The Bank of America Small Business Spotlight selected two Queens minority-owned businesses to sell their products at one of New York City’s top winter destinations: Winter Village at Bryant Park.
Woodside residents Tenzin Tseyang and Kalsang Chomphel opened their business Kalsang Pottery this year. Chomphel always loved pottery and, after losing his job during the pandemic, decided to seize the opportunity to turn his hobby into a business.
“Chomphel always wanted to dive full time in pottery and start a business by selling products and was on the precipice of taking that leap of faith,” said Chomphel’s wife, Tenzen. “The personal silver lining of the pandemic was that it pushed Kalsang into starting his business. With all the free time at home after getting laid off the regular job, Chomphel’s full focus was aimed at improving his craft of pottery and handcrafting.”
The couple sells handmade pottery and ceramics for everyday use. All products are hand thrown by Chomphel alone on the potter’s wheel in their small studio in Queens. Products range from kitchenware to vases and pots. All the materials are bought in New York and certified food, microwavable and dishwasher safe.
Chomphel emigrated from India at a young age and found his passion for pottery after working in the service industry for many years. All of the pieces he makes are inspired by Japanese, Korean and British cultures.
“Each Kalsang Pottery product is a work of art, and as an artist, there is no greater pleasure for Chomphel than creating art and sharing it with the world,” Tenzen said.
Kalsang Pottery does not have a storefront yet but has been operating out of craft shows and street fairs around New York City since June. The business also sells products online.
Tenzin said the two are so grateful for the opportunity that Bank of America has given them.
“Bryant Park is one of our favorite parks in the city,” Tenzen said. “Not only are we getting to sell here as a vendor without any charge for two weeks, but more importantly, we are getting lots of exposure as a new business and making connections with clients, other businesses and other artists. Our experience here has been wonderful so far. We [have] successful sales, and it is only boosting our confidence in terms of going higher and further up in business.”
This is the second year that the Small Business Spotlight has given entrepreneurs the chance to sell their products at a rent-free booth during the holiday season. Kalsang Pottery will be at Bryant Park through Nov. 26.
Blue Paws Art will also have a booth at Bryant Park during the holiday season. Entrepreneur and Woodside resident Alvaro Mejia moved to New York from Colombia seven years ago. He started the business just a year after moving to Queens.
“I was an architect there but I moved here trying to make a better life,” Mejia said.
Mejia and his partner Andres Isaquita started their business, Blue Paws Art, initially geared toward the LGBTQ community selling custom pet portraits and art. The duo sells coffee mugs, tote bags and apparel inspired by their white miniature schnauzer, Blue.
“We’ve had a good reaction from people,” Mejia said. “People like what we do, they like what I’m drawing, and that’s how we keep moving. The growth has been slow, but a positive reaction from the customers.”
Mejia mentioned that he had a more challenging time growing his business as an immigrant, especially during the pandemic when many immigrant families were left out of much-needed relief efforts.
“As immigrants, we didn’t have resources or economic help when the pandemic hit,” Mejia said. “We didn’t get any unemployment or any grants that the city was offering.”
Blue Paws Art will have its booth at Bryant Park from Dec. 13 to Jan. 2. Mejia said this opportunity is enormous and will help their business grow tremendously.
“We are expecting to showcase what we do with larger foot traffic, which Winter Village offers,” Mejia said.