Thursday, November 8

Starting Up a Venture That’s For the Dogs

Animal lovers who want to be entrepreneurs — here is an opportunity to get some credentials to start your own business. Middlesex County College offers a three-session certificate in Dog Walking and Pet Sitting. The first session, “Animal Related Businesses: the Start-Up,” is scheduled for Thursday, November 8, at 6:30 p.m. “Animal Behavior and Related Topics is Tuesday, November 13, and “Fundamentals of Animal Care and Health” is on Thursday, November 15. The courses will be repeated early in 2008. Cost for each session: $50. Call 732-902-2556 for information.

Gina Brugna, a professional pet nanny and owner of Peaks Pet Nanny in Lake Hopatcong in Morris County, launched the MCC certificate course last fall and also taught it last spring, averaging two dozen students each time. She earned her certification, via distance learning, from the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPS). Because Brugna is expecting her first child, the November sessions will be taught by Sheri Hayes and Randy DeFazio of Camp BowWow (see cover story, page 42).

The emphasis for the MCC certificate is on how to run a dog-sitting business, and Brugna references her own business in the classroom.

Her biggest challenge: Keeping up with client demand. She has seven pet nannies working for her now and is hiring more. Her dog nannies are young women, ages 25 to 34, who earn a 60 to 70 percent commission, depending on their experience and how the client was obtained.

A Rowan University alumna, Class of 2000, Brugna worked as an internal recruiter for Robert Half and for Weichert Realtors in Morris Plains. After three years in business, her net profits equal what she was earning in corporate HR. “And I set my office hours from 9 to 5, which were unheard of in my other jobs, when I was pulling 10 to 12 hour days, plus commuting time. I don’t have anybody telling me how many vacation days and how many sick days I can take.”

Clients on vacation, who need three to four visits per day, pay $15 per visit, but regular weekday clients, who need their dogs walked in the middle of the day, pay $18 per visit. Visits last about 30 minutes. Weekends and holidays cost extra.

Two tips from this experienced dog nanny: Don’t give “pigs ear” toys to dogs. They have residual blood, which can trigger an old animal instinct and make them possessive about that treat.

How to break up a dog fight: Never put your hand near the head. Try pulling the aggressor’s tail so they will turn around and let go. If that doesn’t work, grab the dog’s back leg so it loses its balance. If all else fails, put a finger in the aggressive dog’s rectum.

Dealing with people may be the biggest challenge for students, she says. Some students say they would rather deal with animals than people. “But you do have to deal with people. And you need to have business savvy. Advertising, invoices — it’s a real business.”

Following St. Francis or Marat Sade?

Testing on animals, says Jayne Makta, executive director of the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research (NJABR), is often wrongly labeled as cruel and abusive. Scientists who do research on animals are often maligned.

Many animal rights advocates, she says, don’t understand how research works, how the laboratory workers love animals and do their best to treat them humanely. “People who work with animals — we try to celebrate them. Our slogan is that we try to build pride in the people, the process, and the promise of medical research,” she says.

NJABR offers a forum on alternatives to the use of animals in research, testing, and training, set for Thursday, November 8, at noon, at the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. The speakers include William Stokes, Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods; Paul Locke, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing; and Rodger D. Curren, Institute for In Vitro Sciences. Admission is free by registration. Call 908-964-9449 (www.njabr.org).

Makta scheduled this forum because of a bill, approved by the state assembly and waiting to be heard by the senate. Sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Loretta Weinberg, Democrats from Middlesex and Bergen counties respectively, the bill would prohibit animal testing when a federally-recommended alternative exists.

A Vitale press release quotes him comparing animal testing companies to abusive sociopaths. He refers to “certain profit-driven companies” using “cruel and inhumane” practices, saying, “we need to step in to ensure cruel, insensitive animal testing does not continue in the State of New Jersey.” The bill would allow the attorney general to enforce “injunctive relief” on companies currently conducting testing that would be considered unlawful under the bill.

Alternatives are, indeed, being used as substitutes for live animal testing, Makta says. L’Oreal, for instance, has invested in the development of a synthetic skin. Johnson & Johnson has come up with four alternative methods, and the Rutgers Center of Biomaterials discovered a new test substance. Some toxicology tests can be made on the inside of an eggshell. Other alternatives use human immune cells grown in the body, bone marrow culture from mice, and cord blood cells from humans.

