Corrections or additions?
These articles by Michele Alperin, Bart Jackson, and Jack Florek prepared for the May 17, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
People develop and change through their life experiences, but in many ways they remain the same. What
they were like and what they enjoyed as kids has some predictive power about where they end up.
Pattie Simone’s entrepreneurial efforts started when she was a Girl Scout pulling a wagon stuffed with
cookies to sell to friends and neighbors in Long Island.
Then, at 12, she started a flower-making business with a girlfriend (and, of course, the mothers supplied
some of the hard labor). In the intricate manufacturing process they formed individual petals and leaves one
by one, dipped them into colored solutions, and combined the pieces into "flowers" with florist tape. The
local Waldbaum’s supermarket let them stand outside and sell flowers, says Simone, "like in My Fair Lady."
"It felt good," she observes, "working, seeing results from work, and making money."
As Simone continued to work, through high school and college, and then in traffic and production in the
textile industry, her entrepreneurial drive was relatively dormant.
Simone’s latest creation, WomenCentric, is described on her website as "a spunky new speaking group producing educational entrepreneurial and leadership venues like nothing you’ve ever experienced." It is
presenting "An Entrepreneurial Success Breakfast Forum for Women," hosted by the Female Entrepreneur’s Alliance of the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, on Friday, May 19, at 7:45
a.m. at Lenfell Hall at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Cost: $45. Call 845-362-7880 or email
The path from Girl Scout cookies and Eliza Doolittle lookalikes has been one of learning and growth for
Simone, as an individual and as an entrepreneur. In 1988, when she was pregnant with her second child and
her sister-in-law was pregnant with her first, they hatched the idea of starting their own business, a home
furnishing and gift shop on Main Street in Ramsey. Their hope was to mimic the type of store, widespread
in tourist destinations, with a little of everything. They called it “The Home Place,” and their logo was a
little house with puffs of hearth smoke coming out the chimney.
The two women had a great time. They discovered a natural bent for merchandising, dividing the store into
sections like “Sweet Pea,” for babies, and “For Gentlemen Only,” and putting out products in an inviting
way. The product mix changed over time as they started to offer gift baskets, gourmet food, and, for a
while, a cappucino bar. (Simone says she and her partner were its best customers.)
But they didn’t get everything right. "We plodded along, faltered, and fumbled, but were able to stay in
business seven years," says Simone. Probably the most egregious of their many mistakes was hiring an
accountant who gave them poor advice, because, says Simone, she and her partner didn’t know how to ask
the right questions. Eventually they had to close as competing stores opened and people began balking at
Her first step into life as an employee was both annoying and frustrating. People looking at her resume
would discount her seven-year period of store ownership and say, "So you owned a store – what did you
do before that?" With comments like this, she felt they were negating all she had done and learned as a
Before she was ready to go out on her own again, Simone had held several positions, including director of
sales and marketing for two different firms which did business-to-business sales. "I learned a lot and made
millions of dollars of new business for the companies and decided I was not cut out for working for other
people," she says. "I wanted to do something on my own."
While working full time as a fundraiser for a college, she decided to start developing her innate writing
skill by writing articles on the side. She also went to many networking functions. "When I met business
owners," she says, "we would get into a conversation about what they were doing, their challenges, and
their goals, and I would start giving advice." She remembers many people responding: "That’s a great
idea. I’m going to do that," and Simone says that "finally the light bulb went on – this is a business."
The next step was to dip her toe in by doing some independent consulting while she still had a job. "I found
to my horror that so many people were calling themselves marketing consultants," she says. So she decided
to build a practice based on her writing expertise. "I decided that my moniker should be "I am a writer; I
bring communications to life for people." She figured that if she was able to do marketing mentoring and
consulting through her writing, that would be fine.
It has worked. When she re-emerged as an entrepreneur with Pomona, New York-based Write-
Communications (www.write-communications.com), Simone put her small-business experience to good
use. "Now my main business is mentoring small business owners about cost-effective marketing and
avoiding the pitfalls," she says. "I want to be the Oprah of entrepreneurship."
She finds that people starting new businesses have ambitious goals. "They are motivated and passionate
about what they do, but lacking a plan." She helps them to define their product or service and its benefits to
customers, to assess what their market is, and to put in place marketing initiatives.
