The Right Way To Ask for Money

NJ Forecast

Sculpting Success

Hamilton Scavenger Hunt

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Deb Cooperman, Sally Friedman, Bart Jackson and

Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the July 14, 2004 issue of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide

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The Right Way To Ask for Money

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and nowhere is

that maxim more true than when trying to raise funds for a new

business. "You’ve got to grip your audience in the first 30 seconds,"

says Virginia Bonker, partner and co-founder of Blue Rock Capital. You

may have the greatest business idea in the world, but if you don’t

plan your pitch to capture the attention of the investors, Bonker

says, you won’t get the money. You might not even get in the door.

On Tuesday, July 20, at 11:30 a.m., Bonker speaks on "Effective

Fundraising Pitches" at the meeting of the Venture Association New

Jersey at Headquarters Plaza Hotel in Morristown. Cost: $45. Visit for registration information.

Born and raised in Middlesex County, Bonker received her undergraduate

degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Harvard and

an MBA from Columbia University. As an International Rotary Scholar,

she studied philosophy in Southeast Asia.

Her company, Blue Rock Capital, located in Sussex County, specializes

in early-stage information technology and service businesses in the

eastern United States, and she wades through hundreds of pitches a

month. "There are lots of things that go into an effective

presentation," she says. "It’s a production. It’s about story-telling,

setting the stage, knowing your actors."

"Writing the check," she says, "is the easy part. After that you have

to live together. It’s like a marriage. The wedding is the fun part,

and the actual marriage – living together – that’s the hard part." But

before setting up housekeeping, entrepreneurs need to make it to the

church and take the walk down the aisle. Here’s Bonker’s advice to

entrepreneurs on making it that far:

Be venture ready. "You have to understand what it means to be venture

ready," she says. To be venture ready, you need to have built your

company, hired employees, and put a strong management team in place.

Further, you need to be validated by customers, as well as by your

service providers. "Do your lawyer and accountant believe in you?,"

she asks. "Have you captured their imaginations? Who has your team

attracted? The people you’ve been able to get on board because they

believe in you – that has to be part of your story."

You should also be able to explain your vision clearly. There should

be a demand for your product or service in "a well understood market

that you can demonstrate," Bonker says.

Know your audience. "If you really want to put the effort into getting

venture capital, you have to know your audience," Bonker says. "It’s

amazing to me how many people will waste my time – which is the only

commodity for me – sending pitches to ‘Dear Sir.’ You should be so

knowledgeable: who they are, where they have invested in the past,

boards they’ve sat on. Reference specifics. Out of the 300 E-mails

they get, why should they respond to you?"

Know the requirements of your audience. Most investors have a

requirement for customer revenue. If your business is not there yet,

let potential investors know that you understand their expectations,

and tell them: "I understand your requirements; here’s our blueprint.

Here’s our vision. Let them know: ‘We’re going to meet your

requirements and we’ll be ready for you when you want to invest.’"

Ask before you need. "Start the fundraising process before you need

the money," Bonker cautions. "You shouldn’t go out there saying ‘I

need the money right away or we’ll go under.’ This process takes

months, not weeks."

Don’t overwhelm. There’s a fine line between giving the right

information and giving too much, says Bonker. Things you must include

in your package: management team, financial projections for the next 3

years ("Five years is too much."), when you expect it to be profitable

("Twelve months is great, 30 months is too long.")

Once you get past the paper pitch and are invited to a meeting, you

know you’ve captured their attention. "Now," Bonker says, "you have 20

minutes to a half hour for your pitch." If you do well, she adds "you

might wind up with two hours, but you have to be extremely disciplined

and focused to get there."

Everybody participates. If you are invited to meet with a funding

source, Bonker is emphatic that everyone on your management team must

play a part in the pitch. "If people come to the meeting and say

nothing, if the CEO does all the talking, we’ll wonder ‘Is this a

team, or does one person ride roughshod over the rest of them?’ Are

they a true team, or are these other people scenery?"

Be prepared, but also loose. The pitch should not be scripted, Bonker

says. Don’t overwhelm the room with a slick PowerPoint presentation.

"Twelve slides is about right."