“A great many alternatives are being used but they are not the one answer fits all that the activists would have you believe,” says Makta “It defies understanding that you criminalize the use of animal models when you don’t understand the use of alternatives in the scientific context.” She hopes that legislators and animal-rights partisans will attend the forum to learn about the availability of alternatives.

“We want to keep the debate civil so people understand society is changing, to know what is at stake,” she says. The forum is geared to science educators, biomedical researchers, toxicologists, veterinarians, curriculum developers for training physicians and veterinarians, and everyone responsible for animal welfare issues in industry and academe. It will answer these questions:

Have efforts to replace animals had an impact on teaching science, training scientists, physicians, and veterinarians, advancing biomedical research, and product safety testing?

How do alternatives advance good science and good animal welfare?

What is the status of alternatives in the U.S., the European Union, or around the world?

Noting that the language of this bill is similar to laws introduced in other states, Makta claims that the bill is part of a nationwide effort to eliminate all animal testing. “We perceive this as a slippery slope, intended to effect a long-range but extreme agenda to eliminate the use of animals.”

Nationally and locally, such as in Wanaque Township, language has been adapted to change the relationship of people and animals, calling for guardianship of animals, rather than ownership, says Makta. That may seem like a harmless move, she says, but it was the first step to changing laws in giving equality to women and people of color.

Makta emphasizes that the real issue is not cruelty to animals. “Our association does not in any way condone or support or advocate for animal cruelty, animal abuse, or misuse of animals in the name of science or anything else. What we do stand for is helping the public understand the role of animal biomedical research and product safety research and testing, which our legislature does not understand are very closely connected.”

Animal laboratories, whether for medical research or commercial purposes, choose to abide by the “three Rs,” which involve:

Replacing animals whenever possible.

Refining techniques so as to be humane.

Reducing the use of animals — using the lowest possible species (i.e. rats instead of cats) and the lowest possible numbers of the species.

Makta has been head of NJABR for 18 years. One of her two children has an incurable genetic disorder, Gaucher’s disease. So after graduating from Cornell in 1965 and teaching English for several years, she left teaching to focus on her family and to advocate for genetic research. She was president of the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association and was also a founding president of the Genetic Alliance, a national coalition for genetic disorders. “Thanks to research and enzyme replacement, my daughter is leading a productive life,” she says.

“For New Jersey, the life science state, to have legislators who try to criminalize the essence of what we do — it flattens morale, drives science from New Jersey, and it does not move forward the effort to improve and protect the health of animals and humans.”

Quaker Bridge Mall Needs a Makeover

American consumer habits make an easy target for pundits. Mark Twain once said, “We have taken luxuries and made them necessities.” And though today’s consumers may blur such distinctions, record numbers of them deem their regular visits to Lawrenceville’s Quaker Bridge Mall on Route 1 as necessary indeed.

While other Central Jersey malls have waxed and waned, Quaker Bridge remains the profitable standby, with its 120 stores reaping $250 million last year from more than 8 million visitors. For any owner viewing these numbers, the call for expansion is clear. And that’s exactly what Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group intends to do.

To learn how Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and a host of other stores will fit into the planned 650,000-square-foot Quaker Bridge expansion, the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce presents “Consumerism — How Retail Drives the Economy” on Thursday, November 8, at 11:30 a.m. at Mercer Oaks Golf Course, 725 Village Road, West Windsor. Cost: $55. Call 609-689-9960 (www.mercerchamber.org).

The speaker, John Albright, is senior vice resident in charge of development for Simon Property Group, rated as America’s largest public real estate trust (www.simon.com.) The firm currently owns 200 million square feet, worth $42 million, in the United States. It owns another 57 million square feet in Europe and Asia. In 2003 it purchased majority holdings in the Kravco Company, an east coast real estate holding firm, changing the name to Kravco Simon Company. Simon Property and Kravco Simon are partners for the Quaker Bridge expansion.

