With a background in social work and a passion for personal wellness, Nathalie turned to massage as a way to help others release their stressors. In 2013, she opened her own business, Touche Moi, in the heart of New Rochelle. The studio, like the one-woman powerhouse that remains its staff, is relationship-driven and focuses on both physical and emotional health. Nathalie’s service is highly individualized, as she offers diverse techniques to suit the needs of her varied customers.
How Did COVID Impact Nathalie’s Business?
The pandemic forced the studio’s temporary shutdown, and implementing new safety measures burdened Nathalie’s already tight budget and schedule. When Nathalie reopened, she needed to quickly make up for lost revenue. Time management became a major concern, as the single mom juggled homeschooling her kids, developing her business, and maintaining her own wellness.
How Did TAP Help?
TAP took as holistic an approach to consulting as Nathalie takes to massage. Kyra Chenoweth and Mindy Grigg reworked Nathalie’s operations, marketing, and financial strategy to help Touche Moi emerge from COVID with strength. The consultants customized a financial model to identify revenue goals, and created a marketing plan to highlight her brand, schedule her advertising and promotion, and better target her customers. With data from a competitive analysis of other massage studios, Kyra and Mindy helped Nathalie understand the worth of her expertise versus others in the industry and price her services appropriately. TAP also helped implement an online payment system to make booking and billing easier.
Where is She Now?
Nathalie’s business is back and booming post shutdown, as her loyal customers have gratefully reintegrated massage into their health routines. Thanks to the support she received from TAP, Nathalie now structures her schedule specifically to meet her profit goals. Her marketing is more effective as she is incorporating TAP’s branding strategy into communications with her client base. Touche Moi has always existed as a healing space for Nathalie’s clients, who appreciate that now, more than ever before.
Cheryl, a mindfulness expert and instructor, and Stephanie, a business and operations professional, combined forces to create Pause to be Present, an oasis of calm located in Mamaroneck, New York. The meditation studio is an open community centered on finding physical and mental calm, greater balance, better health and happiness.
How did COVID impact their business?
When Covid hit, Pause to be Present had to close their physical studio. The founders needed help making decisions about the future of their business and what reopening would look like. They had questions about their optimal service mix, and other necessary changes they needed to make to operate during the pandemic.
How did TAP help?
TAP consultants Natsuko Murakami, who has a background in finance and operations, and Claire Shields, who has expertise in project management and communications, worked with Cheryl and Stephanie to adapt their existing business and expand their offerings to corporations and other organizations.
The consultants analyzed client surveys and the customer database to help define the Pause to be Present brand and gain insight into the competition. They suggested focusing on corporate clients which would add more sessions, and to leverage existing connections to gain new patrons. And, they helped the studio target their marketing towards these new goals. They also reorganized the company’s financials to better identify revenues and costs associated with different services.
Where are they now?
Cheryl and Stephanie decided to temporarily close the physical studio, but the virtual studio is brimming with offerings. There is unlimited access to daily live streaming meditations, an on-demand video library and many workshops.
The business retained 100% of existing corporate customers and added many new clients, including a major organization and a school community. Program offerings include mindfulness workshops, support sessions and guided meditations, all designed to support people in managing the changed environment. Pause to be Present has adapted to a new reality and has provided a rare spot of calm to help many others navigate the challenges of living in a pandemic.
163,735 total U.S. businesses have closed since the beginning of the pandemic,1 but Grace Kelli Cupcakes is not one of them!
Meet Sandra Mathis, Owner and Founder of Grace Kelli Cupcakes
Sandra always loved to bake. She grew up in Waycross, North Carolina where she shadowned her grandmother in the kitchen and learned how to put a Southern spin on various recipes. Sandra brought that passion to NYC where she opened Grace Kelli Cupcakes (GKC), specializing in baked goods and Southern-style meals. Sandra’s ambition was evident in the many hours she devoted to perfecting her recipes and chocolate-dipped treats.
How did COVID impact Sandra’s business?
When the pandemic forced Sandra to shut down, GKC’s future was uncertain. New orders dropped to zero. Sandra worried how she would earn enough money to support her family.
How did TAP help Sandra and Grace Kelli Cupcakes?
