Meet Denene Rodney, Founder of Zebra Strategies
Denene Rodney founded Zebra Strategies in 2001 to fill a gap in the market research industry. Zebra examines marginalized and underserved communities, presenting its findings to Fortune 500 companies, non profits, and government agencies. Denene and her team aim to capture nuances that traditional market research often overlooks.
Why Did Denene Need TAP?
With a recent surge in sales, Denene turned to TAP for help scaling her business.
How Did Tap Help?
TAP’s Devon Briger, Elyse Kane and Amber Yusuf reviewed Zebra’s project allocation process and interviewed key employees to better understand operations. They built a new workflow plan to improve efficiency and reviewed Denene’s daily schedule to offer ways to reallocate responsibilities. Knowing Zebra would need additional workers to meet increased demand, the consultants updated job descriptions and suggested resources to improve access to a skilled and flexible workforce. They also presented strategies to increase brand awareness and analyzed financial reports so they could make realistic recommendations regarding scaling the business.
Where is She Now?
TAP gave Denene the tools to expand Zebra’s reach without sacrificing the quality of its services. Denene took steps to tie bonuses of senior staff members to sales which has had a positive effect on revenue. She is utilizing an intern to assist with financial reporting and looking for a new vendor to help manage the database. Denene is implementing software for time management tracking and is working on organizational structure and task allocation. Denene stated, “There are a lot of advisory programs out there, but TAP’s one on one, customized approach is really unique.” She is confident she has the tools she needs to scale her business.
Meet Gessie, Owner of A&T Ironworks
Gessie Tassone was determined to revitalize the family steel and fabrication business after her husband passed away in 2018. A&T Ironworks, established in 1974, is located in an impressive 17,000 square foot facility in New Rochelle, NY. Gessie took over as president and now runs daily operations with her daughter Theresa. She is deeply passionate about the industry, the quality of her products, and growing the business and was recently recognized at both the state and national levels for her efforts, strong leadership and impressive achievements.
Why did Gessie need TAP?
Gessie partnered with TAP to improve cash flow management, streamline her operations and expand her business. She also needed help prioritizing time spent on soliciting sales. TAP stepped right in.
How did TAP help?
TAP consultants Angela Pearson and Tracy Grey focused on helping Gessie increase productivity by developing a time log to pinpoint inefficiencies. They helped her set growth targets by segment and identified sales and marketing opportunities to achieve them. The consultants encouraged a more proactive sales approach that would qualify potential customers and thus save staff time writing new quotes. This included a more efficient “contact us” format that would help determine priorities and size of estimates. With the help of another TAP consultant, Amy Lai, they created a cash flow template so Gessie could ensure she had funds to meet daily business needs in an industry where working capital is tight.
Where are they now?
With TAP’s assistance and Gessie’s resilience, A&T has already begun to regain its position in the industry. They hired four new employees and are landing more high-end jobs within target segments. Gessie credits TAP with “helping us to take a step back and focus on the overall picture of the company. By doing this, we could increase sales, better manage our cash flow, and improve our website.” A&T is now more organized and efficient and thus able to bid on more projects. As a result, A&T has already been able to increase clients by 20%, and sales are up 30%.
With a BS in biology and chemistry, Rayshone Phillips channeled her scientific knowledge into a career as a professional hairstylist. She is the owner of The Head Spa Studio, a salon specializing in smoothing naturally curly “4C” hair. Rayshone provides services that improve scalp and hair health using organic essential oils. She works out of her home, but she reaches thousands more through her viral TikTok and Youtube videos.
Why did Rayshone need TAP?
Rayshone partnered with TAP to get a better handle of her finances and to develop a cohesive marketing strategy for her existing products and services and the new online scalp care course she was launching. She also needed guidance applying for PPP loans to get funding during Covid.
How did TAP help Rayshone and The Head Spa Studio?
TAP consultants, Christine Rupp and Naomi Azrak, conducted a brand strategy session with Rayshone and provided input on marketing materials, including educational materials for her new Head Spa Studio class for stylists. They reviewed her website and overall business plan. They guided Rayshone as she applied for PPP funding and created simple P&L and revenue projection spreadsheets so she could understand her profitability and better predict her cash needs. The consultants helped determine a reasonable marketing budget for Head Spa, suggested ways to attract new customers and created a Yelp presence to capture reviews.
Where is she now?
