9/11 gave birth to Mott Haven enterprise

When banks refused to help a fledgling company grow, the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation stepped in with advice and access to funds.

George Goss and Audra Moore prepare a new batch of cookies. Photo by Jason Green

With help from borough business program, bakery thrives

George Goss and Audra Moore hadn’t planned a career making cookies in Mott Haven. They were artists, but they traded in their painters’ smocks for bakers’ aprons when several art shows fell through after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The husband and wife were accustomed to peddling their organic, vegan, oatmeal cookies whenever they showed their work. The treats sold out every time.

Then came 9/11. “We had our shows booked ahead of time,” said Moore. “Nobody showed up, because people were afraid to fly. So we said, ‘Let’s do the cookies.’”

But selling a bank on the cookie business wasn’t as easy as selling the cookies to gallery-hoppers.

“We looked all over Manhattan for financing, and we couldn’t get financing from anybody,” said Goss.

The couple initially worked out of their home in Washington Heights, but as their business grew, they needed a manufacturing space and new equipment. Goss and Moore found what they were looking for in the Bronx.

In 2007, they found a temporary manufacturing space, and two years later the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) loaned them $75,000 for new equipment.

Now, Goss and Moore are expanding their E.din Naturals company with new lines of Munchie’s Cookies. They’ve also moved their production to Bruckner Boulevard and St. Ann’s Avenue in Mott Haven, where Zaro’s New York Bakery makes the cookies.

Needing advice on how to grow the operation without overextending, they went back to the BOEDC—the economic development wing of the borough president’s office– and found that the agency had done some expanding of its own.

The BOEDC has teamed with SCORE, a non-profit agency that offers free counseling to small-business owners and entrepreneurs. Bronx officials hope the partnership will help existing businesses – like E.din Naturals –to expand while encouraging new enterprises.

“Just last year we had a 52 percent increase in the amount of money that we were able to put into the streets of the Bronx and into the businesses of the Bronx,” said Marlene Cintron, president of BOEDC.

BOEDC arranged about $8 million in loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration last year. Cintron estimated they produced about $30 million in economic activity throughout the borough.

Cintron hopes BOEDC will be able to double that economic activity during the next fiscal year.

She approached SCORE last summer with an offer to combine efforts. SCORE’s counselors help with everything from writing a business plan to money management. Some of the volunteers, who are retired business people, have more than 40 years of experience running their own businesses.

“It’s sort of like a one-stop shop for people who are either in business, or wanting to start a business to come in and get support,” said Jim Alles, a SCORE counselor.

Even before its official opening at the BOEDC offices, SCORE has met with three to four clients each day. Goss and Moore are among them, getting advice on how to manage the growth of their business.

Getting help

SCORE counselors are available every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the BOEDC offices in the Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse. Appointments can be made by calling (718) 590-6252.

Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr. linked the overall economic vitality of the borough to the success of small business owners. He said the partnership with SCORE would give entrepreneurs a leg-up on what he described as a “steep climb.”

“We know that over 90 percent of small businesses tank in the first five years,” said Diaz.

Both Diaz and Cintron also recognize that losing existing operations means losing jobs, so retaining business in the borough is a top priority.

“We want to support our current businesses, we want to retain each and every one of them,” said Cintron. “We want to make sure that other businesses understand that if they really and truly want to do business in the Bronx, we’re open for business.”

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