Simone believes it is essential for a business to develop a clear identity, with a consistency of message and
look — but many just don’t get it. For example, she says, "they think they have a logo just because
someone put a little schmaltz on a business card." Identity was something that Simone and her sister-in-law
did well in their store. She remembers people telling her, "I was so excited the moment I saw the box,
because I knew the gift was from Home Place." She adds, "we were branding ourselves – not knowing
what we were doing."
After Simone opened her doors as Write-Communications, her next step was "networking like mad." She
started connecting with women’s business organizations and associations, with venues in New Jersey, New
York, and Connecticut that she started thinking of as "women-centric events."
"In the process I started meeting dynamic women," she says, and her imagination started churning. She first
envisioned a live talk show about business with women anchors. "Close to 11 million women own their
own businesses," says Simone, "and they are opening businesses twice as fast as men and staying in
Her idea of bringing together women to speak evolved. As she was exposed to more women speaking about
the challenges they faced, she remembers thinking, "I don’t want to be in competition with these folks."
Instead she wanted to join with them to form a speaking group that would be invited to talk at different
events. "Most women business owners simply don’t have the time to go back to school and learn to do it
the right way," she observes. But women can be stymied because running a business takes more than an
idea and passion. "These women need solid advice," says Simone.
So Simone started Womencentric. She pulled together entrepreneurial women, and they debuted at
Women’s Images, a women’s conference at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, last March,
with five women doing separate segments of a presentation on "Jump Starting Your Career." Luckily, she
says, they filmed it and were able to fix the glitches and tighten some of the talks.
All the women in Womencentric, says Simone, "share a belief in collaboration and have a passion for
helping other women succeed." She says it is an evolving group. "They are as involved as they can be,
within the constraints that their own businesses present."
The loose-knit group has also given a leadership advancement session to sectors of CitiBank and returned
this year to Women’s Images.
Simone is always thinking about new ways for Womencentric to reach out to the community. Because she
enjoyed being on a college campus so much, she started negotiating with another college to do an event.
Although that one didn’t work out, she learned from the experience. "I took a gigantic risk and lost last
year," she says. "I spent a lot of money and nothing happened."
This year she’s trying again. "The people at the Rothman Institute at Fairleigh-Dickinson loved the idea,"
she says. Their Female Alliance is hosting the event, which has been carefully fashioned as a learning and
networking experience for women business owners.
One of the speakers, Joan Damico, is a marketing expert and a direct competitor of Simone’s. One of the
ideas that Simone wants to get across is that competitors can help each other out. When she was in retail,
she says, "I was closed to talking to other people and learning from other people, and I suffered from that."
In contrast, she says, "here we will be showing people that we have a direct competing thing, the same
services in many ways, but there is no reason we can’t collaborate. Through collaboration, we are
supporting each other, learning from each other, and helping our businesses."
Simone is excited about this event. Although she wants to be able to cover her costs and her time, she
doesn’t see the event as primarily a way to make money. "I want to get the message of collaboration out to
as many people as possible," she says.
Simone credits her mother with the kind of spirit and mentality that inspired her to open Home Place. As a
child, her mom was always putting on plays, even though "she can’t sing to save her life." Her mom’s
approach (and now her own) was: “Let me try this. I’ll figure out what I need to do, and I’ll do it."
– Michele Alperin
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, signed into law this February, purports to provide more power to
seniors. Some say, however, that this legislation puts a huge kink in the Medicare and Medicaid funding
pipeline. From now on seniors will be paying higher co-payments for reduced services, with substantially
higher deductibles on all plans.
To help supply some solid solutions to this and other issues facing seniors — and anyone with a parent in
this category — the New Jersey State Bar Foundation offers a free seminar on “Strategies for Protecting
Older Citizens” on Tuesday, May 23, at 10 a.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Register
Presented in recognition of Senior Citizen’s Law Day, the conference features former chair of the NJSBA
Elder Law Section, Bridgewater-based attorney Lawrence Friedman, who provides advice on funding long-
term care without going broke after the deficit reduction act; attorney Brenda McElnea, also a NJSBF Elder
Law past chair, who has offices in West Orange, speaks on surrogate decision making with advanced
healthcare directives; and Cynthia Sharp Myers of the Sharp Law Firm in Haddon Heights, who discusses
living trusts and explains why they are not for everyone.