Immediately, TAP consultants Rachel Dugoff and Mary Beth Minton helped Sandra apply for small business loans and grants to offset lost revenue; they then worked with GKC over a four-week period to stabilize and adapt her business. During that time, Rachel and Mary Beth helped Sandra brainstorm innovative product ideas suited to the new consumer landscape. They encouraged Sandra to network with other minority-owned businesses and expand GKC’s reach through an enhanced social media presence. Sandra’s passionate commitment combined with TAP’s professional expertise and empathetic support allowed GKC to stay afloat and plan for a successful future.
Source: 1 Yelp Local Economic Impact Report (Sept 2020)
The couple are the founders of Cornbread 26 Food Co, a catering company that aims to elevate comfort food classics with creativity and unique touches. They began with a few cornbread recipes, including their now famous Cornbread Madeleines, and evolved to offer specialities like lobster waffle nachos and a variety of crostini. With no formal training, Craig learned the trade through cookbooks, TV shows and instructional videos, and his determination landed him as a finalist on the very first season of Master Chef (USA). Claude always loved cooking and developing new recipes, and his career as a NYC Jazz performer often inspires his creations.
How did Covid impact Cornbread 26?
Craig and Claude, like many in the food services industry, watched their business come to a complete standstill when the Covid 19 pandemic hit the New York area. Suddenly they had no events to cater and were left wondering how they would make ends meet.
How did TAP help?
TAP consultants, Victoria Drozdov and Susan Berman quickly began brainstorming with Cornbread 26. Victoria offered her deep knowledge of operations and strategy. Susan contributed her many years of experience as a successful entrepreneur and an editor at Food and Wine magazine. The consultants encouraged Craig and Claude to reach out to old customers and to find new ones by improving their online presence. They ran through pricing exercises to determine which business segments were most profitable, and gave them suggestions for new product offerings and packaging concepts.
Where are they now?
Cornbread 26 has received orders from Apple Stores and one customer ordered 3,900 Cornbread Madeleines. They have been able to resume catering small parties and weddings and have positioned themselves to service corporate lunches when employees return to the workplace.
It is clear that Craig and Claude’s hard work and determination, combined with high quality guidance from TAP, will continue to fuel their recovery and future success.
With thirteen years of wedding photography under her belt, Scarsdale-based Kelly Vasami was eager to take her work in a new direction. As her wedding business declined, her interests shifted to portrait photography. With her strong relationships, keen eye and meticulous post-production work, Kelly had all the makings of a successful photography business, but needed a bit of a boost as she transitioned into the portrait market.
How Did TAP Position Kelly’s Business to Adjust as Her Goals Changed?
TAP consultants Laurie Medvinsky and Cindy Cirlin analyzed competitor websites and put together a rebranding strategy worksheet aimed at differentiating Kelly’s skills, services, products, and aesthetic. They outlined a step-by-step overhaul to make Kelly’s site more navigable and cohesive, taking into account everything from drop down boxes to page length. With a style guide, the consultants sought to introduce consistency across Kelly’s website, social media, and printed materials.
How Did TAP Develop Kelly’s Client Base for the Long Term?
Keeping Kelly’s competitors in mind, TAP helped Kelly determine an ideal price and product range to attract new clients and set goals for cash flow, time management, and operations to make that pricing feasible. The consultants also helped Kelly identify opportunities to re-engage loyal customers, recognizing that a bride or groom might want to capture later milestones. They suggested that Kelly send out automated reminders or seasonal promotions encouraging timely use of her services. Rebranding would also bring in new clients, and TAP’s communication strategy positioned Kelly to develop and sustain those relationships.
Where is She Now?
Kelly has implemented several of TAP’s recommendations for her website and marketing, bringing her portrait work to the forefront. She has expanded that work to include professional headshots, and now recognizes portrait photography as more cost-effective than a wedding-only model. Through a moderate shift in pricing, Kelly has brought in more revenue without alienating clients. During the pandemic, Kelly has continued her work through social-distanced outdoor sessions and, despite Covid, Kelly was able to generate revenues in 2020 commensurate with years past and achieve an even higher profit by reducing expenses. Her biggest success this year has been the introduction of mini-sessions which yielded fifteen new clients. In such an ever-changing environment, her pictures have become even more meaningful, as families want to ensure important moments are still celebrated and remembered.
