62.8 million tourists visited New York City in 2017, marking the eighth consecutive year of record-breaking growth. But what’s a tourist to do after they’ve hit the major spots? Or if they want to avoid the major attractions in the first place? And where should a local start if they want to explore beyond their go-to’s? That’s where Behind the Scenes NYC comes in.
Ironically, the website cataloguing the city’s hidden gems was founded nearly 5,000 miles away in founder Fernanda Paronetto’s bedroom in São Paulo, Brazil. Fernanda – who goes by Fê – has a penchant for exploration and a knack for finding the best local spots, which she exercised during a trip to New York with her sister in 2014.
“What are we going to do this time?”
That question turned into an Instagram account where she posted about the places she’d discovered on that trip, which would later become @behindthescenesnyc. A couple weeks later, she got a message from a born and bred New Yorker thanking her for the local tip. From there, Fê knew she was on to something.
What started as a passion project fueled by a deep love of New York became a business. She enlisted the help of friends living in the city to scout new locations, finding places that looked promising. They’d stop by in person, report back to her, and she would curate and post from overseas.
It wasn’t long before Fê made the transition to the city herself.
Moving to New York has allowed Fê the freedom to roam the city herself, enjoying the discovery of each new restaurant, hotel, shop or event herself, but she always goes under the radar. On visits to a new location, she says “I tell them who I am when I leave.” She doesn’t want special treatment. She doesn’t want freebies. This is central to the philosophy of Behind the Scenes NYC: supporting small local businesses, and highlighting the places she actually loves.
That authenticity is of huge import to Fê, who points out that, on many blogs and travel Instagrams, it’s hard to tell if the content is sponsored or not. “I’m working on strategizing and bringing in sponsorships that are in resonance with my brand.” Fernanda is committed to including locations that she believes are supposed to be shared with her viewers—not places she’s been paid to include. “I go for my mission and what I’m really trying to accomplish.”
In the early days of the blog, already living in NY, Fê often worked out of one of her most-loved places: Beco, an unassuming Brazilian food spot with incredible homemade pão de queijo, a friendly and humble owner, and live music on Sundays. “The food is amazing, the place is really low key, they’re super good.” So good, she’s willing to share them with her audience even if it means filling the place with tourists.
After bouncing between Beco, coffee shops and other local joints for a while, Fernanda decided it was time to find a dedicated workspace. “I needed a place to really focus. I needed to get out of my neighborhood. I needed a community.”
Her transition to WeWork Williamsburg gave her exactly that, but in a more connected and supportive way than Fê could have imagined. She gets the best of both worlds: dedicated space to focus, surrounded by others who are focused on their own work at the numerous float desks in the community space, but she also reaps the benefits of the community hive mind.
Just before she spoke with us, Fê said she’d just finished speaking to a lawyer in the WeWork space about image rights – recommended to her by the front desk. “Because I’m in the community of WeWork, this guy was like, ‘I’ll give five minutes of my time and talk to you with no charge’ … The community is really amazing.” And before that, a fellow WeWorker who also had an Excel spreadsheet open was happy to show her a quick and easy formula when she asked, no Googling necessary.
And Behind the Scenes NYC gets to reciprocate, bringing in emerging brands with local products at events she hosts at WeWork. “I’ve already hosted two events from BehindtheScenes, one here, near the bar, and another on the rooftop. The rooftop here is amazing.”
The only issue? Because her new office is available to its members 24/7, it’s become her second home. “I usually arrive here around 10, I start a little later…sometimes I leave at 1 in the morning.” Fê doesn’t seem to mind though, and as she contemplates bringing BehindtheScenes to other cities, it’s comforting to know that there’s a supportive global community in any major city she might choose to explore next.