(NNPA)—For decades, many travelers to New York City have limited their excursions to Manhattan neighborhoods south of Central Park. Moreover, those who do choose to go beyond the traditional tourist hotspots often see neighborhoods like Harlem—my home for nine years—from the top floor of a tour bus.
This experience cannot possibly impart the “real” Harlem—a vibrant and historic community with world-class cuisine, soulful music and a rich artistic scene that continues to breathe new life into an area whose cultural exports have been changing the world for more than 100 years.
I want visitors to see the Harlem I know up close, not from behind the plexiglass of a tour bus window. My business, “I Bike Harlem,” gives travelers the opportunity to discover our handsome brownstones and vibrant small businesses. It’s a business I am incredibly proud of and it’s a business that would not exist were it not for the economic opportunity provided by Airbnb.
I began sharing my home on Airbnb as a way to earn a little extra money while starting I Bike Harlem. Through Airbnb, I was able to raise the funds I needed to start my business–investing in the bicycles, helmets, storage, and insurance that brought it from an idea on paper to reality. Now, my business is growing — with customers from all around the world including right here in Harlem. In fact, many of my customers are Airbnb guests. In that way, I am part of an “Airbnb business cycle”: I started my company with income earned as an Airbnb host, and in turn, Airbnb guests have helped my business grow and thrive.
Our elected officials often talk about fostering a “startup” culture in New York City, with millions of dollars invested in tech campuses, incubators, and tax credits throughout the Empire State. Important as these investments are, the truth is that our public policy must recognize that entrepreneurship and the economic activity it generates, comes in many different forms, now more than ever.