Business Issue: How I Did It Feature Package

For the "How I Did It" cover package in our ancillary business publication, I profiled two local business owners who faced obstacles and turned their companies into unexpected successes.


How I Did It
11 Inspiring Tales of Unexpected Success


Featured on the Cover:
CHARGED UP
Lew Hoff
President, Bartizan Connects; Chairman, Addressograph Bartizan


...“If I had any brains, I would’ve said that I’m not going to compete with these other companies,” says the Yonkers resident. “I knew nothing about manufacturing. I didn’t have any money. I wasn’t bright enough to evaluate my obstacles. But not knowing anything meant anything was possible.” Armed with no knowledge and diving headlong into his company, Hoff was able to create a business that sold millions of credit-card imprinting machines and today employs more than 20 people.

After graduating with a degree in economics from UMass Amherst, Hoff did a four-year stint in the Air Force and held a couple of sales jobs when he returned. When one of the companies went under in 1970, Hoff and coworker Ed O’Reilly decided to form their own business. “He had an idea for a portable credit-card imprinting machine,” Hoff says. Though they knew nothing about manufacturing, the duo jumped into an industry that already had stiff competition; indeed, two businesses that made the same devices were Fortune 500 companies. “Out of the five companies that made these machines, we were number five,” Hoff says.

Hoff and O’Reilly manufactured the machines out of a converted stable on 76th Street in Manhattan. Hoff also lived there, illegally. A floating crew of friends, actors, and the unemployed worked at assembling the machines, and Hoff and O’Reilly got jobs waiting tables at nearby O’Brien’s Tavern to make ends meet. “I’d work at O’Brien’s until four am and get home at four-thirty,” he says. “The people who worked for us would show up at about eight am. I’d have to be up when they arrived. Then I worked with them until I had to be back at O’Brien’s.”

PICTURE PERFECT
Anthony Trama
Owner/Operator, Creator’s Media Group


...Trama’s accomplishments become all the more impressive when you consider his background. When he was 9 years old, his parents went through a rough divorce—one that was especially tough on his mother. He was sent to live at Andrus, a residential school in Yonkers. “It’s tough being so young and without your family,” he says. “It’s like going to college when you’re nine years old. I had to take on a lot of responsibilities and learn how to take care of myself. When I left, I was twelve, and I was pretty self-sufficient.”

That sense of independence led Trama to start working when he was 13, caddying at a local golf club. “It was one of the best jobs you could have at that age.” He caddied every summer while he attended Valhalla High School. Then, in 1999, when he was 19, he enrolled in night classes at The Westchester Business Institute (now The College of Westchester) so he could intern at Creators, shooting and editing videos, which almost immediately became a full-time job. “Video was the medium you could do the most with,” he says. “It tested my creative skills.”

Click through to read the rest of the cover package online, or download the PDF of Lew Hoff's profile above.


Time Out New York: How to Find a Deal on a NYC Apartment

How to Find a Deal

An article with tips on finding cheap apartments in New York City

"Make direct contact
The easiest way to save money is to avoid paying a broker’s fee. 'Look for a building with a rental office directly on site,' suggests architect Hayes Slade, whose Slade Architecture firm knows something about affordable housing (it won an award for its design of a Brooklyn housing project in 2010). 'That way you can negotiate directly with the landlord and skip a real-estate agent fee.' In order to ditch online searches, Slade recommends walking the streets of your desired neighborhood and looking for offices and for rent signs. That’s how investment banker Jessica Gutierrez found a studio she loves in Battery Park City. 'Ask doorman,' she says.'“I would first ask if this a condo or is there a leasing office. If it was a condo, I would ask if they had a list of owners renting out their apartments. At the ones that did, I would leave my business card, and I got a lot of callbacks from owners renting their apartments themselves.' Victoria Hagman, president of the Brooklyn-focused agency Realty Collective, hit the pavement too. 'When I was looking for an apartment,' she says, 'I would go to moving sales every weekend and ask, "Has your landlord found someone to take your apartment yet? Can I see it?”' For more tips, look for Realty Collective’s new apartment-hunting classes at the Brooklyn Brainery (brooklynbrainery.com; next class May 16, $10)."

Read the rest of the article--including a final thought from The Rent Is Too Damn High's Jimmy McMillan--at newyork.timeout.com.

914 Inc Premiere

My contributions to our recently launched business magazine:

Our Power Dozen: Catherine Marsh

Profiling a nonprofit leader for our "Power Dozen" cover story: "Philanthropy is hard. There’s deciding what kinds of organizations you support, vetting them for legitimacy, and setting up a payment plan, not to mention all of that paperwork. Catherine Marsh, executive director of the 30-plus-year-old, five-employee Westchester Community Foundation, makes philanthropy easy—and possible for people who wouldn’t be able to do the legwork otherwise...'It’s one thing to give away fifty thousand dollars,' she adds, 'and it’s another thing to say, "Where can this fifty thousand dollars have the most benefit?"'"

