When you’re out shopping at a home décor boutique, collecting pieces from a new fashion brand, or getting a relaxing massage in an elegant setting, you might be surprised at who’s behind some of those businesses.
These four inspiring Long Islanders could have fairly recently sat next to you in high school but at only 20-something, they‘re already very successful entrepreneurs — with the reach of one extending as far as Hollywood.
Here’s a look at how they got started and their advice for others in their age group who’d like to become their own boss.
PAUL MIANO, 23, OF EAST MEADOW
OWNER OF THE CLOTHING BRAND KORRUPTED CLOSET
Paul Miano, an East Meadow High School graduate who studied photography at Nassau Community College and SUNY Empire State College, started his Korrupted Closet clothing brand as a “big experiment.” He quickly turned it into a successful formula with only $32 in startup money — and among his fans is Al Pacino’s 20-year-old daughter, Olivia.
“I was always into fashion because it allows you to express yourself in many ways,” Miano says. Korrupted Closet styles are mostly on-trend bleach distressed looks and include tees and hoodies with band, college and other logos. To fashion his styles, Miano begins with vintage men’s clothing purchased from thrift shops or on eBay.
Miano sells Korrupted Closet online, through Instagram, to wholesalers, at pop-up shops and at Long Island boutiques including Always Reason in Huntington, Reign Boutique in Long Beach, Blu Poppy Boutique in East Massapequa; and Twenty5A, which has locations in Williston Park, Woodbury, Commack and Huntington.
“I saw Justin Bieber wearing band tees then I started wearing them myself and that’s how it came about,” Miano explains. “I started this brand with $32. I went to a thrift store with my girlfriend, bought 12 shirts, put them into a boutique and I’ve been rolling ever since.”
Miano started Korrupted Closet in 2019, bleaching pieces at his parent’s house with the help of his girlfriend Brooke Mooney, 20, also of East Meadow. The first brick-and-mortar store to feature his fashions was Love and Honey Boutique in East Meadow and his operations are now based out of a Lindenhurst warehouse.
“It became known through word-of-mouth and it started to grow — my girlfriend and her sister are fashion influencers” and help promote Miano’s brand, he says. “Al Pacino’s daughter, Olivia, follows my girlfriend on YouTube and said she would love a T-shirt for her dad. I made a vintage Scarface — red and black — I bleached it and tie dyed it afterward.”
The bright red in the tee is a characteristic of Miano’s brand. Many pieces burst with color.
“I personally love color — the pop, the neon, whatever — and I love bleaching because nothing comes out the same. It’s art with all those shapes and lines,” Miano says. “All of my looks are one-of-a-kind.”
And Miano is one-of-a kind in his family when it comes to starting a business. His father, Paul, is an MTA subway train driver and his mother is a professional bookkeeper who handles the younger Paul’s books.
Miano says that anyone can start a business if they’re willing to work hard and stay focused on what they want to do. “I want to build the world’s most popular custom brand,” he adds.
ADVICE: “Start a business with something you’re passionate about.”
KATIE GOULDING, 24, OF SHIRLEY
OWNER OF AJ SUNFLOWER BOUTIQUE IN CENTER MORICHES
30 Main St.; 631-909-8008; ajsunflowerboutique.com
Owning a men’s and women’s clothing and home décor store at just 24 and co-owning a lifestyle brand was unexpected for Katie Goulding, but the ventures are by no means the biggest challenges she has faced. She’s deaf, and it took 14 years of speech therapy for her to learn to speak perfectly.
“I had every intention of being a teacher for the deaf and hard-of-hearing students having the experience myself,” Goulding, who has a cochlear implant, says. She graduated from William Floyd High School in Shirley and earned a teaching degree from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
But Goulding tried working for the Amelia James online women’s clothing company first, which changed the course of her pursuits. A smaller version of LuLaRoe, the company recruits independent fashion consultants to sell products.
“I wanted to try something different involving fashion,” Goulding says. “I never thought I would have a store but Amelia James turned out to be the best thing I ever did — it led to the store.” Goulding loved the experience so much that she gives a nod to the company in the name of her shop.
Her career direction took a new turn one day when Goulding went to say hello to the owner of a consignment shop that used to be in the AJ Sunflower space, not knowing the shop was destined to be hers.
“She sold the business and inventory,” Goulding says of the consignment store owner. “She moved out and I took over the store and it was the biggest big girl thing I ever did in my life. The landlord was skeptical about how I could afford it because I was only 22 at the time.” Goulding’s parents helped by lending her a total of $5,000 for the first month’s rent and security.
Things have blossomed at AJ Sunflower ever since, Goulding says. “I seem to carry what a lot of people are looking for.” Fashions include offerings from Lifestyle Fishing Co. — the brand Goulding owns with her brother, Jonathan, 29, of Lexington, North Carolina. The Gouldings love fishing.
