state agencies? That often seems daunting to our clients, especially if they’ve never opened a business before.
Pedro: Yes, I know the governmental leaders. I help businesses work with the appropriate city agencies, and get through the licensing and permit process. We offer a free 1 ½ hour restaurant management boot camp for opening a bakery and getting through licensing and permits.
Kathryn: And how do new restaurant or bakery owners “find you?” Does the city’s 311 system lead to you?
Pedro: Yes, but a lot is word of mouth throughout the neighborhood. I work primarily in one location, and can also reach out directly to local businesses. I’ve been working in the Washington Heights/Inwood area for over 10 years, and have relationships with a lot of local chefs. Of course we also have relationships with other business solution centers, like if someone needs a manufacturing facility for a product.
Kathryn: How did you get into this line of work?
Pedro: I was a political science major, and worked on local campaigns before working for a local paper in the advertising department. Through those local connections, I met the NYC Business Solutions people, and was offered a position.
Kathryn: What should entrepreneurs such as our clients who are outside the Inwood area know about NYC Business Solutions services? Can they also be helped?
Pedro: NYC Business Solutions has a very useful program in which we identify customized training solutions for employees. 70% of the employer’s cost is reimbursable. That can greatly help in training and retaining qualified food service employees, thereby minimizing staff turnover in a costly business. For example, we helped a business who needed an employee to be trained on wine. So we facilitated that, and the employer is only responsible for 30% of the out-of-pocket costs.
Kathryn: What a great savings for a startup. Thank you Pedro. We’ll keep in touch to learn other ways that you can help small business startups.