As Greenpoint businesses prepare for a second year of the Coronavirus pandemic, a recent agreement struck between New York City’s Department of Small Business Services and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce granting LGBTQ-owned enterprises recognition as minority-run businesses is sparking optimism in some local owners about the future of LGBTQ-run businesses.
This new designation, which was decided on Tuesday, January 19, makes LGBTQ-run companies eligible to be fast-tracked into the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise program — giving these businesses an advantage when vying for hyper-competitive city contracts (the city plans to award $25 billion in contracts to M/WBEs by the end of Fiscal Year 2025) and aid — as well as receive additional business consulting and educational resources.
For Joe Ferrari, who opened the garden shop Tend Greenpoint in 2018, this decision represents an optimistic shift towards equity and leveling the playing field for LGBTQ business owners.
“What I see as the main benefit of it is the willingness of the city government to say ‘We recognize this group of people as a group of people that historically missed out on opportunities and we want to not only give them opportunities, but we want the city population — and the world — to know that we believe in this population and we’re going to help them out,’” Ferrari said.
While longtime Greenpoint resident Ferrari was able to utilize his retail and marketing background, combined with training seminars and courses at Pace University and Columbia University, when opening Tend — an idea that grew out of his love of gardening and desire to make a locally based career shift — he admits that certain outreach didn’t always come as second nature to him. The resources provided by this new M/WBE distinction could prove helpful for other fledgling businesses in that regard.
“Finding a resource like this new distinction or the [Small Business Administration] is so important,” Ferrari noted. “I think if people take advantage of these things, or don’t stop trying to take advantage of these things, maybe it’s not going to rocket them to instant success, but it’ll bolster them and keep them going.”
Likewise, Lockwood owner Mackenzi Farquer agrees that being able to designate necessary resources to a new host of business owners who’ve been at a disadvantage in the past can have an immense impact on the capital needed to succeed, particularly with regard to North Brooklyn rental costs.
“I do hope that a designation like that could perhaps open financing potential and I think that North Brooklyn can be so challenging because of the rent,” Farquer said. “When your neighbors are Madewell and J. Crew, ultimately landlords become very greedy and it really becomes about how well-capitalized you can be.”
With empty storefronts on the rise, rents going unpaid throughout North Brooklyn, and job loss impacting the LGBTQ community at a disproportionate rate (22 percent of LGBTQ people of color and 14 percent of white LGBTQ workers have lost jobs throughout the pandemic, according to a May 2020 study by the Human Rights Campaign and PSB Research) due to the pandemic, the question remains as to whether this particular designation will have a snowball effect on business outcomes in a city still reeling from shutdowns and capacity limits.
While the decision is still in the very early stages, the hope is that with added support, LGBTQ-owned businesses will be here to stay in North Brooklyn.