Success Stories

I Am Yogi Studios

Earlier this year in Southeast Queens, a space at the intersec­tion of healing and community opened its doors for the first time. That place is I Am Yogi Studios, which was born from the vision of founder Felicia “Lisa” Robertson. It focuses on giving Black women a safe space to engage in the healing practice of yoga.

After a successful career in retail and finance, Lisa decided to slow down during her second pregnancy in 2019. Recognizing her limits, she made the difficult decision to put her life on pause for the duration of her preg- nancy. Being at home gave Lisa the opportunity think about her future. She would go on to find something that would change her life in unimaginable ways: yoga.

“Yoga saved my life,” Lisa said, reflecting on her early experiences with the practice. She had begun going to a yoga studio and was struck by how yoga left her feeling better not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. What started as a way to heal and find relief quickly became a passion. Lisa was so passionate about yoga that she underwent training to become an instructor. However, as a Black woman, she felt out of place and uncomfortable practicing in studios dominated by white women. Lisa searched for a black yoga studio where she could practice comfortably but could not find one. She took it upon herself to make yoga more accessible to Black people and create a space where Black women like her could come and engage in a new method of healing. This idea would take form as I Am Yogi Studios in early 2020.

The original plan for I Am Yogi Studios was to be a fully virtual yoga studio that would host regular on line classes. The virtual classes began in early 2020 — before the pandemic — and were initially joined by Lisa’s family and friends. However, once the pandemic began and people were quarantining at home, the business began to grow. Between the struggles of isolation and racial tension that defined the times, many Black women saw Lisa’s classes as a new way to deal with their problems and regain a sense of community. As the pandemic continued, Lisa began doing more, including hosting virtual speaking events with women entrepreneurs and in-person, pop­ up yoga classes at public parks and beaches. By 2022, I Am Yogi Studios was thriving, growing to the point where it was necessary to hire full-time yoga instructors to meet the demand for classes.

After the pandemic, Lisa pivoted away from doing classes online. Amid this shift, Lisa also had to manage her existing business needs, including paying and scheduling staff, managing business finances, marketing her classes, and more. Lisa needed support, and that is when she found QEDC’s Entrepreneurship Assistance Center business training course, a 10-week, hands-on, business-training course for new and existing business owners focused on building fundamental skills and knowledge. As a part of the course, Lisa developed a concrete business plan, gained access to an array of small business resources, and began receiving one-on-one personalized coaching from QEDC staff. With the knowledge she gained from the course, Lisa was able to manage her business more effectively. During the last week of the course, she also secured a lease to open her first yoga studio in South Jamaica.

I Am Yogi Studios serves as a testament to its founder’s unyielding spirit and healing mission. Looking ahead, Lisa envisions the business becoming a pillar for its surrounding community, somewhere anyone who maybe seeking to reinvent herself can go and find a better future.


Tembo NYC

At the heart of Tembo NYC beats the captivating story of its founder, Deborah Chusid. Her globetrotting adventures in activism and her inexhaustible creative spirit have come together to stitch the vibrant fabric of Tembo — a testament to her dedication to social impact and artistic expression, and the transformative power of combining the two.

One summer, Deborah’s work as an activist took her to Zimbabwe, volunteering with Bhejane Trust, an organization dedicated to bringing water to wildlife and Elephant/Rhino conservation in Zimbabwe’s National Parks.

While in Zimbabwe, Deborah was introduced to a women’s co-op making woven and hand sewn goods to sell in their community. She learned how the co-op empowered women to participate in the workforce, giving them financial freedom that resulted in the improved wellbeing of their families and community.

Back in New York, Deborah had a successful career in the advertising industry as an Art/Creative Director. Inspired by what she saw in Zimbabwe, Deborah founded Tembo NYC and began working with the Artisan Sewing Co-op in Queens, a co-op consisting of Bengali immigrant women, to produce her fabric totes. As part of their partnership, Deborah ensures that these women earn fair-trade wages and have the opportunity to be creative. All goods at Tembo are made using only environmentally friendly and long-lasting materials, and 5 percent of all profits generated by sales support various nonprofit organizations.

