The BMCC #FuturePanther Blog

After 30 Years in Business, I’m Finally Figuring Out the Right Way to Do It

Woman of African descent proudly shows off a laptop with slideshow created during class

By Karly Norgaisse

Starting your own small business is really easy — you can do it in ten minutes on the internet — but making it a success takes a lot of steps. It’s taken me awhile to figure that out.

I grew up in Haiti, where everyone in the community had a business or project. My mother founded a school out of our house, and it had a good reputation and was very successful. I didn’t know it was something special, or the amount of work it took. So, when I came to New York City with my parents 30 years ago, I kept that Haitian sense of entrepreneurship — and jumped straight into some business ideas. That’s how I am, I have an idea and I’m off and running with it!

But I learned the hard way that ‘running with it’ is not the right strategy. I had a lot of business failures. My former husband and I started a tax business in 2000, but gave it up because it was too hard to get customers to come in. Then I had an online artwork and clothing shop that only ever sold one item.

My most recent business idea failed in 2015, and at the same time I got laid off from my full-time job. I was done. Done with failing. Done with working for someone else. I said, I’m going to work for myself, and I’m going back to school to learn how to do it right. And the next week I applied to BMCC.

Karly Norgaisse. “If I can do it, so can you!”

My first thoughts in the classroom were, can I do this? Can I get back into doing school? Am I too old for this? But as soon as I started, I was excited to see all the things that make up business. I felt like I was being handed tools for success I never had before. No wonder my businesses failed! Looking back, I had no idea what I was doing.

“Know your target market.” That one blew my mind, because that’s the key to success. You can’t sell to everyone, you have to have a plan. It made me realize that’s why I had been failing before; I was missing this training.

I got hungry for knowledge. The more I came the school, the more I wanted to know. I joke now that if I don’t come to class, you know I must be dying because I really love class. (OK, maybe not accounting class, but I love the rest!)

Now, I want to take it to the next level. Since I was young, I’ve had a talent for spiritual connection and guidance. I’ve offered readings to friends and family for years. Using what I was taught in class, I’m researching the spiritual healing market and plan to launch a new business soon. I’m taking my time, finding opportunities, not just jumping into it. Last spring, I applied for a grant from the CUNY Startup program, and was awarded $750 to build a website for my spiritual work. It feels amazing to be supported by my school and encouraged by my professors to go after this idea of mine.

Coming to BMCC has been amazing for me. I’m a grandmother who went back to school to learn this. And I’m glad I did. And I just want to say, if I can do it, you can do it. You’ll be glad you did.


The content of this post was dictated in an interview by Karly Norgaisse, and edited for clarity and brevity by Olivia Harris.

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