How Hurricane Sandy Affected Women Small Business Owners

By Karin Kamp
Director of Digital Media, The Story Exchange


The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will affect businesses for weeks, if not months. And for small businesses, the backbone of New York City’s economy, a blow from a disaster like Sandy can have a huge impact. Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show that businesses of five employees or less account for 60 percent of all businesses, and companies with under 100 employees account for 98 percent of all businesses.

Has your business suffered a loss due to Sandy? Here are a some helpful resources:
The New York City Economic Development Corporation is coordinating resources for businesses that have been affected by the storm, including low interest loans. has a page dedicated to Hurricane Sandy Business Recovery Information
The state of NJ is offering assistance for self-employed in affected counties.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a page dedicated to Hurricane Sandy and resources available.

We wanted to find out how small business owners are coping in the days after Sandy. So The Story Exchange asked small business owners in the metropolitan area how their businesses are faring. Here are some stories women told us.

Mary Pender Greene, LCSW-R, CGP, Owner MPG Consulting

I am a psychotherapist with a clinical supervision and consulting practice in midtown Manhattan. For the past several days since Hurricane Sandy, I have not been able to travel to my office to meet with clients… Many of my clients are already in crisis (anxiety, depression, grief), so the disruption and chaos caused by Sandy is felt even more acutely. Not being able to come to my office to talk about these feeling and issues has caused profound angst and fear. I have been able to lessen the upset by finding creative solutions that allowed me to be present for them during this difficult time. I have been texting, emailing and Skyping with them when electronic power allows. These methods have helped me to maintain a connection with my clients and have lessened their feelings of isolation and vulnerability. It is still very difficult, if not impossible, to get in and out of the city. I am concerned for the patients who need to travel into NYC for psychiatric evaluations. I am also concerned for those who are taking anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications who need their prescriptions filled at local pharmacies that have been impacted by the storm. A traumatic event may bring up past trauma experiences for stable clients and sometimes cause them to become destabilized. The goal is to prevent extended isolation.

Maria Vizzi, Owner, Indoor Environmental Solutions, Inc., Bronx, NYC

The impact [on my business, dryer ventilation cleaning, air duct cleaning and sanitizing] has been felt in several ways. Our technicians have been impacted personally on various levels and some of them were unable to work and our office staff who uses public transportation were unable to come to the office. Our clients, individuals and resident and property managers of co-ops, condos and townhouse communities in the tri-state area were impacted and they couldn’t be serviced.

Another client, the New York City Fire Department and EMS, for which we clean the air ducts and dryers, were rightfully prioritizing emergency response, and all our work for them has been stalled for the moment. The difficulty in getting gas for our fleet has been a problem but we are driving as far as Connecticut to gas up our vans one by one. We are coping by being available and by accommodating everyone’s situation as best we can… Our staff has been communicating with our clients, calling and emailing to re-schedule appointments. Our concerns are being empathetic to the current situation on all fronts.

Elise Ainsworth, Owner Scotch Plains Montessori, Scotch Plains, NJ

We are a childcare provider caring for children ages 1 to 7. My business has been affected tremendously. Due to the hurricane, we currently have no power in the area and also at the school location, so we have been forced to close the school all week. We have parents that still have to go to work and are forced to find childcare elsewhere. We are not state or goverment funded so we make our money from the parents. The damages that we have suffered is consider an act of god and my insurance company will not cover for natural disasters and income lost due to the hurricane.

Barbara Bruce-Ross, Owner, B.Witching Bath Co., Ridgewood & Hawthorne NJ

We have two company-owned retail stores and sell our products over the internet and to 700 other retailers nationwide. Our corporate building was without power for a couple days, but today we were back online and all our employees reported for work. We spent the day shipping orders and making upgrades to our break room, kitchen area and corporate bathroom that includes a shower. Many of our employee family’s are without power, heat and hot water. Although we are a small business, we thought it would be beneficial to get our shower up and running to help provide our familes with a way to get cleaned up, get warm food in their belly and a provide place for children to watch videos. With a quick run to the local Home Depot, we were able to get the supplies we needed to make some quick upgrades and make everyone is a little more comfortable.

Liz Elting, Co-founder, TransPerfect, Manhattan

Headquartered in NYC, my team and I are among the companies who have spent numbers of business hours without power or access to our main headquarters. We are a language services and technology solutions company with offices all over the world, serving clients on a global basis, so we needed to ensure continuity of service even in the face of an unprecedented disaster. Fortunately, we’ve been able to accomplish this goal by providing 24-hour support to our New York headquarters by re-routing work to our west coast offices and to western Europe. On a personal level, our employees are out in the community doing what they can to help their neighbors. One longtime employee has told me she had over 25 people come to her home on the edge of the power outage grid in lower Manhattan. Her power stayed on through the storm, and she has been providing showers, cell phone charging, computer charging and meals to people who she meets in the street and some who have knocked on her door.