Business took off for Tembo NYC during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing a business opportunity and a chance to help people, Tembo made masks, utilizing a buy-one-donate-one promotion. Tembo was getting so many orders that Deborah decided to quit her corporate job to work at Tembo full-time.

In late 2022, QEDC reached out through the Made in Queens (MiQ) program and offered Tembo NYC a spot at a JFK Airport holiday market. This opened doors to the world of travel retail — which would go on to become Tembo’s most lucrative market — and forged important connections that would shape the future of the brand. Tembo products are also sold in major NYC museums, and pop-up markets around the city. “Made in Queens really started my business…it really gave us a boost by connecting us with JFK,” Deborah said. Now, Tembo is thriving, and its story is far from over.

Deborah’s journey in starting and running Tembo is one filled with success and achievement, yet the thing she is most proud of is the women who sew for her. “My grandparents were immigrants who started off in the garment industry…someone gave them an opportunity…to pass on the torch to someone else is what I’m most proud of,” she said. Deborah and her work at Tembo stand as a shining example of how art can serve as a catalyst to spark meaningful and positive social change.


Pixie Doodle Farm

Embarking on a healing journey steeped in the aroma of herbal tea, Erika Boudreau-Barbee and Joseph “Joe” Dale Harris, the dynamic duo behind Pixie Doodle Farm, are rewriting the script of health and wellness. Through their unique tea blends and guided healing practices, they bring the holistic and natural approaches to healing found in cultures around the world to people in America. The story of Pixie Doodle Farm and its founders is one of fierce determination and shows the importance of balancing passion with pragmatism to ensure long-term success.

Before Pixie Doodle Farm, Erika and Joe were both performers who lost their primary sources of income when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Seeking solace during these times, they turned to another of their passions: herbalism. With their knowledge of herbal remedies and their benefits, Erika and Joe felt that the Western model of healthcare – which emphasizes pharmaceutical interventions – lacked the natural remedies that were so common throughout the rest of the world. While modern medicine has its place in treating more intense ailments, it often prescribes unnecessary treatments in cases where all it would take to improve someone’s health is a simple cup of herbal tea. Recognizing an opportunity to share their passion and cultivate the tea culture that the United States lacked, Erika and Joe decided to transition from life partners into business partners and founded Pixie Doodle Farm.

Pixie Doodle Farm specializes in creating handcrafted herbal tea blends using herbs sourced from reputable organic suppliers. Each tea blend is designed to elicit a specific effect and is influenced by the herbal traditions of cultures from around the world. The tea blends are packaged using compostable, reusable, and recycled materials, avoiding all plastics. Products are sold online and in person at pop-up markets regularly throughout New England. In addition to selling tea blends, Pixie Doodle Farm also offers guided meditation, reiki, and other energy-healing sessions.

As Pixie Doodle Farm grew, it became necessary for Erika and Joe to find a larger and better-equipped space for them to work in. After asking around, one of their performer friends told them about the Entrepreneur Space (E-Space), a food and business incubator in Long Island City operated by the QEDC. While they only expected to have a new space to work out of, they were surprised to find that being at the E-Space yielded additional benefits. They began receiving email blasts from the QEDC notifying them of potential programs and opportunities for their business. Through one of these emails, they found out about the Cultivate Small Business Program run by Santander Bank in partnership with Babson College. This program provides early-stage entrepreneurs in the food industry with a chance to receive a substantial business education and capital grants to fund their business ventures. This program was a turning point for Joe and Erika, arming them with the business knowledge they previously lacked and yielding them $11 thousand in grant money. It was also through the QEDC that Erika and Joe found out about the JFK holiday pop-up market, which they sold at last year.

With their ever-increasing success, they can now pursue many of the ambitious plans they’ve previously had to put aside. Most significantly, they recently bought a five-acre plot of land in Bethel, NY where they plan to build a homestead to cultivate herbs themselves and conduct wellness and healing activities on a larger scale. Looking further into the future, Erika and Joe eventually want to create a Pixie Doodle Farm brick-and-mortar store to sell their teas and conduct more community outreach to educate people about herbalism and its benefits. Erika and Joe’s journey with Pixie Doodle Farm is one defined by resilience, and it teaches us that anything is possible with some passion and a little support.

