How Small Companies Can Snag Health Grants: Rick Weiss and

Kay Etzler

Individual results are may vary. Do not expect your company to win

seven Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants totaling over

$1.5 million, as did Rick Weiss president of Viocare Technologies

(, a medical device company with offices at 145

Witherspoon Street. Most recently, the National Cancer Institute

funded the development of Viocare’s "eLog" – a nifty handheld gadget

that records food intake and physical output to help individuals with

weight loss and overall health maintenance.

Founded in Princeton in l993, originally as Princeton Multimedia

Technologies, the firm continues to receive federal awards for its

line of dietary monitoring systems.

Weiss says that "almost all of our R&D money comes from grants."

Struggling entrepreneurs might ask: What does this guy know that he is

getting that kind of funding from the federal government? The answer

is revealed during a half-day seminar, "National Institutes of Health

SBIR/STTR Program and Proposal Preparation," on Thursday, September

28, at 8 a.m. at Princeton University’s Friend Center. Cost $40. Visit

Sponsored by the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) office, in

coordination with New Jersey’s Small Business Development Center, this

workshop features Kay Etzler, program analyst for SBIR/STTR grants at

the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition to Weiss,

speakers include Randy Harmon, New Jersey Small Business Development

Center (NJSBDC) technology and commercialization consultant; Roger

Cohen, principal of Cohen International in Nyack, New York; Patrick

Alia of accounting firm Amper, Politziner & Mattia; and Karen Price of

the New Jersey Knowledge Initiative.

A native of Frederick, Maryland, SBIR expert Etzler never had to move

far to find her career. She has always worked for the federal

government. For the National Institute of Health, she travels the

country explaining that, yes, the federal government has money

earmarked for a company of your size. No, it doesn’t all go to

corporations the size of Halliburton.

Her duties reflect the full range of NIH’s funding. When not on the

road, most of her days are spent helping young companies with a new

product through the SBIR or STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer)

applications. Etzler also specializes in NIH’s commercialization

mentoring program. "Our mission at NIH is simple – to improve human

health," says Etzler, "and we support anything that enhances that

mission." Last year the NIH proved its support by giving $640 million

in SBIR and STTR grants.

Before one can get in line and apply for this fountain of funding, one

must register. Online registration forms and exhaustive details

concerning NIH’s requirements can be found on

What’s available. The NIH has 23 institutes/centers, including the

National Cancer Center, under its domain, and all offer SBIR/STTR

grants. To qualify a company must be American owned, small (under 500

employees) and, of course, have a viable idea.

If the review board likes what it sees, an entrepreneur receives an

initial check of up to $100,000 for a feasibility study. This gives

the company six months to technically explore and prove that the

proposed idea can actually become a functioning item. The second phase

provides up to $750,000 over a two year period and basically expands

on the first, moving into a prototype stage and investigating

commercial opportunities.

Almost all NIH funding is awarded through such SBIR grants. The

remaining four percent comes in the form of contract solicitations.

Recently the National Cancer Institute awarded a contract for a

handheld data collecting device whose design exactly met its specified

needs. The NIH SBIR website lists all such contractual solicitations.

Trot to market. While financial participation ends with the second

phase, NIH’s investment in its grantees continues right up to

commercialization. Etzler notes that in the health field getting a

product on the shelves, or into the lab, is particularly tedious and

expensive. "Most people who invent a new drug really have no idea what

it takes and what it costs to get it through the FDA," she says. "We

help them understand what the obstacles are and how to face them."

This NIH assistance program begins with helping develop a niche

assessment for the product and gathering competitive data. Each

grantee is assigned an NIH analyst who guides the entrepreneur through

the licensing process. Etzler often leads entrepreneurs with a new

product to investors able to capitalize the costly test phase, which

can run into the millions.

Add star power. "If I had a word of advice for any SBIR grant

applicant," says seven-time winner Weiss, "it’s to find the very top

person in the nation and get him on your team." Before applying for

grants Weiss studied the field, found the individual who was putting

out all the most highly regarded papers, and called him on the phone.

