(Generation Y)oung Entrepreneurs - Discovery NYC Week


24-year-old Clio Goodman in front of her St. Mark’s Place pudding shop.

Photos by Matthew DeMello.

By Timothy Dillon

What does a Brooklyn charcuterie, a video production company, and a St. Mark’s pudding joint have in common? Members of Generation Y are pioneering them all, overcoming the odds and creating a job of their very own.

Much of what we have heard in the recent Presidential debates involves ensuring that more graduating high school students can continue their education, either in a traditional four-year college or in some sort of trade school, in order to be prepared for the job market today. We have also heard a lot about growing small business, and how this is truly the backbone of America. There is a lot of talk, but the faces of these young and innovative businesses are lost in the political shuffle. Well, BTR was able to find a few young entrepreneurs who cut through the talking points and rhetoric and actually walk the walk right here in New York City.

In Brooklyn, a new bar (soon to be gastro pub) Tutu’s has opened its doors to welcome people to the comfort foods of Western Europe and drinks from around the world. With a speakeasy vibe, artisan beers, carafes of wine, meats and cheese platters, one might assume that the owners have been doing this for a while. However, instead of being incredibly seasoned restaurateurs, Tutu’s owners are a couple of young small business owners from the area.

Partners Lucas Walters and Jason Merritt are no strangers to business in Brooklyn. Walters was an original partner in Williamsburg’s popular The Commodore and works with Merritt tirelessly to give Tutu’s a feel that is timeless and warm; a great place to grab a drink. Merritt also brings a certain expertise to the table when it comes to wine and drinks. He is a particular fan of new producers, local wines from upstate New York, and wines of Brooklyn Oneology. Merritt’s wine knowledge comes from living it, as he has another business right around the corner, Big Tree Bottles, a Bushwick wine and liquor store, known for its friendly staff and convenient delivery throughout the Bushwick neighborhood. Merritt opened this boutique style wine shop in 2009 and, despite a wavering economy, has steadily grown to the point where he could work with Walters to bring Tutu’s to life.

While Walters and Merritt work as relentlessly as anyone else to realize their dreams, they are on the older end of the Gen Y spectrum. Creating work for yourself isn’t easy for everyone, and as most recent college graduates have been warned, the job market isn’t exactly handing out jobs. It has been disheartening, to say the least.

National unemployment may have dipped to 7.8 percent this past September, but here in New York the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a rise to 8.9 percent. Young people are being forced to search for jobs outside their area of expertise just so they can become financially independent and, in many cases, start paying off their higher education costs. In 2008, the median cumulative debt  for those leaving a four-year college or university was $19,999. These may seem like staggering odds, but not for Scott Gerber.

The phrase “Create a job to keep a job” was coined by Gerber and is one of many phrases he uses to motivate prospective entrepreneurs at his lectures and seminars. After his first business venture flopped, he had to start over from scratch with minimal funds to his name.

Flash forward to the present, Gerber is now the owner of a video editing company specializing in short videos for promotions and presentations, and has founded the Young Entrepreneurs Council. Gerber was elevated to new heights of notoriety with the release of his book, Never Get A “Real” Job. Based in New York City, you may not be able to visit the council so to speak, but through their site, prospective business creators can find resources for starting their business and even attend one of the numerous YEC events they host throughout the year.

On the younger end of the spectrum, nestled in the East Village on St. Marks Place, Clio Goodman is just 24-years-old, and she already owns and operates her own New York City specialty food store. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America with a degree in pastry, Goodman started as a humble private chef when her employer discovered a hidden talent of hers.

Goodman recently sat down to talk to BTR about starting Puddin’ by Clio.

“It’s a shop based around community and nostalgia; all of its flavors are very simple and very straight forward. The way it happened, I was a private chef for this young man, and every week he would have me make him a dessert and he had me making him pudding. I was like, ‘Ok, I can do that,’” she laughs.

“He loved it so much he gave it to his friends and family. And they loved it so much I started catering parties for pudding. It became so overwhelming that I joked with him, ‘You know, I feel like a crack dealer,’ I just sit in the corner and sell pudding. He thought it was such a good idea that he became my business partner. We opened a shop,” Goodman tells BTR.

She recognizes that there were probably cheaper places to open her store, but in New York City, knowing your audience is key, and location is everything. With local rivals like the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop and the crepes of The Crooked Tree, Clio knew that she was going to be competing for they same customers, but on St Marks, there is enough foot traffic to go around. Beyond competition though, lies a more tight-knit community.

NYC is notorious for killing small businesses that don’t have the backing to sustain themselves, but Goodman isn’t afraid of falling victim to the empire city’s constantly evolving cityscape. “A lot of chefs will watch each other’s back. We keep each other informed. It’s our responsibility to keep in touch,” Goodman tells BTR. She details how East Village businesses will share references and details about suppliers or, in certain situations, warn one another about inspections or poor quality of recent deliveries.

As to what she would have liked to have known before starting her business, her answer is simple :“Everything,” Goodman laughs. In addition, her advice to future entrepreneurs is also simple.

“Do your homework before you do it. Know exactly what you’re getting yourself into,” she says. “Be prepared to push yourself personally. To be a little harder, to be a little more bold than what you’re use to. It’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and you have to be prepared for that.”

Though Goodman’s business is alive and well, she is hesitant to call her business a true success realized. Rising prices of her quality ingredients due to drought has caused some set backs, but she is holding steady and ready to persevere.

“That’s my diabolical plan. I’m going to take over the world one pudding cup at a time,” Goodman tells BTR. She is certainly on her way.