Friedman came by his penchant for law the old fashioned way — he inherited it. He grew up on Long
Island with a father who was a business and tax attorney. Heading for his father’s trade, he graduated from
SUNY Binghamton with a bachelor’s degree in economics and attended NYU’s School of Law. Here he
earned both a J.D. and a master’s of law degree in taxation.
“Somewhere throughout school, I realized that I really loved law, but saw it much more as an instrument
for helping individuals than business,” Friedman says. In l981 Friedman hung out his shingle in a solo
practice. Since then he has specialized in the many plights facing older and disabled citizens. He was
honored for helping draft legislation that helped New Jersey citizens employ special needs trusts to
preserve disability benefits. Friedman continues to fight the elder law fight, both as a frequent speaker and
in his private practice.
Long term care refers to assistance given an individual when he is permanently, or nearly permanently,
unable to handle his own daily affairs. It may be as simple as help bathing and cooking, up to the constant
surveillance of an Alzheimer patient. Though the line may see vague, long term care is unlike healthcare
recuperation in that the later has a foreseeable end. Long term assistance is available from family,
government, and the for-profit sector.
“Elder law is a creature of Congress, so don’t expect contract logic and common sense rules,” says
Friedman. Still, many laws governing the treatment of seniors have great benefits along with their pitfalls.
But everything is changing, and Friedman’s best suggestion for preparing for a happy, healthy old age is to
plan earlier than you think and to get the most current advice.
In your 50s. The day you receive your first “AARP Magazine” should be the signal that you are mortal.
There is a race going on between your life expectancy and your assets, and you are betting, whether you
like it or not. It is time to estimate your future worth by stacking up your eventual pension, investment
growth, home sale potential, and possible inheritances.
Be aware that this wealth faces attack by dwindling pension, Social Security, government healthcare
benefits, and inflation. It is too early to crystal gaze for exact figures 30 years hence, Friedman says, but
you should get a picture of roughly how golden your senior years will be.
While there’s no need call on an elder care attorney just yet, this is the time to visit your general counsel
with a legal checklist. Wills for yourself and spouse, powers of attorney and living wills, along with other
healthcare provisos, should be established. This is also the time to investigate trusts and extended gifts to
family and charities,which, if initiated early, may afford substantial tax benefits.
Long term care insurance, first offered in the late l960s, has boomed in popularity during the last decade.
Statistical claims for individuals eventually requiring some long term care vary from 40 to 70 percent of the
national population. But virtually everyone has at least one relation or acquaintance who has had to face the
expensive choices of assisted living or home healthcare.
Most of the long term care insurance plans provide a set amount of dollar coverage per day for a set
number of years, applicable to either spouse. For an annual premium of $2,000 to $3,000, a mid-50s
married couple would receive about $200 a day upon request for two years during their later life. A policy
covering eight years typically runs between $4,000 to $6,000. (The average length of stay in a nursing
home is 18 months.)
Friedman says that long term care insurance is a crap shoot. Unlike life insurance, where you are betting on
the surety of your death, your need for this is uncertain. “For some people it may prove a good way of
preserving funds for their heirs,” he says, “but, interestingly, more people are putting their insurance funds
into increased auto accident policies. I guess people are seeing greater risks on the road.”
In your 60s. “Probably the biggest mistake is not coming to an elder lawyer early enough,” says Friedman.
Today’s mid-60s retirees are fit and active, and while they may be browsing the senior community
brochures, most are not mapping out long term care strategies.
Generally speaking, neither Medicare nor Medicaid offer any long term support. But there are exceptions.
Financing of extended home nursing or assisted living may be achieved through Medicare if the individual
is a war veteran. Medicaid offers minimal help if an individual has less than $2,000 in total assets and if a
couple has less than $3,000 in assets.
In the past, many people got below these levels by deeding assets to their children. But Friedman says that,
under the new Deficit Reduction Act, this is no longer possible.