As a professional dancer, Justin loved his craft and dreamed of sharing it with others. In 2016, he made this dream a reality when he founded The Dance Conservatory in Westchester. His background in physical therapy and injury prevention training helped him cultivate not only ballerinas in their prime, but lifelong dancers.
How Did COVID Impact Justin’s Business?
Shutdowns forced a hiatus from in-person classes, devastating to a studio that celebrates its communal passion for dance. But the pandemic also offered new opportunities for virtual classes and a population of young customers who were home from school and looking for activities.
How Did TAP Help?
Two TAP consultants, Robbie Oxnard Bent and Souha Alameddine, quickly dove in and worked with Justin to expand enrollment and reduce spending. They leveraged TAP’s customer segmentation tool to help him understand who his clients were and what financial restrictions they had. TAP then advised Justin to adopt a more flexible pricing strategy. Robbie and Souha also urged him to clearly communicate the steps he was taking to make his studio COVID-safe, so that dancers could feel comfortable returning to class. To help reduce expenses, TAP updated Justin’s accounting system and worked with him to devise a negotiation strategy so he could talk to his landlord about lowering his lease payments.
Where is He Now?
With better communication and a reworked pricing system, Justin was able to top 2019’s pre-pandemic enrollment numbers. He taped out seven by seven-foot squares on his studio floor and provided individual bars so every (masked) dancer could stay within their space. Students actually appreciated the new small class sizes, as they received more attention from teachers. Justin used his website, social media, and email to communicate the Conservatory’s additional safety precautions. He reassured parents and students that, while he’d keep offering virtual options, they could safely return to the studio in person — and once they were in the door, they kept coming.
Stylish Spoon, a modern bakery founded by mom Ilana Eck, is geared toward professional women and busy parents looking for easy and healthy grab-and-go breakfast and snacks. Ilana's best-selling OatMEAL Cup, sold online directly to consumers, was inspired by her own need for a one-handed breakfast that she could enjoy and feel good about while nursing her newborn.
How Did COVID Impact Ilana’s Business?
The pandemic swiftly brought an end to in-person sampling and marketing events, Ilana’s primary marketing tool. She also lost a lucrative contract with a NYC grocery store chain.
How Did TAP Help?
TAP consultants Adelma Hand and Robbie Oxnard Bent provided Ilana with marketing and financial resources typically available only to Fortune 500 companies. Their sales analysis resulted in a shift to focus on her popular, high-margin OatMEAL Cups. Talking to consumers in focus groups inspired a rebranding strategy; not only did this new approach help Ilana target the right consumers, but it also informed a new virtual marketing strategy with a targeted referral program, perfect for her highly loyal consumer base. In addition, the TAP consultants created an inventory tracking tool to help Ilana time her package purchasing decisions, and they customized TAP’s PPP loan tracking tool to help her maximize loan forgiveness.
Where is She Now?
Ilana was able to cut costs and is thrilled to be reporting her first positive margin. TAP's recommendations for shifts in marketing, operations and finance have helped Stylish Spoon not merely weather the pandemic, but flourish.
Senegal-born entrepreneur Mama Faye opened her Larchmont, NY fashion and cosmetics boutique, Taaru Majeure, just before COVID hit. After working for twenty-three years in retail management for powerhouse brands like Tom Ford and Estee Lauder, she decided to launch a solo endeavor. Beyond her elegant accessories and quality cosmetics, Mama Faye has distinguished her brand by developing her own ethical skincare line with fair trade organic ingredients sourced from Senegal.
How Did COVID Impact Mama Faye’s Business?
The shut-down was an early blow to Taaru Majeure, which did not yet have an online presence. Mama Faye was burdened by fixed expenses for her storefront, and needed to quickly pivot to cover them. While the economic environment was tumultuous, social support for minority-owned businesses grew with the Black Lives Matter movement. Mama Faye had a pool of prospective customers, but needed to figure out how to reach them.
How Did TAP Help?
TAP consultants Janice Hassenfeld and Justine Smith developed recommendations for a new e-commerce site including a “shop by skin type” tool, product review section, ingredient specifications, and other visual aids. The pair also worked with Mama Faye on her brand messaging, encouraging her to leverage her dynamic personality and celebrate Taaru Majeure as a black-owned business on social media. In addition, TAP helped stabilize Mama Faye’s financials by offering information on loan and grant support, cash flow tools, and rent negotiation.
