Danielle Nazinitsky is impressive. She’s smart, she’s motivated, and she makes things happen. She moved to SoHo in 2011 with the dream of leaving accounting and working in real estate. Now she works for Corcoran, focusing primarily on properies in Tribeca…and, you guessed it, SoHo! While at her accounting job she started a blog called SoHo Strut, and in it she detailed her exploration of the neighborhood. Since then her influence has grown to the point where she’s what she would call a “resident advisor,” which is essentially a person who knows all the best places to eat, drink, shop, and work out in SoHo. She works with brands like diptyque and Moleskin, both of which have been very supportive of her efforts. She’s even had Beyonce show up at one of her events. “I try to promote all the industries in SoHo,” she says. “I love to introduce companies that I meet to one another to help them develop relationships that would be mutually beneficial. It’s all about community.” For more about Danielle’s adventures, read on!
So how did you come to start SoHo Strut?
I bought my own apartment in SoHo three years ago. After going through that process, I knew I wanted to get into real estate, but my background was in accounting. I didn’t have the sales and marketing experience that you need to brand yourself in the industry. I felt like I had to become an expert in something, and I decided I wanted to become a neighborhood expert in SoHo. I like the community, and I like the architecture.
When did you move here?
In 2011. I used to come here with my dad and my cousin when I was a teenager. It’s a cool place to go, but I was really intimidated when I moved. I went on a two year process of discovery to figure out the neighborhood: where people ate, where people shop, what people do, what there is to do. My job in accounting wasn’t fulfilling. I had a passion for the job, but I didn’t have enough work. So I started a blog called SoHo Strut, which was a way for me to reach out to new businesses that were opening up in SoHo, and find out about events that were happening. Then I would write about them. Over the next year and a half, I developed a network of contacts. After I met enough of people – I would meet them for coffee before work or after work – a few of them began asking me to host networking events.
You were still in accounting at this point?
Yes. I quit my job on October 27th, and I’ve been doing real estate since then. It’s scary. But when I look back, I see that everything leading up to what I do now makes sense. In college, I was a resident advisor, and I worked on dorm programs for students. And that has helped more than I would have ever thought. I learned how to do community programming, and how to develop a year’s worth of events on a specific subject.
How did people find you to ask you to do community events?
I was reaching out to people. And then on Facebook I paid $25 a week to target people in my zip code. I started developing “likes,” and every time I posted, I would pop up on their newsfeeds. A few of people started asking me to meet them for a drink. One of them was an attorney who specializes in restaurants. He wanted me to put events together so that he could meet potential restaurateurs to develop his business. And I said, “I’ve never done that,” and he said, “Well, find a bar, and invite people to it.” My first one was last August. It was a free event, and even though I had 50 people RSVP, only 20 showed up. Twenty was plenty, but people weren’t invested in it. So I explored different ways of doing it. The next time I charged $15, which included a drink, and attendance was much, much better. Even if two people didn’t show up, the people who did brought friends. People were committed.
Why do you think charging made people more interested?
I think people in New York believe that the higher the ticket price, the more value something has. I don’t like the tickets to be too expensive, so normally they’re around $15, $20. My last one was $35, and part of it went to charity. When you have to pay to attend, there’s this sense of exclusivity, and people seem to believe they’re getting more from it. It’s funny.
What kinds of people do you meet?
They’re very entrepreneurial, very creative. I met a retail director who said, “The way you could add the most value to me is to introduce me to other retail managers in the neighborhood.” No one knew about his store, which was on Grand Street. There was no foot traffic. A light bulb went off in my mind, and I started creating a database of contacts for retail. So I created put together an event where I ended up having 50 retail managers. A lot of them are struggling – their sales are down. What I do makes it not a personal issue or a store issue, but a neighborhood issue. That way, when they’re corporate headquarters says, “What’s going on,” they can say, “It’s not just me.” I feel like I’m really helping them. I bring in speakers. I did an event where I brought in social media strategists from different firms who spoke about how stores needed to have social media accounts for their specific stores, even if the brand already had them.
So you made it into real estate. What now?
I want to be known as a concierge. If you buy from me, the second you close, you’ll know the managers of every store you love, you’ll get free fitness classes at every single gym, you’ll know where all the art galleries are. My long-term strategy is to give people who buy here access to special things in the neighborhood. It’s a part of my brand.
Given that you are already an expert in the neighborhood, what are some hidden gems of SoHo, and what makes them so special?
- Spring Studio. There’s a drawing studio downstairs. It’s at 64 Spring Street. Minerva Durham, the founder, is sort of a local celebrity, so you get a real neighborhood experience. You’re squeezed in next to people, doing life drawing.
- Blue Ribbon. 97 Sullivan Street. You’re sure to see a celebrity there, and the service is amazing. They don’t do reservations, so you go there an hour before, put your name down, get a drink somewhere else, and then they’ll call you.
- Café Gitane. 242 Mott Street. It’s cash only, and it’s very casual. If you go there during the week, if you can take the time to go for lunch, it’s packed, and you wonder who all these people are who don’t have jobs. It’s loud, and people are talking about their lives – it’s very, very New York.