Friedman suggests selecting an elder law specialist to help you map out your golden years, rather than just
any general attorney. These specialists can provide individual help for the toughest choice — staying in
your own home versus moving to assisted living.
They can also suggest variations on standard legal instruments. For example, instead of selecting a normal
durable power of attorney, effective immediately, it is possible to opt for a “springing” version that kicks in
following a specific time or event.
Beyond the grave. Keeping the fortune in the family, and out of the government’s hands, remains one of the
most desperately sought legal/tax strategies. “Frequently such planning is simpler than people imagine,”
says Friedman. With good guidance seniors can share assets before the long term care bills arrive. Fixing
up your current home and raising its value, or simply buying a second home for a beneficiary, often provide
an excellent means of positing untouchable assets where you want them.
Establishing trusts has been heralded as the ideal way to avoid probate, death taxes, and capital gains. But
this is not always a problem-free solution. The setting up of a trust to avoid probate’s costs and its 12-
month delay may, in some cases, actually cost more than the state’s probate fees.
The popular idea of putting a child’s name on the title of certain assets, houses, for example, could vastly
increase the capital gains he would have to pay if he decided to sell the asset, whereas, if he inherited it, he
might or might not have to pay an inheritance tax, but would not have to pay a capital gains tax.
Sheltering assets certainly is possible, says Friedman, but it must be planned for years ahead. And for most
people, there is no legal shelter extensive enough to avoid all state and federal taxation.
None of us is enthralled with the prospect of aging. Yet diminishing abilities can certainly be endured more
easily with a cushion of cash and an absence of worry. And while hard work and sharp investing are a good
start, learning the tactics of long term care are an essential tutorial.
– Bart Jackson
From some idle chatter at a cocktail party to a $55 million business — and he didn’t even have a prototype.
Part of it, of course, was the invention: a faster way to detect a disease that hospitalizes 350,000 Americans
annually. But most of it was the entrepreneur, Dave Dingott, age 45, who possessed both the business and
technical expertise to found Sword Diagnostics from his home in Chester.
The secrets of Dingott and other successful entrepreneurs are revealed at the New Jersey Technology
Council’s Bootcamp on Wednesday, May 24, at 7:30 a.m. at the Conference Center of the New Jersey
Hospital Association. Cost: $130. Register at www.njtc.org. This day-long event includes discussion
groups and success stories. Dingott speaks at a workshop, “You Only have One Chance to Make a First
Other panelists include moderator Steve Cohen, an attorney with Morgan Lewis in Princeton; Philip
Politziner, partner with the accounting firm of Amper, Politziner & Mattia; Shayne Vernallay, associate
with the New Jersey Venture Fund; and Katherine O’Neill of the Jumpstart New Jersey angel network.
A Brooklyn native, Dingott earned his engineering degree from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. This was
followed by a master’s from Columbia University in electronics engineering and computer science. He then
went to work for Bell Labs, where he spent 18 years. His career shifted as the result of a chance meeting.
“I met this fellow at a party who was doing work at the Naval Research Laboratory on finding a quicker
way to find the pathogens that cause food poisoning,” Dingott says. “I became increasingly interested in
this scientist’s work.” So interested, in fact, that Dingott gathered a crew of his own and in partnership with
the Navy Lab began working on the problem.
Food poisoning is often viewed as a distressing 24 hours followed by a quick recovery, like a short flu. But
5,000 Americans die each year as a result of food poisoning. Many cases are caused by the E. coli and
salmonella bacteria. But the blood-based bacterium listeria, with a 25 percent fatality rate, is more deadly,
making it imperative that it be detected at the earliest possible moment.
Traditionally these poisonous bacteria are identified by injecting antibodies in a sample and seeing if they
partner up with anything suspicious. This process takes some 48 hours. Dingott and his crew, along with
their Navy partners, have recently begun enhancing this method with a technique called Raman
spectroscopy, which deals on the tiny photon level, rather than the much larger microscopic level. This
method, coupled with various chemicals, allows for swift detection — within five minutes — of even the
most miniscule particles. In order to turn this break-through into a company, Dingott had to raise a
substantial amount of money.
Some of these funds have come from the NJTC Venture Fund and the Jumpstart Angel Network.