"Don’t be scared that they will steal your idea or belittle you as a

nobody," he says. "I have been treated well every time." Getting this

expert to join your team and add his name to the grant application

impresses the reviewers.

Meet deadlines. But even the most renowned names do not compensate for

getting a grant application in late. Etzler says that the most

frequent blunder entrepreneurs seeking funding make is missing the

periodic deadlines, which are not the same for every NIH grant.

Try try again. She also urges persistence. If an application is

rejected, the submitter has two chances to revise it and resubmit. If

it is still rejected, try to make the turn-down a learning experience.

Be responsive to the reviewers’ comments. They will be a help when it

is time to submit the next grant application.

But probably the best tip is to keep calling NIH for aid and

clarification. Each registered applicant is assigned a mentor whose

job it is to help that individual make the best presentation possible.

This mentor is not on the review board, but knows all the necessary


Grants involve lots of paperwork and substantial competition, but even

the smallest entrepreneur will find help along the way, and, as Weiss

can attest, the result is well worth the effort.

– Bart Jackson

When Your Business Is On the Block: Sharyn Maggio

Two out of five American marriages end in divorce. Add to that

partnership or shareholder disputes – business divorce – and there are

excellent odds that the family firm will be in danger of becoming a

divisible asset. Judges have always known that businesses are like

babies – worth more undivided. So the age old solution is to evaluate

the company’s market price, and let one party retain ownership and pay

off the other with half its worth. At this point, the most important

person in one’s life may be that business evaluator.

When business evaluators are called in to pave the way for buy/sell

agreements, family estates, gifts, or loans, the setting is typically

calm. But let that company become a tug-o-war asset in a big breakup,

and everything explodes. To provide attorneys and business owners

advice on how to handle this volatile situation the New Jersey

Institute of Continuing Legal Education presents "Business

Evaluations: When You Need Them, When You Don’t" on Thursday,

September 28, at 5:30 p.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New

Brunswick. Cost: $139. Visit

Speakers include Sharyn Maggio, independent CPA and evaluator in

Eatontown; superior court judge Patricia B. Roe; and Abigale Stolfe,

an attorney with the Frank Louis Law Office in Toms River.

Maggio, a lifelong native of the Jersey shore, graduated from Monmouth

University with a bachelors in business and took her CPA in l987.

That’s the basics, but a competent evaluator better have a lot more

letters beyond that CPA. After further study from the American

Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Maggio joined the

Association of Business Valuators (CVA). She then earned her ASA

certification, with emphasis on business valuation, from the American

Society of Appraisers. She also is a member and instructor for the

National Association of Certified Appraisers.

"Credentials from any of the three groups is a good sign of quality,

but evaluating is amazingly complex and takes at least a few years of

business accounting experience," says Maggio. Business valuation is a

probing audit of the most severe kind, but there are some controls for

the business owner.

Choose your evaluator yourself. Typically a judge will appoint a

business evaluator in complicated dispute or divorce cases. But often

a quick lawyer can grab the reins and make the selection himself.

"When people get this chance, I keep telling them to remember that

this is their divorce – not their lawyers’ divorce," says Maggio.

"Lawyers are only going to move when they have to, and choose whom

they know."

Maggio suggests that the individual owner actively help in the

selection of an evaluator. Experience in the field and the number of

cases handled are, of course, important, but equally so is the

evaluator’s experience in testifying. If the business is in some way

unusual, for example extremely seasonal, it’s good to have an

evaluator who can claim familiarity with its niche – and with the

locale in which it operates.

At the same time, it is important to understand that the evaluator is

not anyone’s advocate. Yet, as the owner, you want someone whose final

figure can weather all assaults from opposing attorneys.

Avoid cookie-cutter evaluation tools. It is a myth that evaluators

have some sacred formula into which they mercilessly cram each

business. There is no one-size-fits-all template. While such templates

do indeed exist online, Maggio suggests that these may be good only to

satisfy curiosity. They are definitely not an ideal tool for a

business owner in dispute with his whole fortune up for grabs. There

are just too many variables.

