Hoboken + Jersey City Businesses Born During the Pandemic

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Pressure makes diamonds, as the saying goes. While the phrase makes for a powerful metaphor, the amount of pressure that many have felt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unsurmountable.

For small businesses, the pressures were countless. Restaurants were forced to close or offer delivery only if they could. Fitness studios and gyms were forced to close or pivot to virtual training. Broadway closed. Travel virtually came to a halt. Businesses of all kinds were experiencing hardship and as a result, so were their employees. Furlough became a common word in the nation’s vocabulary and layoffs were heard of far too frequently – as if the pressures to stay inside, stay sane, cook nearly all your meals, cohabitate with your quarateam, and stay informed weren’t already enough.

But despite those many challenges, many businesses prevailed and even opened in wake of a pandemic. The small businesses {and the individuals behind them} featured below reflect the idea that under pressure, diamonds can be made. From creating a food delivery service to help with grocery backup at the onset of the stay-at-home orders to starting a custom illustration business on Instagram, these stories reflect how Hudson County residents, many in Hoboken and Jersey City, dealt with hardship as a result of the pandemic by building their own business. Below are 14 businesses that were born out of the pandemic in Hudson County.

The Local Thread

the local thread hoboken

{Photo credit: The Local Thread}

Michael Ozolnieks, a Hoboken resident for over five years, has been a business owner in the apparel industry since 2014 and recently started a new business, Rivalry Sports Apparel, in late February 2020. Rivalry specializes in screen printing, embroidery, sublimation, and promotional items for sports teams, schools, and organizations. As a former hockey player and current coach at Cranford High School, Michael and his team have found success working with hockey organizations in the area to provide their apparel and uniforms. The pandemic hit right before the company’s primary uniform season began, forcing all orders to be put on hold as sports came to a sudden halt. As a brand new company, Rivalry Sports Apparel was forced to pivot quickly to survive as a business. Michael shares that this need for change “ended up being a blessing in disguise and gave us a chance to pivot in a way we otherwise may not have considered.”

The team recognized that they wouldn’t be the only business owners looking for new revenue streams. Rivalry Sports Apparel decided to use its online stores as a way to help local businesses sell their own apparel and receive the proceeds in the process. The aptly named business, The Local Thread, gives fellow businesses a way to create and sell their own original apparel as a new form of revenue without having to deal with the ordering, production, and shipping process. Michael credits Hoboken Brewing Co. and The Shep’s Beer Stand, The Local Thread’s first two partners, for kickstarting his business’ success. Hoboken Girl has also proudly partnered with The Local Thread to create a variety of merchandise for purchase on the website.

Michael hopes to continue to build relationships with small businesses in the Hoboken and Jersey City communities, sharing “We now have an opportunity to work with other local business owners that share in our mission of wanting to contribute to this community. We’ve also seen the amazing support customers have for local businesses in the area and I believe that’s the heart of what makes this such a great place to live.” The Local Thread’s most recent partner is Heal Hoboken {@healhoboken}, whose initiative is to help amplify everything that is being done in this community to get Hoboken back on its feet. Shop your local favorites at TheLocalThread.com.

Radiant Rae Designs

radient rae designs hoboken

Illustration featuring Hoboken Girl founder + editor-in-chief Jennifer Tripucka Casson and her family, by @radiantraedesigns.

In April, Hoboken resident Tori Halpin was unfortunately furloughed from her full-time job as a marketing associate as a result of COVID-19. In spite of that unfortunate news, she created her custom graphic design and illustration business, @radiantraedesigns, as an outlet to cope with the stress of losing your job and experiencing a global pandemic for the first time… ever.

“Having an outlet during a really rough time was something that brought me joy and gave me a sense of purpose each day,” Tori shares. Radiant Rae Designs currently offers custom invitations, phone cases, portraits, logos, and Instagram cover highlights. Tori can also illustrate anything from architecture to animals to food and more. She has had over 50+ customers already and is keeping quite busy. Her portraits can take anywhere from one hour to her record time of seven hours to create. On average, a standard two-person portrait requires about two hours of work. Thankfully, Tori was welcomed back to her company on July 1st and her side hustle is still thriving! In fact, Radiant Rae Designs is operating on a slight delay due to overwhelming demand. You can place an order with Tori here.