“We started out raising funds by licensing a very good mousetrap,” says Dingott. “It was only later that we
developed a really better mousetrap.” Dingott insists that he has no golden rules for entrepreneurial capital
raising, but he can spot the popular blunders and compare them with what has worked for him.
Alone and omniscient. The one sure way to make potential investors nervous is to show up alone,
blueprints in pocket, and proclaim yourself inventor, business manager, and sales force all in one.
“When you are starting up, you’ve got no revenue stream, no track record — nothing angels can pin their
hopes on,” says Dingott. “Your entire credibility comes from your team.”
For Sword Diagnostics, Dingott partnered with the top engineer and chief scientist in the field. His sales
manager had just sold a record 100 units for his main competitor. Finding these partners and convincing
them to join him meant haunting trade shows and plugging away for personal interviews. Once on board,
all of the crew members joined together in making the pitch to the investors.
Be candid. Be it bank or individual angel, every investor is going to burrow deeply into every
entrepreneurial venture before investing one thin dime. Letting them discover secret chinks in the firm’s
armor only raises suspicions.
Total candor, on the other hand, makes a marvelous selling tool. By sharing the business’s current
problems, an entrepreneur can put them in perspective and end further investigation. Dingott has found that
potential angels are often eager to help with solutions. Additionally, candor places the firm’s most
important asset — the owner’s integrity — in an excellent light.
Get out there. “Just who is the buyer for your product?” asks the interested angel. The entrepreneur ticks
off the potential customers. “And with how many of them have you spoken?” the angel continues. A
stunned, uneasy silence descends on the room.
With so many written business aids, it has become very popular to compile major marketing plans from
one’s office chair. But for Dingott, hustling around and personally contacting everyone remotely interested
in his type of product proved an immense value. It took Sword Diagnostics’ market beyond the obvious —
the food processing industry — into hospitals and research institutes. “I not only learned who my buyers
were, but they helped me define my product,” he says.
Protect the store. As investor and inventor sidle ever closer, the great fear looms that the entrepreneur might
be giving away his control. He might one day find himself voted out of the company he founded. Dingott
admits that it can happen — it has happened.
The advice that seems to have worked for Sword Diagnostics’ owner is to keep yourself invaluable. “No
matter how greedy they are, they aren’t going to fire you if you are making them money,” Dingott says.
Still, it is generally unrealistic to expect to retain a majority ownership. It is better to concentrate on
developing staff loyalty and individual value than on gaining a fiscal stranglehold. Dingott says that it is
unrealistic for any owner to think he can maintain control of 50 percent of the stock as his product goes
Very shortly Dingott will be obliged to move Sword Diagnostics out of his home in Chester. He has been
considering central New Jersey for the new company’s headquarters, or perhaps Chicago, near the National
Center for Food Safety. Wherever he lands, he is optimistic that his business will do well.
“If there is any lesson to be learned from my company,” says Dingott, “it is that it pays to listen to people at
— Bart Jackson
How do you grow a business? Even in the best of times, entrepreneurs spend a lot of energy ruminating
over this question. But starting a business in the hyper-competitive 21st century is enough to make any
budding entrepreneur quiver in her boots. Making an honest profit in a business environment filled with
sharks and saber-toothed guppies willing to shirk traditional methods in favor of an “anything that works”
philosophy can make even many established business owners unsure of how to compete.
But no man — or woman — is an island (as John Donne, the 17th century English poet observed).
Worriers, even entrepreneurial ones, need some like-minded company from whom they can receive some
encouragement, learn bits of useful information, and even do a little networking on the side. The upcoming
annual conference of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) offers women
business owners (and men) just such an opportunity.
“Each year we have a different theme to the conference and this year we are focusing on ‘The Essence of
Success: Realizing your vision: Attaining your dream,’” says Ellen Davis, NJAWBO member and co-chair
of the event (along with Elsa Reinhardt). “It really is a blast. It’s uplifting to everyone who attends. There
certainly is an education component, but there is also the camaraderie that comes from a group of people
facing the same challenges.”
The conference takes place on Wednesday and Thursday, May 24 and 25, at Caesars in Atlantic City. Cost:
$250 for NJAWBO members and $450 for non-members. (There are also single day rates). To register, or
for more information, visit www.NJAWBO.org.