Like the decision to marry, Bonker says there is something that can’t

be analyzed about the process of choosing a company to invest in. "We

have to assess chemistry, vision, passion, energy, and commitment,"

she says. So prepare well, but not so well that you paper over your

essence. It’s that elusive something special that may well seal the


– Deb Cooperman

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NJ Forecast

There are those who would insist that looking into the region’s

economic future is futile, that a crystal ball is about as helpful as

anything else. But that’s not the attitude of the Rutgers-Camden

Quarterly Business Outlook crowd, a dedicated group of present/future

business trend-watchers that meets four times a year to consider the

outlook for the season ahead. Sponsored by the Rutgers School of

Business in Camden, the group has a solid purpose and mission,

according to Michael Sepanic, communications director of


"The Quarterly Business Outlook has provided the region with a

ground-level view of the economy for the past 10 years, and the need

for this information has never been more crucial," says Sepanic.

"Rising gas prices, an increase in interest rates, and a wobbly

economic recovery are just a few factors that make this summer event

so important."

The Outlook series is supported by the Cherry Hill law firm of

Flaster/Greenberg, where managing shareholder Peter R. Spirgel is one

of the driving forces behind the effort, and by the Chamber of

Commerce of Southern New Jersey. The summer seminar takes place on

Tuesday, July 20, at 8:30 a.m. at the Clarion Conference Center in

Cherry Hill, and is free, but pre-registration is required. Call

856-424-7776 or visit

The summer seminar is organized around five business sectors –

economics, banking, retail, manufacturing, and automotive, and there

is a panelist to address each sector’s issues. They include Ted Crone,

vice president and economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of

Philadelphia, who addresses the economy in general; Jeffrey Brown,

president and CEO of Brown’s Super Stores, operator of six ShopRite

supermarkets in the Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey region,

addressing retail; and Peter Dooner, president and CEO of the John

Maneely Company in Pennsauken on manufacturing.

Also on the summer forecast panel are Mindy Holman, president and CEO

of Holman Enterprises, reflecting on the automotive industry; and

Warner Knobe, chairman and CEO of the Bank in Gloucester County.

Moderator is Milton Leontiades, dean of the Rutgers-Camden School of


Holman offers a preview of her upcoming forecast. "Interest rates are

still relatively low, which helps with the financing of vehicles," she

says. Her company is comprised of 22 car and truck dealerships and an

automotive parts distribution division as well as a large vehicle

fleet leasing and management company. This gives her a good view of

what is going on in the automotive sector as a whole.

"The June sales pace slowed down from the pace of the previous couple

of months, so inventories have blipped up a bit," she says. "The

automobile manufacturers have not slowed down their production to any

great extent, so it will be important to them to help dealers to move

their inventories." The combination of relatively low interest rates

and manufacturers’ desire to move merchandise could mean good deals

for consumers as they shop for the second largest purchase they are

ever likely to make – an all but essential ingredient in suburban


From Dooner of the John Maneely Company, a privately-owned

manufacturing company of steel pipe and tube products for the

non-residential building industry, comes the suggestion that the Asian

market will be a huge factor in the manufacturing sector during the

next quarter. "That’s what we have to be watching," says Dooner. Once

known chiefly as a manufacturing center for toys, clothing, and

novelties, and then for electronics, Asian countries are now pulling

in manufacturing orders for everything from fine furniture to flat

screen televisions.

More than 300 executives attended the spring Quarterly Business

Outlook, according to Sepanic. At that time, attendees found that

"Southern New Jersey’s economic outlook is promising, but employment

and health care woes cast shadows on an otherwise sunny forecast." At

the April event, panelist Crone of the Federal Reserve Bank, who has

participated in nearly all of the Forecast seminars, offered generally

good news for the Garden State. "The recovery in New Jersey has gained

a solid footing," said Crone at the spring gathering. "The labor

market is showing substantial improvement."

Crone’s assessment was borne out just a few weeks ago when a survey

revealed that New Jersey is leading the economic recovery in the

greater New York region.

Stephen Greenberg, shareholder with the law firm of Flaster/Greenberg,

another April panelist, noted that the legal community regionally

experienced a 3.5 percent increase in 2003 over 2002. Despite that

growth, noted Greenberg, the increased expense of doing legal business

is an ongoing challenge.

There are so many pieces to the economic puzzle. They include the

expense of doing business, prices, interest rates, the cost of gas –

and consumer fixation with same – politics, taxes, foreign trade; and

that’s just a partial list. Economics is generally perceived as a

numbers-heavy discipline, and so it is. Yet psychological factors play

a large part in the direction of the economy. Will the presidential

election go smoothly this time? Will Osama bin Laden be brought to

justice? Will there be another round of high-profile corporate

lay-offs? And just how high will the price of milk go?