Rayshone has moved forward with her new class planning, and customer volume for her traditional services has increased an average of two new clients per week. She is seeing more referrals into her business from online listings- especially Google- and has been able to increase revenues from silk press treatments. Rayshone notes, “TAP was most helpful in building up my confidence. I feel more articulate communicating my brand in both my traditional business and the new HSS class business. Also, their financial projections encouraged me to make better, numbers- based decisions." Rayshone hopes that by applying TAP’s tools to her specialized services for hair and scalp care she can improve her business and help others look and feel their best.
Maria was a journalist in Peru, but struggled to find work when she moved to Westchester because she didn’t speak English. After working miscellaneous jobs, she began freelancing for newspapers and radio shows across New Jersey and New York. Maria dreamed of owning her own Spanish-language newspaper; fourteen years ago, she opened Westchester Hispano to provide news to the Spanish speaking residents of the tri-state area.
Why did Maria need TAP?
Despite being Westchester's largest newspaper in Spanish, Westchester Hispano was struggling to attract the right salespeople and needed help with cash flow management. The niche media outlet was also in need of updated marketing materials and a stronger social media strategy. Due to the Covid pandemic, Maria lost some advertisers and needed ideas on how to pivot and conserve cash. For the longer term, Maria felt it was important to expand the newspaper’s use of digital media but she needed to navigate how this might affect customer behavior, particularly her readers in the hispanic community.
How did TAP help Maria and Westchester Hispano?
TAP consultants, Claudine Kelly and Rebecca Shalam, created a customized tool to help Maria manage her cash flow. They developed a marketing sales sheet and established weekly sales meetings for Maria and her team to coordinate geographies and goals. The consultants also created detailed job descriptions, provided Maria with recruiting contacts in the area to help her source additional staff, and brainstormed best compensation plans for the sales team. They discussed social media strategies and equipped Maria with the necessary tools to expand her presence on different platforms. The consultants presented the idea of reducing print cycles during Covid to reduce expenses, and lastly, TAP provided ideas for an eventual migration from print to digital for the newspaper.
Where is she now?
By focusing her time and energy on her most responsive clients and hiring reliable salespeople, Maria has been able to expand her business. After three months of collaborating with TAP, sales have increased by 20% and profitability has improved. Maria has also implemented QuickBooks to manage her cash flows and improve financial health. “I’m very thankful to TAP for helping me in so many areas: marketing, accounting, cash flow management and digital media. They really made a difference in my business.” Maria is using her talents as a reporter, publisher, editor and salesperson to work through challenges, and is hopeful for the future.
Cross Culture Kombucha
Ian Ceppos decided to stop drinking alcohol in search of a healthier lifestyle. When traditional juices and sodas didn’t satisfy, he and his wife Liz began brewing kombucha at home. They founded Cross Culture Kombucha to share their newfound obsession and now offer many flavors like Mojito and Earl Grey. You can purchase their products on their website, visit their taproom in Danbury, or find their bottles lining the shelves of many New York and Connecticut cafés and markets.
Why did Cross Culture Kombucha need TAP?
Ian and Liz looked to TAP for guidance on how to develop a healthy growth plan and increase sales. They needed help constructing accurate revenue and production forecasts, establishing a relationship with a distributor, recruiting employees, and implementing a strong marketing plan.
How did TAP help?
TAP consultants Natalie Rawlinson and May Lee were eager to work with CCK to reach these goals, but first needed to help Ian and Liz navigate the pandemic. CCK established home delivery options, curbside pickups and partnerships with local companies. They also upgraded their website to accommodate online sales. The consultants worked with CCK on loan applications, contingency planning and PPP terms and devised plans to grow retail sales. They developed a forecasting model for budgeting and planning and made recommendations on distribution, physical space requirements, and market competition.
Where is Cross Culture Kombucha now?
With TAP’s help, CCK not only survived the pandemic, but has grown its business. They are now working with a distributor and hiring independent workers. CCK has also added a fun new flavor, Lemon Lavender, to complete their six regular kombuchas. To reach even more customers they will secure more vendors after their planned move to a new location. They also worked to enhance their social media presence. The Ceppos’ determination to share their delicious products and promote a healthy (and tasty!) lifestyle paired with the new tools TAP has given them will ensure CCK’s continued growth and future success.
Maria Elena is the quintessential multitasking entrepreneur. As a student of the NYU nursing program and a single mother of two young children, Maria Elena owns and operates a residential cleaning business based in Westchester County. Her clientele have been mostly residential clients in New York City.
How did Covid impact her business?