Where is She Now?
The Larchmont storefront is now open, stocked, and bustling with holiday shoppers. Motivated by TAP’s support, Mama Faye has exceeded her monthly sales goals since August. With Taaru Majeure’s in-person business booming, she is also applying what she’s learned from TAP to help her social media and e-commerce venues thrive
Born in Venezuela and raised in Colombia, Yolfer Carvajal was inspired by his aunt’s traditional cooking. Wanting to pursue his dream of becoming a chef, he attended French-Jewish culinary school, resulting in a cooking style that was an eclectic fusion of his Venezuelan heritage and French inspiration. With the help of his brother Donny leading marketing and logistics, and sister Dahyanna commanding the finances, Yolfer opened Pabade Wholesale Bakery in 2016 and expanded to a cafe in East Harlem in 2019. He refers to his products as “global pastries baked in el barrio”.
How did Covid impact Pabade?
When Covid forced businesses to shut down earlier this year, the food industry was particularly hard hit. Pabade lost all of its foot traffic, and wholesale orders for their products disappeared.
How did TAP help?
TAP consultants Amy Lai, a CFA with financial expertise, and Sabrina Silva, a marketing and sales executive with knowledge of the food services industry, quickly helped Dahyanna prepare for a conversation with the landlord about deferring lease payments and encouraged her to access additional government support for small businesses. They suggested offering a lunch menu, and researched several food delivery services so that Pabade’s delicious products were accessible to those not able to come into the store. TAP helped the siblings review all of the new safety requirements for reopening and provided options for cleaning common areas. The consultants also showed them ways to manage expenses going forward.
Where are they now?
Pabade is back open for business and looking towards the future. Their delivery business is growing, and they are working on bolder long term marketing strategies. The help that TAP has given them and other small businesses during the Covid pandemic expands beyond strategy and analysis. They’ve offered encouragement and direction when small business owners feel overwhelmed and helpless. With TAP’s assistance, Yolfer, Donny and Dahyanna have regained the confidence to move forward and rebuild their business to be successful now and in the post-Covid world.
Buried in the corner of every thrift shop is a hidden gem, waiting to be found. The same could be said of Treasures Thrift Shop of St. Stephen’s Church in Armonk. Established in 1968, Treasures has managed all these years -- the store is open three days a week and run by volunteers. But neither the volunteers nor church staff had the opportunity to make changes (such as capturing customer information, creating a brand identity) that could maximize the store’s revenue and impact. Church leaders believed in Treasures but they also believed it could be much more and play an essential role in the community.
Treasures has a two fold mission: to raise funds for the church and equally important to raise funds that St. Stephens can direct to expanding its own outreach programs to other local non-profits including the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry and the Hudson Valley Ronald McDonald House. The store also serves as a resource for the community. Its patrons include those on a limited budget, teachers finding items for their classrooms, and teenagers looking for something ‘cool’. And since what is donated one year becomes trendy the next, Treasures helps keep discarded items out of the landfill.
With a clearly defined mission and a belief in the store’s potential, the rector of the church reached out to TAP (through the Armonk Chamber of Commerce) to help bring a new dynamism to Treasures. We began by spending time at Treasures to study the store’s merchandising and operations. We also looked at other thrift stores in Westchester County to understand their pricing, store experience, and online presence, including social media. To address branding, we worked with Treasures to develop a consistent message surrounding their mission and create a brand strategy. We delivered an Action Plan that covered most aspects of the business, including a recommendation to hire a store manager, how to improve store operations and merchandising, what effective marketing (both traditional and digital) might look like, and how to better solicit donations. We offered a sample policies and procedures manual as well as a job description for a part-time store manager.
Today, if you walk into Treasures, you’ll meet the new store manager and see a wide variety of well-priced, well-displayed merchandise and a vital small business in Armonk. At Treasures Facebook page, you can see new offerings and notice of sales. You will also see photos showing just some of the hidden gems in the corners of Treasures that are no longer hidden.
About this blog
This blog features some of our client engagements.