In putting a price tag on a business, the evaluator spirals in slowly.

First she examines the particular industry and relates it to current

economic conditions. The real estate brokerage cannot be priced at

last year’s level today, for example.

This done, the valuator gets an overview of the books and records to

decide on an approach. The three classical methods are the market

approach, income approach, and asset approach. Each, as the name

implies, launches investigation from that point, with ample overlap to

be fully inclusive.

Finally, all books and records are scrutinized in detail within a flow

of endless variables and adjustments. Capitalization rates, income

streams, and asset valuations are all part of the picture. "There is a

lot of art as well as science in this work," Maggio admits.

In the end the evaluator submits a single figure backed up by

somewhere between 30 to 300 pages of evidence. The very best thing the

business owner can do during this process is to be totally cooperative

and have his records well ordered. "If the owner is helpful, I can be

in and out in a couple of days," says Maggio. "But when owners oppose

me, things get more expensive, and can drag on for months."

Stay out of jail. "My major goal in every valuation is to get to

substance," say Maggio. By this she means ferreting out all of those

little irregularities in the bookkeeping that may have lightened the

tax burden in the past, but today give a skewed version of the

company’s net worth.

One of her favorites was discovering a business owner’s personal

apartment on St. Croix listed among the company expenses. Other

irregularities may be as small as taking the family to a dinner weekly

on the company tab, or listing junior’s car as a company asset, or

paying junior a salary while he is away at college.

These little tax dodges are items that no one wants disclosed at a

trial. Judges are officers of the court and thus bound to report to

the IRS any potential tax fraud. "We are not out to nail anybody,"

says Maggio, "we just want an honest price and a fair settlement."

Thus when she discovers evidence of such evasions she contacts the

business owner, who, after a brief explanation, is often eager to

shift his dispute to arbitration. The judge is also pleased to hear

that this case will be removed from his already crowded docket.

"But when I tell the judge and lawyers of the shift in venue,

everybody knows what I am saying," says. "Oh, and you’d better believe

that the hidden St. Croix apartment got listed as a divisible asset in

the settlement."

Maggio finds that requests for her seminars are overwhelming.

Evaluation has become one of the fastest growing fields in accounting.

Because it is one of the most creative areas of the profession, young

CPAs are increasing seeking out the specialty. And as current trends

have proven, the market will be there to accommodate them.

– Bart Jackson

Even Good Parents Can Use Childcare: gigi Schweikert

At the age of nine North Carolinian Gigi Schweikert started her career

in early childhood education. "When I was little girl, I set up my

first childcare program in my backyard one summer, as a mother’s

helper for kids in the neighborhood," she says. She got paid the royal

sum of 50 cents a day for each child. She enjoyed the work, and chose

it as her college summer job, working at the a childcare center. She

has gone up to become a childcare center director, a childcare

consultant to some of the country’s largest corporations, and a writer

and lecturer on the subject of how to provide optimal care for the

children of working parents.

Schweikert gives the keynote address at the 11th annual Early Care and

Childhood Conference, sponsored by the Child Care Connection, on

Saturday, September 30, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Princeton Hyatt.

The conference also provides training for child care providers and

administrators. Cost: $60. For more information, call 609-989-7770.

When Schweikert matriculated at the University of North

Carolina-Chapel Hill, she had intended to go to medical school. But

when she decided she wanted to work with young children, she switched

to education. After receiving her degree in elementary and early

childhood education in 1983, she got a job at the Early Childhood

Program at the United Nations in New York, working her way up to

director by the time she left seven years later.

She moved away from the hands-on management of a childcare center when

she took a job at what is now Bright Horizons Family Solutions, where

she did work-family initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. Her

assignments included helping corporations set up onsite childcare and

doing management sensitivity training to help supervisors to realize

that "people have a life beyond work."