{Read More: A List of Black-Owned Businesses to Support in Hoboken + Jersey City}

Harvest to Home

harvest to home nj

{Photo credit: @harvesttohomenj}

New Jersey natives Jeff Frommer and Ken Vande Vrede are no strangers to launching businesses together. Ken is the CEO of Hillview Medical, a NJ based cannabis company, whose founding family have been a leader in the agriculture industry for 50+ years and is the leading greenhouse supplier in the country. In 2018, Jeff, president of the Jersey City-based creative studio Malka Media, worked with Ken’s team to help launch Hudson County-based brand Drink Kaló, a refreshing and relaxing line of hemp seltzers. Together, at the onset of the COVID-19, the Kaló partners recognized a new opportunity.

When restaurants were forced to close at the height of the pandemic in March, the food supply chain was experiencing many challenges. Produce that would normally be delivered to restaurants was instead going to waste as a result of decreased levels of food service due to closures and delivery-only restrictions. On the other hand, groceries and premium food delivery services were operating on incredible delays due to higher than usual demand as a result of customers cooking at home more than ever.

Enter Harvest to Home – a farm-to-front door delivery service that provides fresh, locally grown produce, meat, and dairy from the Hillview family of New Jersey farmers. Ken and Jeff’s team built the service, hired food packers and drivers, launched smart-shipping routes, and were in business servicing the NJ community within weeks of ideating Harvest to Home. The service offers contactless, next day delivery of everything from protein-to-produce as well as some local favorites to homes in North and Central Jersey. Visit harvesttohomenj.com for more information or to place an order.

Be Awesome Feed Somebody

be-awesome-feed somebody jersey city

{Photo credit: @beawesomefeeds}

While many local restaurants were temporarily shutting down due to state-mandated restrictions and the general impact of coronavirus, the team behind Ani Ramen {who has a location in Jersey City} and Montclair Hospitality Group were formulating a plan to give back to those in need. In April, they launched two new short-term non-profit pop-up take-out and delivery shops: Rock City Pizza Co. and Bang Bang Chicken. In partnership with the internationally renowned #BeAwesomeToSomebody campaign, patrons are asked to give a $6 to $8 donation in addition to ordering food to feed someone in need.

Ani Ramen owner Luck Sarabhayavanija shared in a statement, “We were heartbroken to have to temporarily close our ramen restaurants and lay off our team due to COVID-19, but we felt our signature ramen just wasn’t ideal for take-out. I was inspired by and am partnering with my childhood friend Mark Bustos who founded the #BeAwesomeToSomebody movement. Like Mark, we love to serve.” Read more on Hoboken Girl about how Luck and Mark created not just two new restaurant concepts, but a unique business model, as well.

The Balloon Boutique

balloon boutique bayonne

{Photo credit: @myballoonboutique}

Ana Carter and her husband recently moved from Jersey City to Bayonne, but growing up she lived in Venezuela. When she was 16, she started her own event planning company that grew into a dependable income source for her family and helped pay for tuition that she put towards my degree in civil engineering. Needless to say, Ana is a natural-born businesswoman.

After meeting her husband and migrating to the United States, it was initially challenging for Ana to find work. Eventually, she decided to take a job at a balloon decor store in NYC. While she loved her team and experience there, she recognized a unique opportunity to get back to her entrepreneurial roots when she was quickly laid off early into the pandemic. With 15+ years of experience as an event planner and balloon decorator, it wasn’t long before Ana had ideated her new venture and brought it to fruition.

Balloon Boutique offers a curated selection of artistic balloon bouquets and arrangements, composed of biodegradable latex, all manufactured in the U.S. Centerpieces start as low as $25, with larger, more intricate designs, that include 15+ balloons, starting at $95. Many of the arrangements weave in flowers and organic materials to bring a more contemporary and organic feel to the design. In addition to their ready-made options, Balloon Boutique offers full-service installations and custom design consulting to support any event type or “far out” idea someone may have.

Balloon Boutique offers free, contact-less delivery to all of Hudson County. Check out the website and follow them on Instagram at @myballoonboutique.

See More: 20+ New Hoboken + Jersey City Restaurants to Try This Fall

Tía Planta

shayla tiaplanta

Planting became a popular hobby for many during quarantine, but for 10+ year Jersey City resident Shayla Cabrera, it became a business. Tía Planta is a proud black-owned and women-owned business that was born out of Shayla’s love for plants and an impressive green thumb. Previously a full-time nanny, Shayla decided to start her Instagram account @tiaplanta after recognizing her constant talking about and caring for her plants during quarantine. Shayla hosts popup events around Hudson County and shares fantastic tips and tricks for keeping plants alive on her Instagram. If you’re in the market for a new plant pet, call Tía Planta!

