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Company helps small businesses get started

Clients at a coding workshop hosted by the Business Outreach Center Network, along with Code Crew and Knowledge House.

A year ago, young Hunts Point entrepreneur Ralphy Dominguez was in dire need of office space.

Having recently started his leather goods company, Pen & Pistol, he needed a place to work from, but at the same time, one he could afford. He started searching online and soon found a space at the BankNote Building through a new service that helps small start-ups get going.

“The price was perfect for an upcoming entrepreneur,” said Dominguez. “I was born in this neighborhood so it’s familiar to me.”

He found the space at The Business Outreach Center Network, which took over the lease of another small business service, the Sunshine Suites, in the BankNote building last May.

Relocating to the iconic building between Lafayette and Garrison avenues was an opportunity the Center gladly seized, according to its executive director Nancy Carin.

“The Bronx is a great borough for business,” said Carin. “In the past we had many clients from the Bronx, but couldn’t give them direct service until now.”

The company launched its service citywide during a recession in 1992, when many small businesses were hurting. Minorities, immigrants and women own many of the start-ups the group works with. Those fledgling entrpreneurs often lack access to resources and advice.

“People are often reluctant to get government aid,” said Carin. “Sometimes they’re uncomfortable with talking to people or don’t know where to go. And that’s where we come in.”

The Network assesses clients’ needs, then helps in the process of securing loans, troubleshooting technology problems and navigating the pitfalls of business and finance.

Benjamin Sabir owns Neighborhood Bakery in Port Morris, which sells its freshly baked goods to stores and supermarkets like Pathmark and Key Food. Sabir says he is anxiously awaiting a response to a loan application he submitted with the Center’s help.

“I have plans to sell my products to more markets, to expand more in the future,” said Sabir, adding that the company has helped him develop “strategic ideas” to help him plan for his business’ future.

Along with its work providing advice and assistance for area entrepreneurs, the Center has also begun serving as a place for businesses like Pen & Pistol to hang their hats. Working alongside other businesses has helped Dominguez make the kind of connections he said he needs close to home.

“With all these business already in the incubator, it’s easier to network,” he said.

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