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Working off of ambitious dreams in a miniscule space, these entrepreneurs have made it big in the Big Apple. But the barriers to entry are becoming formidably restrictive. Bigger chains are moving in, "Store Closing" signs are common and rents are constantly rising. "When it's too expensive to live in a place without being on some kind of corporate salary with benefits, entrepreneurs stop coming," says Jerilou Hammett, editor of The Suburbanization of New York: Is the World's Greatest City Becoming Just Another Town?, who foresees a time when entrepreneurial opportunities will no longer exist in the boroughs, let alone in Manhattan. "That's one of the most serious implications of where New York [City] is going today."
But where some see dark clouds, others see a silver lining. "You have to adapt your business model to the local business conditions, which [are] very high rents, high labor costs and high taxes," says Ira Davidson, director of New York City's Pace University Small Business Development Center. "But the density and affluence of the potential customer [base] compensates for it."
Davidson hasn't noticed a dampening of entrepreneurial spirits, but he does have advice for incoming entrepreneurs. "Do something different," he says. "That's the real key."
Meanwhile, immigrants, the typical drivers behind small businesses, are going stronger than ever. According to a report released last February by think tank Center for an Urban Future, the neighborhoods in which immigrants are the primary entrepreneurs have experienced an explosion in new businesses that's significantly higher than in the city overall.
Entrepreneurs have proven that where there's a will, there most certainly is a way, and that attitude will undoubtedly persevere--even in New York City, where the path is paved with potholes.