The Seedling Agency

the seedling agency hoboken

{Photo credit: Christopher Scali}

After Hoboken couple Carly Nemeth and Christopher Scali were unfortunately affected by COVID-19 layoffs, they were determined to make the best of a tough situation. Between Chris’s editorial and business development experience and Carly’s brand design experience, they began thinking about what they could build. As they pondered this in their living room, Chris noticed a bag of “David Sunflower Seeds” on their coffee table which spiraled into the development of “The Seedling Agency.” Within 48 hours of creating their agency concept, Carly and Chris were live on social and had already built a website.

The Seedling Agency is an independent creative and strategy agency. Its services range from branding to web design to social media support and more. It has a unique membership program, which is called The Greenhouse, that allows you to tap into a multitude of their creative and design resources on a subscription basis {starting at 25 hours / month}. Carly and Chris hope to work with young startups and fellow entrepreneurs to help them create impressive voice and vision for their brands.

Paper Floristry by Jen Kim Creative

paper floristry jen kim creative

{Phto credit: @jenkimcreative}

Jen Kim hasn’t been to work at her usual job as a film and event producer at the Tribeca Film Festival since March 12th. Actually, she was especially excited about work on March 12th because her team was doing a site visit at Hoboken Bow Tie Cinemas. She was thrilled to bring the festival to Hoboken, where she has been a resident for 14 years. By the time she returned to her office after the visit across the Hudson, Mayor de Blasio had declared a state of emergency in New York City.

Fast forward… a few days. To keep herself busy while not at work these past few months, Jen stuck to her go-to home activities like cooking, baking, and knitting, but eventually started making paper flowers. After gifting her creations to family and friends who shared rave reviews and asked where they could purchase more arrangements, Jen eventually set up an Etsy shop on July 7th. While Jen does have experience working with fresh blooms, she adores the fact that “paper is forever and doesn’t need watering.” Her Etsy page is filled with beautiful designs, but she really loves the challenge of getting a custom request. Brightening people’s day with blooms has sparked so much joy for Jen over the past few months. Check out Paper Floristry by Jen Kim Creative on Etsy and Instagram at @jenkimcreative.

ElegantInspirations

elegant inspirations hoboken

{Photo credit: @nysiobhan}

Siobhan Nestor has a very cool full-time job as a draper for the solo women at the Met Opera, which basically means she heads up a team of people that craft costumes for the leading ladies. On March 12th, along with the entire theater industry, she was furloughed.

Within a week, Siobhan had a friend contact her about making some masks. It was clear to Siobhan that there would be a larger need to create masks than just for friends and family – to supplement the PPE shortage. When she began sewing fabric masks, Siobhan’s original goal was to provide them to frontline workers so that N95 masks could be prioritized for medical personnel working directly with COVID-19 patients. Then, her business grew and word quickly spread throughout Hudson County. Using her own fabric and elastic stock, Siobhan began making masks for local ambulance corps, doctors’ offices in Jersey City, pharmacists at local Walgreens, the Women and Children Ward at Hoboken University Medical Center, and beyond. When she ran out of her own fabric, local mom groups on Facebook responded to her call-to-action for fabric donations.

Once the word got out that Siobhan was making fabric masks, her friends and family started asking to buy them. She set up her Etsy page, ElegantInspirations, in April and plans to continue this business as long as it thrives. If you’re looking to purchase one of Siobhan’s masks locally, you can buy them at Shop Kanibal and Hazel Baby in Jersey City! Making masks has allowed Siobhan to continue working and providing for her family through the pandemic, in addition to being a creative outlet for her during unprecedented times.

Her recent projects include “Vote and Resist” embroidered masks, bride and groom masks, and communicator masks for therapists working with mentally ill patients. Make sure to follow Siobhan and her mask-making journey on Instagram at @nysiobhan.

Read More: Pastry Chef Tennille Ortiz Brings The Cupcake Carriage to Hoboken

Ben Sobsey Studios

ben sobsey studios

{Photo credit: @bensobseystudios}

Benjamin Sobsey grew up in Hoboken. He went to All Saints Day School, The Hudson School, and attended Saint Peter’s Prep for high school in Jersey City. He stayed nearby for his collegiate degree and graduated from Rutgers University where he studied journalism and creative writing. Post-grad, Ben put his original career aspirations aside to help his brother and their business partners open Alfalfa {yes, that Alfalfa!} in Hoboken on 11th and Washington where he works full time as a manager.

When COVID-19 struck and Alfalfa was forced to close, he opted to spend his hours of daily free time painting. During the first week of the stay-at-home mandate, Ben bought 60 cans of spray paint at Home Depot, ordered a table and proper art supplies, and converted his Hoboken apartment into an art studio. Don’t worry, the spray painting happens outside on his deck.