Maria’s business was severely affected by the public health restrictions imposed to control the spread of Covid. The business from residential clients contracted by 58%. She quickly realized that she needed to pivot her business, diversify her service offerings and utilize resources more efficiently to remain viable and profitable.
How did TAP help?
TAP consultants Regina Altaras and Becky Schamis worked with Maria to expand her business beyond residential work to commercial cleaning. They did a competitive analysis and developed a marketing plan to rebrand the business and expand to this new sector. The consultants developed a website plan, to include online reviews to optimize for SEO and business credibility. They also recommended creating a business profile on home service websites, such as Angie’s List and Yelp, as well as local B2B business organizations in Westchester. To enhance her brand further the consultants suggested adding certifications such as Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise and Green Clean Institute Certification.
Where is she now?
As a result of TAP’s engagement, Maria Elena is more confident to advance her business. She updated her business cards with a more professional look and is focused on allocating resources more efficiently. She is trying to tighten her geographic area to reduce travel time by focusing on fewer buildings but increasing the number of units cleaned in each location. She is also delegating employees to execute cleaning jobs that she previously did herself. Her revenue is up by about 30% from last year, and she has added 7 new residential clients. While she still plans to expand to the commercial sector, that focus will wait until the fall when businesses are fully reopened. In terms of promotion, she’s been using social media channels to market her brand and plans to develop her website later this year. She also hopes to get some of the certifications TAP suggested and collaborate with online platforms to expand her client base.
Maria Elena believes TAP helped her advance her business by offering a new perspective and giving her the incentive and tools to change her operations. Those tools combined with her business savvy and “can do” mindset will propel her to more success in the future.
163,735 total U.S. businesses have closed since the beginning of the pandemic,1 but StepWISEnow is not one of them.
Meet Molly Roffman, Founder and Director of StepWISEnow
Molly Roffman is a New York State Physical Therapist who specializes in fall prevention and balance training. Molly’s experience rehabilitating patients who sustained fractures inspired her to develop StepWISEnow, a balance and fall prevention studio. The goal of StepWISEnow is to help older adults live more active and independent lives by providing fitness classes.
Why did Molly need the help of TAP?
When the pandemic began, many small businesses were forced to adapt. StepWISEnow transitioned their in-person classes to online. Molly came to TAP needing help with messaging and marketing tactics, as well as social media. In addition, she wanted help acquiring clients, increasing cash flow, and ideas on how to adapt during COVID.
How did TAP help Molly and StepWISEnow?
Immediately, TAP consultants, Susan Berman, Kyra Chenoweth, and Betsy Weiser reviewed current marketing efforts and used brand analysis to guide changes to the website and other communications. They also utilized competitive analysis to determine where Molly fit into a saturated market and how she could focus on her niche to get results. The team analyzed her financials and created a model to optimize Molly’s time and earnings. The pricing options for classes and memberships were re-evaluated to ensure steady income and profitability. The consultants also analyzed StepWise’s customer base and recommended strategies for retaining clients, re-engaging those that lapsed, and acquiring new members. Lastly, TAP served as a sounding board as Molly worked through obstacles posed by COVID-19.
Where is she now?
Molly is still working hard to improve StepWISEnow. She is researching and testing out multiple platforms, such as Vimeo, to expand course offerings. Molly also plans to re-decorate her studio, including painting the walls and floor as well as purchasing new studio lights. In addition, Molly has started thinking about merchandise for her company and enrolled in classes to expand her knowledge.
Source: 1 Yelp Local Economic Impact Report (Sept 2020)
Meet Elizabeth Reddin, Founder & Director of The Dog Institute of Williamsburg
As a longtime Williamsburg resident, Elizabeth has deep community ties and over 15 years of experience helping new parents of puppies and dogs. After securing her certification through the Dog Training Internship Academy (DTIA), she launched The Dog Institute of Williamsburg in 2018. Along with teaching pet parents how to raise well-behaved pups through positive reinforcement, The Dog Institute provides opportunities for dogs and puppies to socialize through drop-off “play and train” programs.
What Were Elizabeth’s Key Challenges?
Due to pandemic restrictions, Elizabeth moved from site-based training to offering private virtual lessons. As she planned to transition to a blended model in a post-COVID environment, she felt uncertain about the financial impact of changing her offerings. She also needed help adding eCommerce capabilities and increasing her overall profitability.
How Did TAP Help?