– Sally Friedman

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Sculpting Success

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that those who shun

retirement in favor of work live a whole lot longer than

contemporaries who have no clock to punch. The study’s authors suggest

that those who love their work keep right on doing it, regardless of

age, and that those who dread Mondays should find work that will

engage them for years – or decades – to come.

Longevity is one reason for finding satisfying work. Success is

another. Few people who yawn and grumble through their workdays get

very far in their occupations. Ditch soul-killing routine; shift to an

engaging career; and find success. That is the message Stephen

Schiffman has been spreading for decades.

He gives his "What Stops Success?" seminar at the Princeton Chamber’s

Business Council Breakfast on Wednesday, July 21, at 7:30 a.m. at the

New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road.

Cost: $25. Call 609-924-1776 or visit He

also does a book signing that night at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble


A New York City native, Schiffman graduated from Cornell University in

l968 desperate to take that first trek to achievement, but not knowing

which mountain to scale. "It was an exciting time," he recalls. "So

much change was happening, it was scary. The country was divided.

Japan was making money off of our inventions, and technologically we

were overwhelmed." Schiffman had already taken the first step toward

success – one that most graduates neglect. He had assessed his times.

He analyzed business and also the state of his culture.

Then, in a flurry of action, Schiffman began tasting an occupational

sampler. In his first two years following school, he held nine jobs,

working as everything from a psychologist to a theater manager. From

all of these jobs he drew and distilled information. In 1979, after

working in sales and training for several private firms, he founded

the D.E.I. Management Group in New York. Scott McLaughlin, who has an

office on Wall Street in Research Park, represents the company in

Princeton (609-430-8292). Its business is providing motivational

training and imparting sales-boosting tactics. To date he has trained

over 300,000 business people. Along the way he has been a guest

commentator on CNN’s "Smart Money," and has written a number of books,

including "Cold Calling Techniques," "25 Most Common Sales Mistakes,"

and "High Efficiency Selling."

"Every one of us hits the wall of rejection, and hits it early," says

Schiffman. "At 12 years old, the kid is told he is the next Einstein

and can be president. Sometime during high school, after a C in math

and a D in political science, he figures out that he’ll be neither

president nor Einstein, and will probably never own a Lear jet."

Throughout life such rejection and disappointment continues for

absolutely everyone – even the successful. The big question Schiffman

poses is "How do you handle it and still achieve?"

Make a motivational choice. No one is going to beat you about the head

and force you to take a certain job. There are a lot of paths to

obtaining grocery money. Schiffman advises that anyone, at any stage,

considering a career ask first, "Will this job get me up out of bed in

the morning with energy or dread?" Most people tumble into their line

of work by accident or circumstance. It may be a fabulous accident.

But if not, it is a temporary misstep that can be changed.

Accept burnout. You can only go at anything so hard for so long. At

some point, maybe after five years, maybe after 30, you are going to

sit at your desk and say, "I’ve already done this." Just because

engineering enthralled you for years does not mean that it must excite

you now. "There are a lot of workers coming to the office every day

who are putting more into their lawn, than their job," laughs

Schiffman. "If so, admit it. And instead of shame, plan ways to move

past it."

Re-invent yourself. You may still want to do engineering. You may

crave a total career change. Either way, regardless of your

occupation, you can re-invent yourself. Initially, Schiffman suggests

that you change the little things: hairstyle, mode of dress, office

decor, anything that confines your thought, and feeds your brain with

the signal "brother, here we go again."

Afterwards, conduct an analysis to find out where the larger change

needs to come. Maybe you need to be your own boss. Perhaps there is

another field of work where your expertise and fresh enthusiasm would

be welcome. But before you jump, Schiffman advises, work at forming a

good vision of yourself. List your qualities. But also make the vision

a realistic one. If you would really be happier as a surgeon, are you

willing to sacrifice 13 years of life to the medical training


Exercise your voice. First, let out a huge yell. Wake yourself up.

Scream loudly and surprise yourself with the random thoughts that

follow. Once you have let it all out, work on your speech patterns.

"Give yourself a richer speaking experience," says Schiffman. "No

matter what line of work you seek, the better trained your speaking

habits, the better your success." It may take a course, it may take

practice and scripting, but keep at it. The ability to speak well is

one the few common denominators to getting a job and then excelling at


Bust a gut. "To break the mental rut, you have to do something

physical," says Schiffman. But again, use a little planning here.

Slogging along at a treadmill may not provide the stimulation to break

you out of the treadmill at work. Consider what excites you. Maybe

it’s a sport with lots of fast moving action, like volleyball. Perhaps

you need more solitary time, offered by bicycling or running.