Despite his job’s size, Albright approaches it with matter-of-fact aplomb. A native of Nebraska, Albright grew up in Freemont, a small town outside Omaha. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from University of Nebraska in l981. After a two-year stint as a mortgage underwriter, he returned to his alma mater and took his law degree.

In Youngstown, Ohio, Albright headed up finance and development for a major Midwest developer, Edward Debartolo, pioneer of enclosed shopping malls. He remained there until Simon came in and took over its former rival in l996. Albright then moved into his new company’s Indianapolis headquarters where he serves as financial advisor, legal advisor, and chief shepherd of such projects as the Quaker Bridge transformation.

Recently, Albright was strolling through Quaker Bridge, surrounded by a coterie composed, very obviously, of architects, all armed with rolled blueprints and schematics. An intrigued woman came and asked of Albright,

“Are you planning to change this mall over?”

“Why, yes ma’am.”

“Do you mind if I make a suggestion?”

“Why yes, we are anxious for people’s suggestions.”

“I think you should blow this place up and start all over.”

After he got over his shock, Albright realized that this was basically his plan. “Of course we were not going to blow the place up,” he says, “but this will be a 100 percent makeover, changing even existing stores. You won’t recognize the place.” His argument is that only total remodeling can keep pace with the equally drastic shift in consumer demographics.

Says Albright: “We simply have not kept pace.” In fact, for the last three years, Quaker Bridge’s overall profits have been slipping. “We are losing our customers to the Short Hills Mall and the King of Prussia Mall” (also a Kravco Simon holding).

Keeping pace. In 2005, Simon first proposed to totally revamp Quaker Bridge, adding another 650,000 to the mall’s current 1.1 million square feet. According to plans, the present anchor stores of JC Penney, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Sears will take on a new look. They will be joined by the lavishly upscale Neiman Marcus, taking 90,000 square feet, and the fashion specialty retailer Nordstrom, taking another 144,000 square feet on both levels.

Parking garages will be added. Though several lifestyle areas will be added, the mall will remain 100 percent retail.

The two new anchors that will set the very upscale tone are the only stores definitely locked in. But Albright is finalizing negotiations for a long list, plus a waiting list, of retailers, all wanting a piece of the new Quaker Bridge action.

Lawrenceville officials’ attitudes ranged from accepting to thrilled. Mayor Michael Powers said, in a press release, “With the addition of Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, the Quaker Bridge Mall will be the premier destination for shoppers. This is wonderful news for the mall and Lawrence Township residents.”

Nevertheless Albright and his architects still struggle with the township code, which demands that the site plan be at least 80 percent complete before filing. This atypically high hurdle has slowed progress a bit.

Albright shies away from naming a completion date, but best estimates are that by 2010 consumers will be ogling the expensive baubles on Neiman Marcus’ counters.

Mall impact. “Since the early 1950s — for one fifth of our nation’s history — shopping malls have been part of the American scene. They are very much here to stay,” says Albright. Certainly, they have become a prime gathering place, and while outdoor malls work in some areas, buyers generally prefer climate controlled settings.

Many, including some Lawrenceville residents, argue that such mall expansion flies in the face of smart growth and environmental concerns. Albright replies that expanding a current property is a much smarter way to grow than carving out another free standing mall. As to traffic and environmental concerns, arguably less gasoline will be used by residents driving to Quaker Bridge than to farflung malls like King of Prussia or Short Hills.

It is with residents in mind that Simon Property Group is expanding Quaker Bridge Mall. “You design a mall by first asking what items do the neighboring people buy,” says Albright. “Local customers are your bread and butter. Tourist shoppers are just a nice extra.” Once the expansion is complete, he predicts that shoppers can get virtually everything they need within five miles along Route 1 from Quaker Bridge.

Of course, there will also be a tourist impact, such as King of Prussia and Short Hills have already witnessed. This will no doubt boost all the retail economies as it has in these other towns. It will also just as surely boost the amount of traffic on the already jammed Route 1. If you sell it, out-of-towners will drive to it.

The explosive expansion of Quaker Bridge stands as a sign of our times. We truly have become a nation of, among other things, consumers. We are able to make more stuff faster than ever before. A global array of dazzling goods are increasingly dangled before us. The money to purchase these items is made ever more accessible. The advertising lures grow more enticing.