Ben primarily paints athletes, singers, actors, and celebrities, but he also welcomes commissioned work.

So far, he has sold 20 paintings around Hoboken and is hoping to scale his business. Visit Ben’s website and Instagram @bensobseystudios, which were both created in the past month.

LNDZBANDZ

lndzbandz hoboken

{Photo credit: @LNDZBANDZ}

Lindsay Dunst, a 16 year Hoboken resident, has a background working in the fashion accessories world. When her plans to start a new job changed due to the onset of COVID-19, all it took was a little bit of boredom before Lindsay was keeping busy with a new business. She started tie-dying and bleaching different recycled materials, primarily her old jeans and t-shirts. Inspiration sparked and Lindsay’s obsession with accessories led her to turn these dyed materials into bracelets and LNDZBANDZ was open for business. The bracelets range in color, can include charms, and range from $10 for single wraps and $20 – $30 for multi-wraps. Follow the bracelet maker on Instagram at @lndzbandz.

Skyla’s Cosmetics

skylas cosmetics hoboken

{Photo credit: @all_you__need_1}

Skyla Miller is a 10-year-old student at Wallace Elementary School in Hoboken. She’s headed to 5th grade next year, and to keep busy before then, she’s been hard at work crafting homemade masks for her friends, family, and beyond. Skyla created her business because she is taking precautions and protection against the pandemic very seriously. She decided to start making custom masks with free personalizations {you can include your name, a character, or logo of any sort on a mask} in both adult and children sizes. With the help of her parents, Skyla has also begun creating cosmetic products like organic lip balms, body scrubs, and more. She also makes hand sanitizer. Check out Skyla’s Instagram page at @all_you__need_1.

Hoboken Fashion Masks

hoboken fashion masks

{Photo credit: @hobokenfashionmask}

Melinda Rushing has an impressive resume – she’s a Hoboken resident, textile scientist, mom of two, and entrepreneur. At the onset of the pandemic, Melinda used her background in material research and textiles to help source components needed to develop PPE for the City of New York. She quickly learned that textile resources were in high demand, and began looking outside the United States for distribution.

During the height of the pandemic and as a result of sheer need, Melinda began designing her own product line of breathable, washable children’s masks from high-quality, child-safe materials. It was important to Melinda that the masks she developed for children use fabric and pigments that were entirely safe.

Once she was sure of that, she began developing adult masks using the same high-quality materials. As a single mother and woman of color, the motivation behind launching Hoboken Fashion Masks was personal. A portion of proceeds from mask sales goes to the Jubilee Center of Hoboken, an after-school program for underprivileged children in her neighborhood. Check out Melinda’s website to shop {hello, cute Hoboken-themed masks} and follow her journey at @HobokenFashionMask.

DyeHard

dye-hard sophie anthony hoboken

Sophie Anthony grew up on 6th and Madison – she’s a born and bred Hobokenite. After going off to college, as her two older sisters did, she still found her way back to her own place in her beloved neighborhood as a post-grad, just like her sisters also did. In 2019, Sophie got her first job outside of Hoboken managing the Customer Success department at Social Media Week, a marketing & tech conference headquartered in SoHo. 

Unfortunately, this new career journey was cut short when she was laid off due to Covid-19. While unemployed and abiding by stay-at-home orders, she found herself trying to stay busy to stay sane {like many of us}. She came across an old pair of white sweatpants and a t-shirt I hadn’t seen in months. Coming from a family of artists and an educational background in fine art, she thought about how she might be able to dye the clothing with ingredients in her home since she didn’t have dye. Sophie grabbed a can of beets, blended it with water, and made her first pair of tie-dye sweatpants. The next day, she ordered 6 pairs of white sweatpants and 12 different kinds of clothing dye and never looked back. 

Now, Sophie’s business, which she calls DyeHard, is a full-time job.  She makes unique pieces from repurposed brands like Nike, Champion, Adidas, and more for every shape and size (0 months – 3XL adults). You may see some of her clothes in boutiques around town, but all of her dyed clothes can be seen on her Instagram (@dyehard_clothes).

Do you know of any COVID-born businesses in Hoboken or Jersey City? Let us know in the comments!

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Nicole Gittleman is a born and bred Jersey girl who grew up in Bergen County but has called Jersey City home for nearly 5 years. Nicole works in content marketing at a JC-based creative studio and loves creating her own JC #content on her Instagram (follow her @nicoleraye_). Outside of her 9-5, Nicole loves to travel, cook, plan events for her friends and family, support small businesses, and cheer on her teams (go Devils and Giants!).