The Luxe Library

In a world where creativity is often an afterthought, entrepreneur Delicia B. Davis decided to take a stand. She founded The Luxe Library, a space where people can find healing, personal growth, and empowerment through literature and creative ex­ pression. Delicia’s work at The Luxe Library is a testament to how self-expression can help others and shows the importance of determination in achieving dreams.

For as long as she could remember, Delicia loved litera­ture. As a young girl, her parents- – who were deeply religious and focused on giving their children the best education – – strictly controlled the content Delicia consumed. Despite these restrictions, the approved books were more than enough to spark Delicia’s creative spirit. For Delicia, every book was a magical doorway that took her to worlds beyond her wildest dreams. She quickly fell in love with reading, having many fond memories of reading series such as Nancy Drew and The Boxcar Children. As she grew older, her love for literature grew, and she eventually became inspired to write a series of her own: the Dear Diary book series. These books were about overcoming struggles such as bullying and low self-confidence, which Delicia encountered throughout her life. Writing was meant to be an outlet for Delicia, but she soon realized that her writing helped others heal as well. Her books began to gain recognition, and Delicia was invited to do speaking events at places such as colleges, churches, and afterschool programs. At each event, she saw how sharing her story enabled others to share theirs, starting a chain reaction of healing and self-growth. These experiences led Delicia to a powerful realization: creating something meaningful from one’s personal struggles empowers the creator and others who engage with the work. Armed with this realization, she ventured to create a space where people were encouraged to be creative and express themselves however they wanted.

The Luxe Library wasn’t Delicia’s first attempt to realize her dream. She struggled for years working in traditional jobs and as an entrepreneur before creating The Luxe Library. Throughout her career, Delicia worked in diverse roles, including being a community outreach coordinator for NYC Parks and a teacher. In each role, she tried to infuse creativity into her work, but the persistent challenges and resistance to change she faced led to her departure. Tired of having others get in the way of her dreams, she decided to create her own business, Precise Production Group, in 2008. Precise Production Group was a predecessor to The Luxe Library, and it focused on the performing arts rather than literature. Delicia’s tenacity and ongoing connection with QEDC equipped her with the knowledge and ability to persevere, and nearly three years later, she would start a new venture: The Luxe Library.

In 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, The Luxe Library first took form. At the time, Delicia had just left her job as a teacher and had seen firsthand the detrimental impact of virtual learning on children’s literary skills as well as the pandemic’s adverse effects on their mental health. Seeing the perfect opportunity to achieve her dream, she organized a recurring virtual book club for kids. The club meetings were wildly successful. Hundreds of kids and parents joined from around the world, and Delicia received positive reviews about the work she was doing. This initial success proved to Delicia that there was an unmet demand for her work and prompted her to begin monetizing her club and formalizing it as a business. She continued to run her virtual club meetings until the pandemic lockdowns end­ ed, at which point she pivoted to doing things in person. This transition was difficult as it meant losing some of her global customers and relying entirely on local ones, but Delicia quickly adapted by offering more diverse programs which cater to different age groups and interests. The kids’ book club expanded beyond literature and began incorporating other creative activities such as drama and songwriting. Delicia also started the adult club, which focuses on entertainment-based activities for adults, and the entrepreneur’s club, which gives business-minded individuals a chance to learn, network, and market their products. The Luxe Library also began selling books and offering various literary and media arts services to help others create and publish their works. Today, The Luxe Library is a fully-fledged multimedia publishing company focused on providing both quality education and meaningful entertainment to people of all ages.

Come Join Us!

Get Your Tickets Here!

The Queens Economic Development Corporation and Queens Tourism Council will host Queens Taste 2024 at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Tuesday, May 21, from 6 pm to 9 pm.

We expect to attract more than 500 attendees with 50 restaurants and beverage purveyors, who will offer samples of their products. Thus, attendees will be able to bounce from table to table, tasting treats from tangy to fiery, crunchy to velvety, and sweet to briny.

Queens Taste is also a celebration of the borough -- and a great way to network. Almost all the anticipated 500 attendees either live in Queens or do business there. Many are executives and captains of industry. The atmosphere is always festive, almost giddy, creating an ideal scene for meeting and greeting.