Weightlifting may seem dull, but it affords a truly measurable sense

of accomplishment. Or maybe you just need to break free, run across

the park to a wide stretch and fling yourself down in the summer


Avoid mythology. "I have the biggest trouble training lawyers,

engineers, and book sellers," says Schiffman. "They read too much, and

they intellectualize all the common myths." If you work hard you will

succeed, they are told, so they wonder why they are not succeeding.

"The biggest obstacle to success is to get past all the ‘truth’ we

have been taught, and instead view our own situations realistically,"

he adds.

Of course, the most pervasive myth is the common perception of what

constitutes success. Never at any time does Schiffman mention the

matter of money. Lear jets are fun, as are dozens of other costly

toys. But odds are achieving that they will not move your soul. So ask

yourself, if not jets, then what?

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Hamilton Scavenger Hunt

A truly great marketing scheme not only captures the public’s

imagination, but it also solves a real problem. Marsha Stoltman,

founder of Mercerville’s Stoltman Group, and Roseanne Cofone-Stewart,

head of Robbinsville-based the Big Event, think that they have come up

with such a scheme to promote small businesses in the Hamilton area.

A problem for Hamilton’s retailers is business geography. This

39.5-square-mile township consists of many small village and business

centers, all segmented by highways, such as Route 130, which is home

to major chains and malls. So, while the scope of Hamilton’s business

services is impressive, many of its small to mid-size providers remain

unknown, even to township residents. "I cannot believe the number of

businesses I personally discovered just in setting up this hunt," says


Cofone is referring to the Great Hamilton Scavenger Hunt. She and

Stoltman came up with it after brainstorming revealed some basics of

human behavior. Shoppers hate to search, the two realized, but game

players adore the thrill of the hunt. After a little more thought, the

scavenger hunt, which began on Saturday, July 3, and continues until

midnight on October 1, emerged as a plan.

From now through the summer and the first days of autumn, residents

and non-residents alike are invited to pick up scavenger hunt "Task

Books" and to begin fulfilling as many of the tasks as possible in the

shortest amount of time. The individual items in the hunt center

around everyday life in town. Get a piece of pizza at this shop; have

your picture taken by that town monument; get your car washed; buy a

bouquet; have a piece of embroidery done by some local seamstress.

There are 25 participating businesses and approximately 40 tasks.

Ticket books are available at town hall, the public library, or any of

the participating stores. Store receipts are required as proof of

completion for each item; so hang on tight to them. Books will be

registered to only one entrant, who must be over 18 and who may not

have pals complete his tasks. Hamilton mayor Glen Gilmore sees it as a

fun way to draw non-residents into town and give them a reason to get

to know it better.

And the winner gets? He who completes the most tasks in the shortest

amount of time will be awarded the $5,000 cash Grand Prize at the

Hamilton Economic Development Advisory Committee awards dinner. A long

list of smaller donated prizes will be awarded in several categories.

"Our goal is to get people in our area to learn about the stores and

services already around them," says Stoltman, who has been organizing

events for two decades. Born in St. Louis, she earned her B.A. in

business administration from Southeast Missouri State University. She

has worked for Dow Jones in marketing positions and has planned events

for the Kelsey Group. Today she runs the Stoltman Group as president.

Her husband, Edward, whose background is in hotel management, is in

the business with her.

Cofone says that this initial scavenger hunt is a pilot project that

she hopes will entice more business participants to create larger such

hunts in the future. "It’s one of the few advertising investments that

guarantees customers," she says. Not only does it guarantee customers,

but it goes further, and can specify exactly what product a hunt

participant must buy. This is a boon to retailers with new products

they are sure that customers would love – if only they would try them.

The contest also allows restaurants to specify on which day, or during

what hours, a task must be completed. This lets a restaurateur

showcase a Sunday buffet or fill seats on a slow mid-week evening.

Like Stoltman, Cofone has spent her career planning major events. For

the past six years, her firm, the Big Event, has handled such clients

as Bristol Myers Squibb and several state banks.

Both women see the Hamilton Scavenger Hunt as an excellent opportunity

for small and mid-size businesses to showcase their service advantage.

"The large chains have been told that customers do not care enough to

pay for service, so they drop it as a frill," Stoltman says. "Our

businesses are proving them wrong."

So if you are wandering around the streets of Hamilton this summer and

you find yourself swept along by hubbub of shoppers and frenzied

pedestrians, fear not. These are the Hamilton Scavengers. Remember,

man is by nature a hunter and a competitor. And he loves making a game

out of his workaday chores.

– Bart Jackson

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