The conference offers 30 hours of marketing information, an awards dinner, a business expo, networking
with NJAWBO’s 1,200 members, more than a dozen workshops for both the new and more experienced
Attendees will be able to pick and choose among workshops for what is most appropriate for their needs,
with three workshops running concurrently. Among the workshops offered will be “How to Manage Your
Business Finances for Maximum Profit,” “Getting Out of Your Own Way: for Business Owners,”
“Breaking Through Classic Barriers to Growth,” Branding and Positioning: How to Differentiate Your
Business from the Competition,” “How to Develop a Customer Loyalty Program for All Size Businesses,”
“Build Your Business Through Dynamic Presentations,” and “Developing the Human Capital Within Your
The conference kicks off with a keynote address, “Building a Million Dollar Business: The Steps that
Today’s Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs Have Taken to Build Dynamic Growth Businesses” by
Monica Smiley, editor-in-chief and publisher of “Enterprising Women Magazine” and chief executive
officer of Enterprising Women Inc., the magazine’s parent publishing company, which was launched in the
early 1990s. The magazine chronicles the growing political, economic, and social influence and power of
There will also be an address by Janet Pfeiffer, author of “Who’s in Charge Here: Taking Control of Your
Life!” on Thursday, at 8:30 a.m. The conference wraps up with an endnote address by Aldonna Ambler,
“Take What You Have Learned And GO! Achieving Accelerated Growth with Sustained Profitability,” on
Thursday, at 4:15 p.m.
For Davis, who began her management consulting company, Business Advisors International (www.bai-northeast.com), three years ago after moving with her family from Massachusetts to Mahwah, business is
more than just adding up the profit margins at the end of each quarter. “We take a very holistic approach
because we want to look at every aspect of our clients’ business before making any changes,” she says.
This includes studying small to mid-sized clients’ marketing program, sales channels, operational
functions, and cash flow.
A graduate of Salem State College in Massachusetts (her business partner/husband Larry Davis has an
MBA from Duke University), Davis, along with her husband speaks on “Ten Ways to Grow Your
Business,” on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. “We will offer 10 tips that each attendee can go back on their own and
implement themselves,” says Davis. These include advice on marketing, strategic planning, researching the
market place, studying the competition, and how to look for hidden opportunities.
While business is never easy, Davis makes it her business to help business owners from across the state.
She offers the following tips to budding newbies who haven’t yet gotten their entrepreneurial feet wet, as
well as to established business owners.
Think ahead. “You always need to be on the pulse-point of your market,” says Davis. “You need to be
aware of what your competitors are doing, what the needs of your customers are, and plan ahead. Be
forward thinking enough to say, okay, I am here now, where do I want to be?”
Consider the possibilities. According to Davis, too many business owners are content to sit still and forget
to look for unseen opportunities. “The best positive example I can think of comes from high-tech
companies,” she says. “There has been a modern advance in voice technology with microphones that the
government uses for space technologies and the Army uses to talk from helmet to helmet. So this company
asked themselves, what other industries are there that can use this technology? By thinking creatively, they
were able to market this technology for racecar drivers who use it to talk to their pit crews. In the process
they opened up a new market that wasn’t there before.”
Internet presence. While technology has created opportunities, it has also created its own set of
complications that weren’t there when granddad ran his feed store.
“You need to know what kind of web presence you need to have,” says Davis. “Ask yourself how are
people utilizing your website? Are they going to your website to get some background information on you
before picking up the phone or come to see you face to face? Are you a retail shop which needs to have
buying power on the website? Are people searching keywords and finding you this way? These are very
important components to your marketing strategy.”
Develop opportunities and add on. In looking at the marketplace and trying to expand your presence in it,
ask yourself what kinds of goods or services are you offering. Are there some add-on services or products
that you can offer? Is there a market base that you are leaving behind?
While business is always stressful, it can be exciting to own and operate your own business. This is true
even in tough times. “It’s important for people to know that there is help out there,” says Davis. “People
can learn to implement strategies that will help make their business a success.”
– Jack Florek
Corrections or additions?
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