Nyack Business Honored with 'Entrepreneur of the Year' Award

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The New York Small Business Development Center (SBDC) announced its statewide ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award winners in a virtual ceremony on Tuesday, July 26. Among the awardees is U.S. Navy veteran Terry Clarke, owner of Nyack’s Black Parakeetz Paint, Swig & Sing! – a new arrival on Nyack’s vibrant entertainment scene.

Black Parakeetz combines art, karaoke, unique cocktails and fun food in a space custom-designed by Clarke where patrons of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy a festive, interactive entertainment experience. Creating, launching and building the Black Parakeetz business is a dream Clarke shares with his partner and wife, Naomi Clarke.

“We’re humbled to be recognized by the SBDC given everything they’ve done for us,” said Clarke. “We couldn’t have made our dream a reality without their support.”

“It’s great to have the SBDC supporting local businesses, and we’re happy to welcome Black Parakeetz to our community,” added Nyack Mayor Don Hammond. “It’s a particular honor for our village to count a ‘Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year’ among our successful business owners.”

About SBDC and the award. The SBDC is administered by the State University of New York (SUNY) and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the State of New York, and host campuses, including Rockland Community College.

The Centers provide counseling, training, research, management and technical assistance to start-up companies and existing small businesses across the state. The organization annually selects entrepreneurship honorees from more than 21,000 program clients statewide.

The awards recognize small business owners who, with the assistance of SBDC advisors and services, have excelled in planning, establishing, promoting and growing their businesses.

The 22 SBDCs across the state each nominate entrepreneurs for recognition in one of eight business categories: Veteran-owned, minority-owned, female-owned and growth-focused, as well as entrepreneurs in key industry segments including manufacturing, exporting, bonded contracting and procurement.

Clarke’s venture was nominated by the Rockland Center, and was among 40-plus candidates considered state-wide for the 2021 Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Resources…and challenges. Clarke brought experience to the planning table -- in sales, technology and finance, coupled with his partner’s expertise in fashion and merchandizing. Those skills have come in handy.

Clarke says experience in the U.S. Navy as Radioman Second Class aboard the destroyer USS Deyo also helped him cultivate invaluable skills -- leadership, communication, and what he describes as “plain old dogged determination” – assets he has since leveraged in his business pursuits.

But even with business and military experience, Clarke says making his dream a reality required additional knowledge, skills and resources.

“I connected with the SBDC to get general start-up guidance, business plan review and, eventually, funding -- all of which I received through the SBDC,” said Clarke.

“I also needed information on the nitty-gritty – things like contracting, electrical specs, plumbing and marketing techniques specific to my business,” added Clarke. “I attended a free SBDC course and found my Business Advisor, Andrea Giraldo -- an amazing resource and personal connection to other critical services.”

“It’s a pleasure to work with Terry and Naomi,” said Giraldo, SBDC Business Advisor and nine-year staffer in the Rockland Regional Center. “From the beginning, they were prepared, knowledgeable and focused. They had a clear vision. We helped with planning and research, but they also did a lot on their own.”

“We analyzed competition, demographics, regulations, taxes and so on. We also spent a lot of time in Nyack getting to know the community,” said Terry.

Careful planning and research paid off – literally – in the form of a $150,000 capital expansion loan from Community Capital New York. The detail and depth of the business plan, coupled with Clarke’s ability to fund much of the start-up costs, were key risk reduction factors. The loan allowed Clarke to renovate his building space, purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment, and create seven new jobs.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the SBDC and Community Capital. They gave help in supporting our dream exactly when we needed it,” said Clarke.

One unanticipated challenge: COVID lockdowns began just as Clarke’s planning was in full swing. Live meetings and site visits became impossible. Meetings were virtual -- not ideal for strategic decision-making. Despite those hurdles and the uncertainty, Black Parakeetz opened its doors at 298 Main Street on September 21, 2021 after nine months of planning, prepping and persistence.

Results…and outlook. Using research and their passions as guides, the Clarkes’ goal was to create a paint and sip studio and private karaoke room, meticulously laid out to provide a setting for everything social -- from casual get-togethers, to Internet dates and special celebrations and parties. So far, the formula is working well.

“Our ‘art of entertainment’ approach is about self-expression and fun in a comfortable environment with exciting, interactive features – live music, live streaming of karaoke performances and painting sessions, holograms, creative décor, and distinctive food and drinks,” said Clarke. “We’re constantly refreshing what we do.”

“We wanted to create a nighttime entertainment space that makes people feel like they’re on vacation,” added Clarke. “The pandemic set us back at first, but the amazing diversity and energy in the local community kept us going. We cover all the demographics – hosting guests of any and all groups, including parties honoring guests aged in their 20s to 90s.”

As just one example of success, over 500 customer artworks are displayed on the walls in the Parakeetz paint studio. Clarke also reports gross revenues three times higher than incomes he and his partner earned in traditional employment.

“Black Parakeetz offers a unique entertainment experience – an exciting addition to Nyack’s mix of one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and night spots,” said Roger Cohen, President, Nyack Chamber of Commerce. “What’s more, the Parakeetz story is a great model for other small businesses in our community who can benefit from the services offered by the SBDC.”

“We’re very proud of Black Parakeetz and expect they’ll serve as an inspiration to budding entrepreneurs in Rockland County,” added Tom Morley, Director, Rockland Regional SBDC at Rockland Community College. “We welcome all newcomers, and provide assistance for business needs from the most basic to the most sophisticated, as well as disaster relief and other emergency assistance when needed.”

“Our relationships with businesses are for the long-term,” said Morley. “Many clients stay with us for years – running a business is an ongoing learning experience. There are always new questions, issues, updates.”

“The SBDC got us off the ground, and now we’re learning on the job,” said Clarke. “Our biggest learnings are about service to our customers and our village. We treat all of our patrons like family. We give back to the community. The good comes back to us.”

Summing up, Clarke said, “This is the most fun we’ve ever had.”

https://blackparakeetz.com/

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