Op-Ed: The New York Privacy Act would put the squeeze on my smoothie shop

The Nourish Spot 1
The Nourish Spot Queens located at 10705 Guy R Brewer Blvd. Jamaica
Photo provided by Dawn Kelly

One day in 2015, my corporate job was eliminated. I’d worked hard for over 30 years, and suddenly I didn’t know where my next paycheck would come from or what I should do with myself.

It was a painful time, and I felt really down–but I decided I’d lift myself up by improving my diet and health. I started experimenting with nourishing, creative smoothie recipes and salads. Soon I felt more than better: I felt inspired. And in 2017, two years to the day after losing my job, I opened my own super-healthy smoothie and salad shop in Jamaica.

My small team and I love what we do, but in an age when New Yorkers have literally thousands of healthy dining options, love, inspiration, and even great food aren’t enough–it’s online digital ads that put us on the map. That’s why I’m worried about a bill New York lawmakers might pass called The New York Privacy Act. That might sound good, but it will upend how digital ads work and make it much more challenging for me to find customers and grow my business.

Today, even a great location on a busy street isn’t enough. You need to fight for every customer. Digital advertising levels the playing field, allowing us to compete with bigger players like Pressed and Sweetgreen. Digital ads from Facebook, Instagram, GrubHub, and DoorDash help us reach people in our area interested in healthy, affordable food from a small local business. We’ve boosted our sales by almost 15% with digital marketing.

Many people–most importantly, legislators–need to understand that one thing digital ads don’t do is let us or anyone else spy on people. I don’t know where our customers live or what they eat for breakfast. We can all agree that people’s sensitive personal data should be protected. But that doesn’t mean we should stop delivering relevant ads to the right people.

That’s why the New York Privacy Act seriously threatens my business. If it passes, it will overregulate how even basic data is used and collected, making it harder for our ads to reach the right people. My Instagram ads won’t do us any good if they go to cheesesteak lovers in Philly or if they’re in the wrong language. Queens is the language capital of the world, so showing ads to people in the right language is critical!

The bill would also hurt our ad partners’ ability to collect and share ad measurement data. Every online advertising provider we work with delivers powerful metrics to help us understand which ads work with which audience and which don’t. Without that, we would be flying blind and wasting our time and money.

I understand that lawmakers are concerned about citizens’ privacy. We all want our data to be safe and secure. But overregulating data means preventing businesses like mine from advertising to the right customers, which will increase costs and hurt our growth. No small or medium-sized business can afford that kind of double whammy.

I’ve worked so hard to start and run a successful business that brings delicious, healthy, affordable food to my community. I recently had a chance to share my concerns with elected officials in Queens and Brooklyn. That was a good start, but policymakers need to actively seek out more small businesses’ views on these issues. I hope my story will help them understand how important relevant digital ads are to small local businesses like mine. I urge them to carefully consider the consequences of supporting The New York Privacy Act.


*Dawn Kelly is the Founder and CEO of The Nourish Spot, a healthy food and beverage oasis in Jamaica, Queens and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. With the support of her team, Dawn has created a unique and impactful brand that offers delicious and nutritious smoothies, juices, salads, wraps, and vegan desserts to the community.