New Businesses Emerge Even As Pandemic Poses Challenges

new businesses
L. to R.: Michael DePietro, chairman & CEO of Acoustik Attak, Inc. (Photo by Darlene Santiago DePietro) and Pulse fitness founder Julie Dermer. (Photo by Matteo Photography)

Michael DePietro played a few riffs on his Gibson guitar one recent afternoon as the sound coursed through a Supro Black Magick reverb amp, first with the help of a traditional pick and then with a premium pick his company makes.

“These picks brighten the tone that you get,” DePietro, a 46-year-old Manhasset resident, said. “And they add a little percussive effect.”

DePietro, CEO of Karate Combat, a professional sports league, and Mark Labbe, the company’s chief technology officer, joined forces during the pandemic to launch Acoustik Attak, a new company that makes ridged, not flat, guitar picks.

“It really brings this brightness and this aura to my reverb amp when I play on my Gibson,” DePietro said. “If you can change the tone at your fingertips, that’s when the art gets conveyed in the music.”

While the pandemic may be a tough time for longstanding businesses and startups, DePietro is among a plethora of entrepreneurs who started businesses even as Covid-19 complicated nearly everything.

Julie Dermer, a Manhattan and East Hampton resident, started her own virtual workout company known as Pulse amid the pandemic after SoulCycle, where she is an instructor, temporarily closed down.

“I didn’t intend for it to be a business,” said Dermer, known as Julie D to those who take her personal training classes. “I wanted a way to stay connected to my community. I got onto Instagram and sprang into action.”

Dermer initially taught half-hour exercise classes with a dish towel and bottles for weights, but her virtual workouts have taken off with about 200 members in addition to classes for companies, she says.

“I’m doing it for a few corporations through their HR departments as health and wellness for their employees,” said Dermer, who offers classes four days a week on Zoom as well as private, in-person lessons and classes for special occasions. 

Entrepreneurs have been starting up and expanding through franchises, seeking to start their own businesses by tapping into existing brands.

Josh York, CEO of GYMGUYZ, an in-home personal training company, said his company has been growing rapidly during the pandemic as franchisees start up and clients seek training in their homes.

“In the last eight months, it’s been pretty crazy,” York, based in Plainview, said. “We are a mobile operation. There’s no brick and mortar.”

York said he recently got 45 franchise leads from an appearance on CNBC for his company, which sells virtual training and in-home training sessions.

“People sampled our service throughout the pandemic,” York said. “The pandemic created new consumer behavior. The whole world is based on convenience.”

While many startups provide online services, Acoustik Attak used technology to get started, like a high-tech version of a garage band. Labbe made the first picks with a 3D printer, before they refined designs and found a manufacturer. 

Acoustik Attak, DePietro said, remains a “100 percent virtual company” with 12 employees in home offices.

“The guitar market grew 17 percent during Covid,” DePietro said, explaining one reason this may be the right time for his company to launch and grow. “People were staying home and picking up a new instrument.”

Companies are expanding online and via brick and mortar. GYMGUYZ recently got into Costco, which sells its virtual training sessions. 

“It’s not easy to get into Costco,” York said. “Persistence, that’s it.”

Brick-and-mortar businesses are launching as well now that the economy is reopening.  High Score Pinball Arcade opened in April at the Westfield South Shore mall in Bay Shore with more than 40 pinball machines.

And MagicBox by SHOWFIELDS, a revolving retail experience with brands and communities which bills itself as “the most interesting store in the world,” opened at the Roosevelt Field mall, in March.

Traditional retail is beginning to rebound, but Dermer believes virtual services, such as physical training, which lets people work out at home, will remain in fashion long after the pandemic abates.

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