Women-owned businesses face challenges, but support is available
NEW YORK – A passion for baking bread consumed Amy Scherber’s dreams until she decided to open her own bakery 29 years ago this month. The bread is made in a commercial bakery in Long Island City, Queens and sold at places like Amy’s Bread in Hell’s Kitchen. When she started, very few women-owned businesses in New York City.
“At first when I started, all the stuff, the way you run a bakery, it was all made for men,” Scherber said. “It was all on a very large scale – the equipment, the sacks of flour were 100 pound bags, and all of those things weren’t suitable for women-run businesses and all of my staff were women, so I worked to find different vendors who would have smaller things. “
She had to shut down some sites and lay off workers during this pandemic, but she was able to survive because she stuck to a basic business model.
“Staying small for as long as you can is a good idea because you are at less risk,” Scherber said. “You never really know what’s going to happen – COVID, September 11. “
Melba Wilson opened Melba’s in Harlem in 2005 specializing in comfort food.
“As a woman in a male-dominated industry, which is the food and beverage industry, oh my god, the challenges I’ve faced have been unimaginable,” Wilson said.
Her advice for women just starting out? Listen to experienced mentors.
“The path we walk and are guided on – they’ve come before,” Wilson said. “Let us not forget to reach out to our elders, our sisters, our queens. The only crazy question is the one that is not asked.”
Beth Goldberg, district manager of the New York office of Small Business Association of the United States, said that access to capital and credit has always been very difficult for women.
“Before HR 5050 in 1988, women could not get a loan on their own,” she said.
But the coaching and free help is there for women. Goldberg urges them to ask. One of those places is the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s different starting a business as a woman – it’s more of an uphill battle,” said Samara Karasyk, executive vice president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Now is a great time for women to tap into the movement. Build on people’s willingness to invest in women-owned and minority-owned businesses. ”
She is eager to create more female bosses; women like Amy and Melba, who are resilient and resourceful and hungry for success.
Amy is eager to reopen kiosks and other commercial locations that had to close during the pandemic.
Melba plans to open another restaurant in Harlem, which will be run by women.