In the future, Goulding sees her continued ownership of the shop and the Lifestyle Fishing Co. brand while pursuing that teaching career as well. She says her retired mother, Lisa, can run things when Goulding is teaching.
“I’m not giving up my teaching dream,” Goulding says.
ADVICE: “Anyone who has a dream should chase it, but being in business isn’t easy. Keeping up with inventory and the latest trends is a big thing.”
JASMINE RICHARDS, 27, OF UNIONDALE
CO-OWNER OF ANOZ SPA BOUTIQUE IN GARDEN CITY
281 Nassau Blvd.; 516-782-1597; anozlife.com
Not a lot of people can say they’ve loved going to a spa since childhood, but Jasmine Richards can. She helped run a spa as a preteen.
Today, Richards co-owns Anoz Spa Boutique with her mother, Sharon Webb-Richards of Queens Village; and it was through her mother and other women in her family that Richards learned how to run a business. Being a female entrepreneur was tradition. Her aunt owns the upscale Negril Village restaurant in Manhattan.
“When I was 12, my mom had a spa in Commack and I used to go there on weekends helping with the reception desk, then I started doing spa parties for kids with my extroverted self,” Richards says. “I had karaoke, a hoola hoop competition and chocolate and strawberry facials for the little girls; so I always loved the spa since I was a child.”
In fact, the only job Richards ever had besides working at a spa was a brief stint at Trader Joe’s when her mother closed her spa in Commack. Another spa Richards’ mother owned was Lux Spa & Wellness in Garden City, which opened when Richards was 19. Her mother’s friend had rented a space for her physical therapy practice and asked Richard’s mother if she’d like to share the site and start a business there too.
“My mother said she would only do it if we did it together,” Richards says. “I was good at marketing and we were there about a year,” then the pair moved to a larger space when that spa did so well they needed a larger location. A graduate of Bay Shore High School, Richards attended SUNY Old Westbury and The Swedish Institute for Massage Therapy in Manhattan but dropped out of SUNY because, “It was too much to run a business and be in college.”
The mother/daughter team opened Anoz nearly four years ago, with the name being that of Richard’s late grandmother, Zona, spelled backward. Referring to her Jamaican heritage and the relaxed, tropical atmosphere of Anoz, Richards says, “We wanted to bring that vibe and that of a vacation.”
Richards does a bit of everything there.
“I do all the marketing, Instagram … I did the logo, made the reception desk from scratch, and laid the floors,” Richards says. “It’s my Jamaicanness — doing everything.”
ADVICE: “Start small. Get your sea legs and work out the kinks for when you blow up.”
GABRIELLE BANSCHICK, 29, OF GREAT NECK
CO-OWNER OF PENELOPE IN WOODBURY
8025 Jericho Turnpike; 516-802-7837; penelopefashions.com
When Gabrielle Banschick was in summer camp, other kids would line up outside her bunk waiting for her to style their T-shirts.
“I was always super creative,” the graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan says recalling her camp days. “I’d cut everyone’s T-shirts and cut them in different ways … I’d do fringe …”
During other times of the year, her friends would treat Banschick’s closet like a store, always borrowing from her vast selection of well-curated clothes and seeking her styling assistance. She represents the fourth generation of retailers in her family who owned men’s or women’s clothing stores.
“Some people like to collect art and I like to wear mine,” Banschick says, and she continues to be known for her styling talents among her customers at the store. And if she gets a call from a media outlet doing a fashion spread, she’s known for putting together a magazine cover-worthy photo shoot with just a couple of hours’ notice.
Penelope was opened about 20 years ago by Gabrielle’s parents, Ira and Marta, who started the boutique on Merrick Road in Bellmore. The Woodbury store is now owned by Banschick and her father. Most of the selections are ‘60s- and ‘70s-inspired — two decades Banschick says she gravitates to despite her age. The shop is named after Penelope Tree, an English model famous in the 1960s.
“I like the music; I like the miniskirts and bell bottoms — they show off a woman’s body,” Banschick says. “Do you ever see skinny jeans coming down a runway?” she asks.
Banschick says her father noticed his daughter’s eye for style when she’d help in the first Penelope store as a child.
“Women come into the store now and remember me selling them a pair of jeans when I was 11,” Banschick says. There are other things about her job today that are reminders of the past, like those days in camp and when friends coveted the contents of her closet. “I wake up to texts from customers asking me what to wear.”
But as much as Banschick adores fashion, she warns that owning a store isn’t that glamorous.
“It’s not easy,” Banschick says. “You have to predict fashions before they happen and that’s not an easy thing to do, and you have to take the chance that they’ll sell well.”
Asked if perhaps celebrity styling might be in her future, Banschick says she’s content keeping her talents local but she’d like to open another Penelope on Long Island.
Banschick says, “There’s nowhere like Long Island with the clothes and the cars.”
ADVICE: “Be willing to put in the work. You can’t be concerned about taking off or your weekends.”