10 am Thursday morning, members of NYLESA started arriving at the Press Box, an Irish-American bar and restaurant located in a 150 year-old building in midtown Manhattan. It was not a brunch gathering but a Career and Business Fair, an event organized by the Career Support Working Group, especially for its members.

Running for the second year, the fair offered an opportunity to promote small businesses, old and new, amongst members. Taking part for the first time, Anisha Varughese wanted to ‘sell’ a new idea she came up with from her love of cooking – a home-cooked Indian food service. Another first timer, Saleha Atif, has been selling her clothing and jewelry artworks online, the fair gave her a rare chance in her 3.5 years living in New York to physically show her products.

Oliver Caudon attended the event for the second time. Debuting his business (and pro bono support) as a self-confidence coach in the fair last year has helped more people to know about his work and to spread the word. Oli continued to participate in this year’s fair so he could reach out to more members directly and let them know what he could offer.

The event was free for attendees except for the business-promoters, who contributed $20 each towards the venue hire. First timer Odelea Freire thought it was an amount totally worth paying in exchange for an opportunity to talk about the insurance agent job she just started herself only two weeks ago. In the two hour session there, she was not only able to tell other participants about the insurance benefits but also managed to raise the interest of three other members, who now want to become insurance agents like her.

The place was bursting with attendees, talking about the business offers and ideas, making new acquaintances or simply just chatting and catching up with friends. However, the fair saw a significant decrease of businesses presented, only six tables compared to 13 last year.

Explaining the fall, Tuba Samih Durrani, the NYLESA Chair, also a second timer, disclosed two reasons. Firstly, this year was a promotional event only, so members could be put off by this no buying/selling rule. Secondly, the timing might be too close to the holiday season with many being away or too busy.

Nessreen Abuzeid, who recently took over the role as Career Support Coordinator said they would take all of this experience into consideration for the next Career and Business Fair, which could be as soon as April 2018. Nessreen also has other plans to provide more career support for members as well as promoting NYLESA in general.