Sensitive to these issues, Schweikert rearranged her work life after

she had her second child, moving to part time. By the time she had her

third, and then her fourth, she sought flexibility by consulting,

writing, and speaking through BabyStep Consulting

( Her consulting clients have included Johnson

& Johnson, Prudential, Bank of America, Merck, IBM, Genentech, and SC

Johnson Wax.

She has written several books, including "I’m a Good Mother, for the

Not-so-perfect Mom" and "God, God What Do You See? I See a Mother

Looking at Me," and she has hosted the television show, "Today’s

Family." Schweikert offers advice to working parents on how to choose

out-of-home childcare:

The program should be accredited. The NAEYC accreditation is the

national standard of excellence for early childhood education.

Although there are some good centers that are not accredited, the

NAEYC imprimatur ensures that the facility meets requirements for

safety and appropriate ratios of staff to children and that staff

members have ongoing training. "It makes it a professional

organization," says Schweikert.

Parents must feel comfortable with the place and the people. Parents

have different needs, says Schweikert. "Some need pristine and clean,

because that conveys quality to them, and some are more comfortable in

a homey environment. You have to feel comfortable to be able to say,

do, come, and go as if it were your own home."

Caring for children requires a partnership between the caregiver or

teacher and the parent. "It’s an intimate relationship, and you have

to really feel comfortable," she says. Even in the best accredited

program things will happen. "The children will get bumps and bruises,

there will be biting and illness, pacifiers will get lost, and the

academics may not be what you feel they should be," says Schweikert.

"But in the end, it’s how do they work with you to resolve the things

that happen."

Lead staff should be in for the long haul. Look for longevity in the

administrators and the lead teachers, even if there is a lot of

turnover among other staff. Longevity suggests a good working


Location, location, location. Don’t compromise on quality, but look

for convenience. "Parents often want to make a sacrifice for the

highest in quality of care," says Schweikert. They will often drive

great distances. "But convenience is important too," she says. "If

you’re able to pop over at lunch or get involved in the center, you

will feel more comfortable."

Curriculum should focus on exploration, not worksheets. "Forces in our

society push us into thinking that earlier is better and more is

better in everything we do, but that’s not necessarily true for

children," says Schweikert. "We need to celebrate the developmental

milestones they’ve accomplished rather than always looking ahead."

Parents want their kids to be well equipped for school and life and

think, wrongly, that learning alphabets and numbers is the best way to

achieve this. Schweikert believes instead that exploration, "being

little scientists," will lead the children to develop skills for


Using an analogy to how adults learn to use the computer in a hands-on

way, she continues, "Children have to put their hands on everything to

learn." As a result, the environment should include lots of things

that are safe and hazard-free for children to touch and explore – not

just plastic toys. The caregiver is the facilitator of the

environment, she says. It is her job to help children "discover what

we’ve already discovered" – for example, that things sink or float,

that books are just words written down, that ice melts, and that some

things are hard and some soft.

Teachers should be well schooled in child development. Teachers should

receive lots of training about what is and is not developmentally

appropriate, and the curriculum should highlight the types of learning

that are happening, with pictures of block constructions, movies of

water play and field trips, and descriptions of what children learn in

the dramatic play area. "They need to focus not on what the children

make," says Schweikert, "but on the process."

Parents must stay involved. Once parents have selected child care for

their children, they need to continually monitor that care. When

spending time at the center, they should stay attuned to how it looks,

feels, and smells.

"Good programs want parents to be the eyes and ears of the center,"

says Schweikert. "They want you to voice concerns and suggestions."

Yet don’t expect that every suggestion you make will be accepted.

Parents can expect responsiveness, but must realize that the child

care providers are making decisions with the best interests of the

group in mind, not just those of any one child.

If something makes a parent uncomfortable, however, for example,

concern about a staff member or about inadequate supervision on the

playground, the parent should take action.

From her wide experience with childcare, Schweikert urges working

parents to "let go of the guilt." She doesn’t believe that working

makes you a bad parent.

