Making It In NYC: Young Entrepreneurs
If you’ve ever been frustrated with your job, there’s a good chance you’ve spent countless hours scouring the depths of your mind for that one great idea. The ingenious notion that might free you from the stopgap position that turned into a career has to be in there somewhere.
Picture a number-cruncher, tapping frantically in a cubicle, dreaming of designing her own software. Envision a foodie doing his time as a server, cringing as a tourist desecrates a world-renown steak by ordering it well done. “In my restaurant, such a travesty won’t be allowed,” he thinks. “In my restaurant, we’ll do things my way!”
Obviously, this sort of venture requires courage. Chutzpah, even. So to help inspire you, we’ve compiled a quick roundup of a few local standouts. All of the people highlighted below have taken the leap of faith and prospered. Will you be next?
Most 21-year-olds can’t wait to buy their first state-sanctioned drink. As for Astorian Dominic Shaugnessy—well—let’s just say he had higher aspirations for his 21st birthday than a night full of legal martinis. Shaugnessy, along with his business partner and co-founder, Thomas Matzner (23), launched their own brand of vodka in 2011, putting them in competition with many other entrepreneurs, most of them twice their age.
“We actually filed for the LLC before I was 21,” Shaugnessy says. “We liked to joke around about how I co-owned a vodka on paper that I couldn’t even drink.”
Named Reve (after the French word for “dream”), the corn-based vodka is distilled in Denver, Colo. Its formula includes Rocky Mountain spring water, which gives the spirit what Matzner describes as its, “smooth taste.”
Matzner says that he has always wanted to own his own business. And as his college career drew to a close, he fashioned himself a two-pronged checklist.
“I wanted to do something where I could travel, and I wanted to have a good time so that whatever it was didn’t feel like work,” he says.
By all accounts, he and Shaugnessy have accomplished just that.
“We’re just living our own dream,” says Matzner. “We’re going to make Reve the number one vodka in the world.”
Like many great ideas, Ben Sandler’s life-altering decision was birthed through an unmet personal need—in this case a perfect cup of coffee. According to Sandler, the ideal java requires a diligent attention to detail: specialty beans roasted to perfection, ground and brewed to order, measured and dosed with the utmost precision.
“[I saw] that there was definitely room in Astoria to do something like that here,” he says. “Having worked in the industry for as long as I had (20 years), I figured it was time to take the bull by the horns.”
Sandler quickly recruited his wife, Jennifer Lim, and together the environmentally conscious couple took up shop at 40-17 Broadway. They recycled the lion’s share of the original furnishings to create a nostalgia-inducing, old-time coffee bar, replete with a vegetarian menu, specialty teas, sodas and, as of last month, beers.
The Queens Kickshaw now doubles as a late-night alehouse, open until 1:00 a.m. seven nights a week.
“Beer and cheese are just an incredible pairing,” Sandler said atop an earnest laugh. “It follows the same theme we’d originally intended [for the Queens Kickshaw]. Great food and great drinks.”
The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway, Astoria
When Jesse Winter first stumbled upon the 19th century carriage house that would ultimately become Ten10 Studios, the photographer had no clue what he was signing up for. All he wanted was more studio space to produce his nationally known photos. What he wound up with was something much greater—a second career.
“It sort of organically became a cozy place that people could interact with art and interact with each other,” he says. “[The building] is humble in a way. It has this funky kind of appeal to it that I think is inherent in it being an old carriage house.”
Artists soon approached Winter, looking to take advantage of the building’s antiquarian charm, and Ten10 Studios quickly became a veritable catchall of events. In the year it has been open, the building has hosted photo galleries, vender exhibitions, mixed media events, jazz concerts and even birthday parties.
While Winter continues to use the space as a personal studio, he maintains that Astoria/Long Island City locals should not hesitate to approach him when looking for a venue to display a passion project.
“It’s really for the community,” Winter says. “There are a lot of people who aren’t associated with galleries. So why should artists not be able to put their artwork out there? I like having people go through the experience of a show. You have a deadline, you put the work together, you get it out there. It is it’s own special sort of process.”
10-10 47th Road
Long Island City, NY