Living in Brooklyn, New York, has been a very direct experience. You don’t get to see the cities’ real face until you actually move there. Before, I had no idea how tough NYC is, how tough the USA is for that matter. It’s a city, a country of dreams. A city of the aspiring, the hopefuls, the ambitious. New York City is full of people who can not be who they are at home. Therefor the city is chock-full of creative people, designers, dancers, actors, lesbians, homosexuals, transgenders. People of all races, cultures, and languages, of different talents and trades. And people like me, who feel constrained at home. They, we, all come there and we all want to make it whatever the dream is we are pursuing. Big or small. (text continues below)
What did I want? What did I aspire to? I aspired to be a New Yorker. Did I become one? That’s for others to decide. To be a New Yorker I figured you have to live and work there. So that’s what I did together with my fiancé. We rightly supposed that no corporate or bank would hire us. So we set out to create our own jobs. We got 49% of a Dutch bicycle shop in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn and founded a guided bike tour company as well: Rolling Orange Bike Tours.
We soon found out what running a small business in NYC really meant. It meant and still means hard work. You put in 60 hours a week each and still you don’t get the job done. It means managing staff who work for you who might just quit their job without notice, because there are no contracts between them and you. It means to have at least 3 people work for you that take care of all the paperwork for you because the US is hardly a country for entrepreneurs really, unless you are a corporate business. And you have to pay all of them before you pay yourself. The first year we almost went under. (text continues below)
Being an entrepreneur in NYC also has its up-sides. You meet wonderful people that walk in and out your store every day. You have access to all kinds of bike lobbying groups, local government and your own government to get things done like fighting for safer bike conditions in your neighborhood or promoting bike culture and biking in general to relieve the over-crowded streets and help improve the overall air quality. Entrepreneurs are not looked down on however small their business might be. Everybody knows how god darn much work it is and how easy it is to go bankrupt in a blink of an eye.
For example when your employee has an accident in your store like we had, and your insurance company doesn’t renew your policy. They simply kick you out and good luck finding some other company to cover your back. Or when your rent goes up from $ 5,300 a month to $ 7,800 a month at the end of your lease, which actually also happened to us. And yet we survived and even started to thrive in the years to follow.
New York is no beginners’ game. It’s rough and it’s dirty and it’s also full of that wonderful energy that at first lifts you up and inspires you to go out there and give it all you’ve got. It’s a balancing game though to stay energized in that city. If you don’t pay attention soon enough it will start feeding off your energy and leave you depleted and worn out.
Is that why I left New York City? No. It was a choice of the mind over the heart. Me and my fiancé were just waiting for the first thing to happen to us that would have put us out of business. A traffic accident with one of our guests would have had us in court immediately, no matter how well you’re insured or what barriers you put up. We would have gone down not only with our business, but also personally. That’s no small price to pay or a small risk to run to be in a place that you absolutely love. Because at the end of the day, however much you love New York, it’s not going to love you back. It’s just the over-attractive and ultimate bad boyfriend you can date, but never marry.
Williamsburg, March 14th 2018