"I believe that quality versus quantity time is huge," she says. "A

lot of people stay home and don’t spend time with their kids. They’re

around the kids but not with the kids." She emphasizes that before

parents pick up their kids from daycare, they should turn off their

cell phones. And no electronics or car TV either. The goal is to

"actually have conversations."

But however much time parents spend with their children at home, their

environment during the work week is critically important, and parents

need to find the best place they can for themselves and their

children. But, according to Schweikert, sometimes they don’t put in

the necessary time and effort.

"Sometimes parents find themselves being greater advocates when they

are looking at a car or purchasing a home," she says. "You also need

to be aggressive and consumer oriented when purchasing care for your


– Michele Alperin

Putting On An Expo with a Holistic Approach: Michele


The popularity of holistic treatments as an alternative to traditional

medical and health treatments has been growing by leaps and bounds in

recent years, and as a result businesses are springing up throughout

the area to meet the need. Practitioners take a "holistic" view of

health, including physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of life.

As the interest in these types of services grows, not only in central

New Jersey but throughout the country, the number of businesses

catering to the need also grows. "We are a growing segment of the

business community," says Michele Engoran of the Center for Relaxation

and Healing in Plainsboro.

She has organized a "Natural Living Expo: Mind, Body and Spirit" to

showcase these businesses on Saturday, September 30, at 10 a.m. at the

Premiere Hotel, 4355 Route 1, Princeton. Cost: $10.

The expo is sponsored by the Engoran’s center as well as the Center

for Holistic Awareness and Integration (CHAI Center) in East

Brunswick. Engoran and Marcus Padulchick are co-founders and partners

at the Plainsboro center, which opened in 2000. The expo is a natural

outgrowth from the center, which houses a variety of businesses with

services ranging from counseling to massage therapy, to acupuncture,

meditation, and yoga, says Engoran.

"We want to help the public learn about what’s out there and available

as a complement to traditional health care, but it was also a

strategic business decision. We want to build our name in the


The expo features 45 vendors with products and services including feng

shui, Chinese herbal medicine, and nutrition and wellness products. A

separate room will be set up for massage and body work therapists, who

will charge $1 per minute for their services.

This is the second expo that Engoran and Padulchak have run. The first

was held in Bridgewater in March. The second time around things have

gone easier, she says. Still, planning, organizing, and running an

expo takes time, money, and a network of people. "I wouldn’t encourage

anyone to try it if they are coming into an area with a blank slate

and no contacts," she says.

Targeting Vendors. One of the first issues when planning an expo is to

ensure that you have enough vendors interested in setting up a booth.

Engoran has used direct mail, advertising, and word of mouth to locate

vendors. "We did a widespread marketing campaign, including

advertising in some alternative health magazines. We really tried to

tap into our community. One of the things we do at the center is run a

support group for holistic business owners." This group was a great

referral source for the expo, she says. "Word of mouth is great. It’s


Most of the vendors who will attend are from the central New Jersey

area, with a few from Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, and New York,

she says. Their vendor campaign showed there was "tremendous interest"

in the event and, she says, and as vendors sent in booth fees, Engoran

pulled in working capital to cover overhead.

"We’ve had more vendors show interest than we had room for," says

Engoran. "We are still getting phone calls. It makes me feel very

positive about how we can grow next year."

Targeting the public. The second wave of the advertising targets

customers – the people who will attend the event and purchase products

and services from the vendors. Again, Engoran and her partner

advertised the event in local newspapers as well as in publications

targeted to their audience. They’ve hung flyers announcing the show in

area businesses as well.

Other expenses. Advertising is the largest expense in setting up a

show like this, says Engoran. Then comes renting a hall, then the

incidentals, such as signage, and "a lot of other small items." The

show will cost several thousand dollars to produce. Meyra Findel,

owner of the CHAI Center and a co-sponsor of the event, has an

accounting background, says Engoran. "She keeps track of everything,

and when it’s all over she’ll sift it all out."

