Start a Business Now? During a Recession? In Queens?


If you listen to the “How I Built This” podcast or read the eponymously named book by host Guy Raz or have heard Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership team, the answer is a resounding yes. To which I thought a pretty skeptical, “are you kidding me?”

They give examples of Fortune 500 mainstays like GE, IBM, FedEx and Microsoft as companies that were started during recessions by one or two individuals with a dream and still thrive today many decades later. Or companies like Uber, Slack, and eyewear industry innovator Warby Parker that began during the Great Recession of the last decade.

While I understand the motivation behind sharing these companies’ stories, it might be hard for you and I to relate to directly. Thankfully, we have some great examples right here in Queens of companies that were started during difficult economic circumstances and have been able to succeed despite all of the challenges they faced.

Take for example Sussman-Automatic that began just before the 1907 panic. Or Williams Valve or Vassilaros & Sons, both of which began as World War I was coming to an end.

Speaking of wars, I can only imagine what it was like when my family’s fourth-generation logistics company was founded as the U.S. Civil War was ending and the Reconstruction Era was beginning. Thankfully, the invention of the telephone and the electric light bulb a few years later brightened (pun intended) future prospects for success.

Now 155 years later, JW Hampton continues to help importers and exporters by providing logistics solutions. From sole proprietors to multi-national corporations, across the country and around the world, we support our customers through recessions, depressions and booms; wars, pandemics and peaceful prosperity; good times, bad times and in-between times…and we will be here for decades to come.

Another family-run business, Musco Food was established during the 1926 recession followed by both Propper Manufacturing and Plaxall coming into existence just years after Disney did during the Great Depression.

Post-WWII saw the beginnings of Gray Glass and then City-Gates, which started in the wake of the Korean War. Then more recently amidst the recession of the early 1990s, Crystal Window & Door began manufacturing in Queens.

Sure, we are living in a time of economic uncertainty to say the least, and many of us have more than our fair share of fears due to this pandemic. Let’s not stay socially distant though from our entrepreneurial dreams. Like many of the founders of these multi-generational Queens-based companies, we too can choose our dreams over our fears.

That’s not to say that there will not be more tough times ahead. That comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. In the words of businessman and Shark Tank investor Daymond John who grew up in Hollis, “Everyone has an idea, but it’s taking those first steps toward turning that idea into a reality that are always the toughest” which is why he adds, “Don’t wait for the perfect time, you will wait forever.”

So whether you want to invent a gadget or manufacture a widget or provide a much-needed service, what are you waiting for? A vaccine?

We are fortunate to have a great partner in the team at our own Queens Chamber of Commerce, which began helping local businesses back in 1912 right between the panic of 1910 and the recession of 1913. They have a wealth of resources for us to utilize as we take this leap of faith and fortitude including their great Business Services Guide.

Wishing you much patience, perseverance and productivity as you wake up, get up, and start-up.

Please contact us at (718) 276-0301 or visit for any logistics-related questions, including duty rates, air/ocean freight, trucking, warehousing, and FDA regulations.

Michael Shoule is vice president of JW Hampton and author of the children’s book My Daddy Loves Boston College Football.

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