TAP consultants Tasha Kewalramani and Alison Schlesinger compiled financial information to gain a better understanding of the business, both pre and post-COVID. They analyzed Elizabeth’s pricing compared to her competition and uncovered opportunities to reduce costs like rent and other supplies. The consultants also reviewed The Dog Institute website and mapped out an enhanced site structure to incorporate eCommerce capabilities. Elizabeth received an action plan complete with supporting tools and detailed next steps.
Where is She Now?
Elizabeth is more knowledgeable about her financial position and understands how to make business decisions with the bottom line in mind. Most notably, TAP used data Elizabeth had collected from competitors to guide her pricing strategy, allowing her to be more in line with the marketplace and maintain her client base. Armed with a fully developed eCommerce plan and refined hiring strategy, Elizabeth is excited to start selling products on her website, hire a new employee and implement some of Tasha and Alison’s other recommendations. She now feels better equipped to advance her business.
Meet Daysi Briones, owner of IQ Contracting, Inc. & Associates
Daysi Briones, originally from Peru, always dreamed of running her own business. While working as a real estate agent she developed a passion for remodeling, which grew stronger as she watched her father and brother working in the construction industry. With $5,000 and the help of the NYC Women Chamber of Commerce, Daysi started her own contracting business. She constantly works to prove herself in this male dominated industry.
Business Challenges Lead IQ Contracting to TAP
Daysi turned to TAP to help her revamp her proposal process and better track her finances to increase profitability. She also needed help outlining both short and long term goals to navigate the uncertainty that Covid brought.
How did TAP Help?
TAP consultants Natalia Alarcon and Laura Stobbe helped IQ Contracting analyze finances on a per project basis. To ensure Daysi more accurately quoted jobs going forward, they reviewed costs from previous projects and studied competitors. They developed an estimation process that was clear to customers, aligned with industry standards and allowed for profit. The TAP team also helped Daysi determine revenue levels needed to satisfy her monthly expenses. They worked collaboratively with Daysi’s new accountant to categorize her expenses more thoughtfully and coached her on the best types of hires to help her with administrative tasks.
Where is Daysi now?
Daysi now has better tools to price jobs appropriately and the confidence to push her business to the next level. She added four full-time employees, three independent contractors and an administrative assistant. She also plans to hire an operations manager so that she can focus on sales. IQ Contracting transitioned out of her home office to a new rented space, and has secured some new clients, with a new focus on the private business space. Daysi utilized an SBA loan to purchase a new truck and new computer. With new financial awareness and a fighting spirit, Daysi is prepared to take advantage of the post-Covid recovery and realize her dream of making IQ Contracting a strong, profitable business.
From seedbeads to symbols to semi-precious stones, Bead Everything offers customers all of the resources they need to create and style beautiful pieces of jewelry. In 2016, Owner Debbie Daum took her shining passion for gemology one step further and opened Bead Everything, a full-service bead store in White Plains, New York. Offering all types of beads, gemstones, and raw materials, her store attracts both novice and professional jewelry designers alike. Not only does Bead Everything have the materials to do-it-yourself, but it also offers beautiful finished pieces and jewelry-making classes.
Why did Debbie need TAP?
Debbie was looking to expand her customer base, update her website and explore new marketing tactics. With the goal of increasing revenue, Debbie also wanted to determine whether or not she should invest in a POS system. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, fewer people were visiting the store, having an effect on revenues, but also giving her more time to make strategic changes for the future.
How did TAP help Debbie and Bead Everything?
TAP consultants Laurie Medvinsky and Stephanie Bettis worked closely with Debbie to implement several changes to maximize efficiency. The consultants made recommendations around her different customer segments. They encouraged Debbie to target new customers, while improving marketing efforts to leverage her existing loyal base. They also offered ideas to increase website functionality for ecommerce transactions. To improve operations, Laurie and Stephanie helped Debbie compare different POS systems, and assisted her in evaluating her cash flows.
Where is she now?
As a result of TAP’s engagement, Debbie was given a better idea of what needed to be prioritized. She purchased Clover, a POS system, to better track customer purchases and inventory. She began utilizing "grab and go" kiosks to move out older inventory and is watching her expenses more carefully. Her client base has increased as more people have discovered the store through classes in waist beads and jewelry made by her new wire artist. Debbie is increasing social media activity and using virtual guest artists and craft shows to attract customers across the country to her products. She now has a roadmap to direct her efforts going forward. Debbie’s determination and creativity combined with TAP’s professional expertise helped Bead Everything position for growth in the future.
About this blog
This blog features some of our client engagements.