Engoran is confident that the show will turn a profit, "if you don’t

count the hours we’ve worked." She estimates that she and her partner

have each worked on the expo for about 10 hours a week for the last

six months.

There are several income producing elements to an expo like this one,

she says. First are the vendor fees. She is charging $150 for a

six-foot table, and because of space limitations, has restricted

vendors to one table so that she could ensure a larger variety of

products and services. The massage and body work vendors will pay $75,

and must bring their own equipment. Another income producer is the

expo program. Finally, of course, is the entrance fee of $10.

Engoran and her partner opened the center, she says, because they saw

a growing need for small "holistic" businesses to have a space to

offer their services to the public. Engoran herself is a therapist who

"combines therapy and spirituality" in her practice. She also teaches

and runs small groups at the center.

She has been interested in psychology and in helping people all of her

life, she says, and her interest in opening a center was sparked by

her mother, "who ran women’s groups," when she was growing up. "I

can’t imagine myself crunching numbers or not doing something where

I’m working with people. I’m a good listener." She received her

master’s degree in counseling from Goddard College in Plainfield,

Vermont, in 2000. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology

from the College of New Jersey.

As people’s lives become more hurried and stressed, Engoran believes

that more and more people will turn to holistic to "re-energize."

While for many who attend the event, the expo will come under the

heading of "preaching to the choir," she hopes that it will help to

bring holistic businesses to the attention of people who are not

familiar with them.

– Karen Hodges Miller

Corporate Angels

Sovereign Bank has given the Martin House Foundation a gift of

$25,000. The funds will be used to continue construction of a 32-unit

townhouse project currently underway on East State Street for very

low-income families and individuals in the Wilbur section of Trenton.

These houses were designed by Princeton architect Michael Graves.

Martin House provides no-interest mortgages for its residential units

and all payments collected are invested back into continued housing

development in the community. To date Martin House has provided more

than 4,000 adults and children with housing and educational services,

rehabilitated 102 homes, and built 42 new townhouses.

Of the 142 mortgages provided by Martin House, 64 have been retired.

For more information about Martin House, call Michael Schneider at


The New Jersey Association of Realtors Housing Opportunity Foundation

has given New Jersey Community Capital a donation of $57,900, an

amount that represents one dollar for each member of the association.

The funds will be used for the Neighborhood Development Initiative

Predevelopment Loan Partnership Program, which provides predevelopment

funds for affordable housing developed by nonprofit and

community-based organization.

In previous years, NJARHOF contributions have enabled New Jersey

Community Capital to secure the financing for rental and homeownership

opportunities to low and moderate income families. Visit

Farm-Dependent Businesses Get Aid

Federal disaster loans are available to small, non-farm,

agriculture-dependent businesses for all counties in the state. "SBA’s

disaster declaration was issued as a result of a similar action taken

by the Secretary of Agriculture to help farmers recover from damages

and losses to crops caused by excessive precipitations, high winds,

hail, and high humidity from June 1, 2006, and continuing," said Frank

Skaggs, director of SBA Field Operations Center East.

Under this declaration, SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is

available to small, non-farm, agriculture-dependent businesses and

small agricultural cooperatives that suffered economic injury as a

direct result of the weather’s effects on agricultural producers. A

business that sells goods or services to agricultural producers may be

unable to pay bills or meet expenses because of the reduced purchasing

power of farmers and ranchers. Examples of eligible businesses include

farm implement dealers, seed and feed stores, and spraying and

irrigation businesses.

Interested businesses should call 800-659-2955 or visit

all, non-farm, agriculture-dependent businesses and

small agricultural cooperatives that suffered economic injury as a

direct result of the weather’s effects on agricultural producers. A

business that sells goods or services to agricultural producers may be

unable to pay bills or meet expenses because of the reduced purchasing

power of farmers and ranchers. Examples of eligible businesses include

farm implement dealers, seed and feed stores, and spraying and

irrigation businesses.

Interested businesses should call 800-659-2955 or visit

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