A Picture of Success in Tarrytown

How one local performing arts institution has been successful during the recession: "In tough times, economists say life’s little extras—like tickets to concerts and plays—are the first things slashed from the family budget. Maybe those economists should study the Tarrytown Music Hall. Today, when many arts organizations are pulling back, the historic Main Street theater is growing. The Music Hall saw an increase of 31 percent in paid attendance from 2008 to 2009—just when Wall Street was hitting its roughest patch—and those numbers have held steady for 2010. Look back further, and the picture gets even rosier: attendance has grown more than 400 percent since 2005."

November, December, and January

Best of the Decade
An editorial feature package—edited by me and written with other editorial staffers—about the best county institutions that have been in business since the magazine was founded ten years ago. "One decade. Ten years of tireless research, experimentation, and reporting. Year after year, we scout out the most superlative offerings in Westchester County for our annual 'Best of Westchester' issue. Now, we’ve undertaken the enormous task of reviewing all of our previous editors' picks, distilling them down to the absolutely essential—the most stupendous, the most stunning, the most delicious, the most thrilling, the most dazzling—to bring you the 'Best of the Decade.' Think of it as the Best of the Best of Westchester."

Then & Now
A feature about how the county has changed in the past ten years: "Where do you go when, on a warm and breezy day, you want to have a drink or a bite to eat along the Hudson River? X2O? Half Moon? Red Hat on the River? The Day Boat Café? The Boathouse? A decade ago, none of these summertime staples would have been an option. The Hudson was not where we went to have fun. The river wasn’t for recreation—it was for work. (Not glamorous work, either—Riverkeeper called it the 'region’s sewer.') The water was polluted, the sites were choked off from the rest of the county, and it still had the workhorse vibe of lingering manufacturing industries, many of which had already taken flight, leaving chemical-filled messes in their wake."

She Checked It Out
A Q&A with writer Marilyn Johnson: "The old stereotype of the librarian with the tight bun, horn-rimmed glasses, and finger pressed to her lips in the 'shhh' position has been shattered. Now, you’re more likely to see librarians with tattoos, funky haircuts, and blogs that—rather than being meek and reserved—actually are quite loud-mouthed and opinionated. Marilyn Johnson, Briarcliff resident for the past 24 years, is one of the writers to shatter the fussy old preconception about librarians. Her book, This Book Is Overdue!, published in February, chronicles the work librarians do today, from getting the library plugged in to fighting the Patriot Act."

Happening Holidays
A round-up of holiday events outside of the usual performances of Handel and The Nutcracker: "People often forget that A Christmas Carol is one of the best ghost stories of all time. If you love Christmas/Halloween mash-ups, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, and want to see the Dickens tale become even more ghastly, the Westchester Broadway Theatre has a new show just for you. A Sleepy Hollow Christmas Carol, adapted by Jean-Paul Richard, weaves together A Christmas Carol and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In it, Scrooge, played by Mamaroneck’s John Treacy Egan, is visited by Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle, and the Headless Horseman."

Totally Goth
A review of a local production of Jekyll & Hyde: "Behind every great man there’s a great woman and, in the case of split personalities, there are two."

Four Questions For...David Harbour
A Q&A with an actor in The Merchant of Venice and The Green Hornet: "'Al Pacino is a real gentleman—generous and gracious. He’s really grounded in being an actor and loves working on scenes. But, on stage, he’s like an untrained animal—you never know what he’s going to do.'"

Hepladock the Mylagoat
An item about a locally produced game that uses nonsense words: "'People think the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is coming up with the idea, but it’s not—it’s getting the idea in front of people,' Phelps says. After the meeting with the buyer, Barnes and Noble agreed to stock 48 copies of the game. Today, five years later, Yamodo sells more than 30,000 copies per year through Barnes and Noble, Toys R’ Us, and independent retailers, as well as its own website (yamodo.com)."

Book Clubs' Best Reads
A round-up of what local book clubs are reading: "Looking for a great book recommendation? Look no further than local active readers—the ones who go to their book-group meetings having actually read the books, not just to socialize."

November Culture Highlights
Barenaked Ladies, Anna Deveare Smith, Kathleen Hill, and more.

November Home Theater
The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, The Pacific, and The Goonies.

December Culture Highlights
Cyndi Lauper, Judy Gold, and more.

December Home Theater
Inception, The Other Guys, Despicable Me, and Futurama Vol. 5.

January Culture Highlights
Citizen Cope, Twelfth Night, the African American Writers and Readers Literary Tea, and more.

January Home Theater
Genre movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Machete, The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, and Justified.

Please click the links to read the articles in full.