Nov. 5—WHEATFIELD — Coming up on one year in operation, Nasreen Akhtar's latest business venture has gone on pretty well for her.
Her way of achieving the American dream has taken the form of the Naz716 Business & Cultural Center, a space where aspiring businesses can get their start and other cultural events can take place.
A Pakistani immigrant whose family moved in Niagara Falls when she was seven, and a Niagara University graduate, Akhtar has owned Aero Transportation with her husband Anas for over 10 years. She also owns the Beauty by Naz salon and the Naz716 studio.
She and Anas started this center as it felt like there was no place she could express her culture. It was also a way to help women and minorities struggling to get their business going.
"I remember when I rented my first space and used to pay over $1,500 for rent and utilities," Akhtar said. "I wanted to provide a space where business owners can come in and don't have to worry about utilities and other things business owners don't have to worry about. We take care of cleanings and snowplowing."
Located at 6951 Williams Road in Wheatfield, just south of the former Summit Mall, the 8,000 square foot site opened on Nov. 12, 2021 and has 20 suites available to rent with conference areas for tenants to use. Along with the businesses Akhtar operates, other tenants include the Ibero business center, space for Orleans/Niagara BOCES classes, Jewish Family Services, Dritschel Family Chiropractic, and Master Peace Massage.
While it does not matter to Akhtar what kind of business wants to set up inside, she does want the right people to create a positive atmosphere. Naz716 also helps with marketing the businesses inside as much as it can.
"Right now we have about 50 people that come through the building each week," Akhtar said. "We hope to get at least 100 each week within the next three to four months."
Akhtar also feels it is important to give back to the community she grew up in, so she does an annual turkey giveaway at the Harry F. Abate Elementary School, giving away around 400 turkeys for Thanksgiving per year, and works with Jewish Family Services to assist refugees coming into the area.
Looking ahead, Akhtar wants to start a scholarship fund in her mother's name for South Asian women going to college and have more cultural events like a Bollywood night. She is also working with the Niagara Fall School District Board to see if Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, can be taught starting next year. If not at the schools, it would be done at the center.
"I can speak it, but I would like to read and write it too," Akhtar said.
Expanding the building is also in the works, along with working to get future sites in Niagara Falls proper and Buffalo. With everything that has happened in the area over the past year, including lingering affects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Akhtar feels the space has been going on pretty well.
There are five spaces in the building open for renting, with Akhtar available to give tours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.