“I am going to bounce back. I will be there. That’s the kind of person I am, that’s the kind of drive I have.”
Kiara Picucci, owner of Bella Maiya Day Spa in Briarcliff Manor, has seen her premises shuttered since March 20, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But like so many small business owners, she’s fighting to keep it alive, thinking of ways to sell preparations and services while abiding by the pandemic guidelines. “I am doing deliveries of products – body scrub, home facial kits, and guides on how to cleanse.”
Picucci opened Bella Maiya in late 2013, two weeks after giving birth to her second child.
Building it up from an empty space and no clientele by working “a million days a week,” she now employs three aestheticians and five massage therapists.
“For women in business, it’s harder. Even in 2020, we’re still living in a man’s world. It’s difficult to get respect. We’re told the women can’t handle it.” But Picucci is determined to be taken seriously, and is already planning – safely — for the next phase, when her business can reopen.
She credits the assistance of Dr. Gayle Marchica, President of the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce, for a significant boost when she began. “Gayle is amazing, and the Chamber of Commerce has been great support. Gayle’s a woman entrepreneur herself and has been an ambassador and a promoter.”
Picucci’s opinion, and determination, are echoed by Cari DiMiceli, owner of Sweets by Cari in Ossining. “Dr. Marchica and the Chamber helped me to take the leap, and offered a ton of resources in the community. It’s been a good journey.”
The mentorship, networking, co-promotion and collaboration offered by the Chamber of Commerce generally, and Dr. Marchica in particular, has helped DiMiceli grow the business she started at home to where it is now, on the cusp of moving into her own premises – which the Chamber is helping her to find.
FUELED BY CHALLENGE
DiMiceli has a full-time job, an 18-month-year-old child, two dogs, and a husband, but has still found time to expand her baking hobby into a business offering cookies, party packages, cake pops, cupcakes and other sweet treats. She too has felt the challenge of proving that “she can handle it,” explaining, “That’s not new to me. It also gives me the fuel to prove people wrong.”
Demonstrating her entrepreneurship, she is offering new items to meet the COVID-19 market.
Her Easter cookie decorating kit was designed as something for children to decorate on their own, using ready-made packets of sugar cookies and icing. “Parents needed a break, and also a way to lift their kids’ spirits.” She is offering the same idea for Mother’s Day — mommy and me activities, using cookies that look like flowers — and graduation day gift sets.
DiMiceli’s adaptability and creativity are helping spread her reputation, aided by a strong social media presence. “It’s very rewarding, especially being able to help out in the community,” she says.
Community is also a high priority for Lisa Ocasio, who runs the Tasty Table restaurant in Ossining.
“I always had a vision of a warm, inviting atmosphere, of a place that feels like home and offers personal attention.” And that’s what she created, setting up her business in 2018, offering breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch.
She reached out to Dr. Marchica after signing her lease, and credits the Chamber with offering invaluable guidance to navigate through the channels of opening up.
Challenged by the pandemic, she has responded by thinking of how to stay relevant to her customers and the community. As well as offering take-out, delivery and curb-side pick-up food, she is now working with Gullotta House, supplying meals to families in need, and also to the medical staff at local hospitals like Phelps Memorial, Westchester Medical Center and Burke Rehabilitation. “The business is reaching new audiences through community partnering, helping those who are having difficulty accessing food right now.”
As these women and many other small entrepreneurs fight for their own businesses while confronting the pandemic, the chamber of commerce is right behind them. “We’re a resource, especially now, in a crisis,” says Dr .Marchica. “These are tough economic times, but we can use them as a springboard for the future.”
Elsbeth Lindner is editor of River Journal.