So we buy. And buy. And build bigger houses to store all our new things. Life is more comfortable. And instead of saving money, many of these devices save us something more precious — time. But can we still save our souls and our environment amidst the onslaught of all these items?

— Bart Jackson

World Usability Day

Computer researchers are helping those without the ability to speak or use language. For World Usability Day, Princeton University scientists will demonstrate new assistive technologies from the Aphasia Project: “Designing Technology For and With Individuals who Have Aphasia.”

It is part of the program for the New Jersey chapter of the Usability Professionals Association, which presents “Innovations in Healthcare in New Jersey” on Thursday, November 8, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Conference Center at New Jersey Hospital Association, 760 Alexander Road. The program is free. Call 609-275-4140. UPA is an international, non-profit, professional association with more than 2,000 members (www.upassoc.org).

The event is cosponsored by IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, founded more than 50 years ago (www.embs.org). Professionals in human factors, engineering, computer science, and medicine will meet with students, innovators, and the business community.

Princeton University’s Perry Cook, Jordan Boyd Graber, Sonya Nikolova, and Xiaojuan Ma came up with a prototype system to give people with aphasia more independence and control of their lives. The system uses desktop computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to help patients schedule meetings and then take their own phrases and sentences along to these meetings.

“The Aphasia Project shows how innovations in healthcare are created by working closely with the people who will use the new devices. Engaging the customer, caregiver, or healthcare provider is a basic rule for creating good usability whether the product is for a physician, such as electronic medical records, or for a consumer, such has someone in a rehabilitation program,” says Alice Preston, UsabilityNJ event chair (www.usabilitynj.org and www.worldusabilityday.org).

In another demonstration at the Usability Day program, Siemens Corporate Research of College Road will demonstrate “Fish ‘n Steps: A Game-like Environment to Motivate Behavioral Change in Physical Activities”

Laura Keller and Mark McCognahy will speak about maximizing returns on patient and CRM sites by utilizing the customer experience. Both used to work for Rosetta Marketing and now work for MISI Corp. and IMC2. Judith Deutsch, director of the Rivers Lab at UMDNJ, will speak about virtual reality for stroke rehabilitation.

A panel on how consumers trust the Internet for healthcare information will include Jim Barrood of the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Bill Jensen (www.simplerwork.com), Charles Kreitzberg, CEO of Cognetics Corporation of North Mill Road in Princeton Junction, and Elizabeth Avery Gomez of NJIT.

New Media: Web 2.0 or Consumer 2.0?

‘Advertising agencies have always carefully developed the ways they communicate, from lavishly produced broadcast brand sermons to the lifestyle appropriate guerrilla marketing events,” says Brian Crooks. “While marketers are discussing the next ever-so-clever wave in business-to-consumer communications, the ever-so-reliable audience they are going to spring it on has become unreliable. Before they could sneak up on us, we sneaked out on them and formed the real guerrilla movement. We’ve escaped, we’ve used digital media like a spoon to dig a hole, and we walked.”

Crooks speaks at the River Communications Group meeting on Thursday, November 8, at 6 p.m., in Merrill Lynch’s Hopewell complex, 1500 Merrill Lynch Drive, Hopewell Room/Assembly C. His topic: “Web 2.0: how emerging media will affect web design and development.” Cost: $20 including drinks and snacks, limited seating. E-mail: beth@brodypr.com or call 609-397-3737.

Crooks grew up in Rhode Island, where his father was a legislator, and he graduated from Brown University in 1983. In Philadelphia he is the executive creative director of Avenue A/Razorfish, a Microsoft company.

In an op ed piece describing the new media, Crooks recalls the time when consumers were content to sit still and watch television, read the newspaper, or listen to the radio. “We no longer rely on the media for our cultural fix, but on the media we edit and create for ourselves. We’re out here amongst the underbrush in the real world, and we’re evading capture at all costs. We do things when we want and with whom we want.”

If you want to deliver a message, get out with the consumer in real time. “We may not have completely abandoned the networks, it’s just that we’ve created our own more meaningful and social ones.”

“We’re more mobile and elusive than ever before. We’re more like tribes now. If we adopt a brand it is for life. The brands we adopt are not the old-school monolithic ones — these new brands exist as part of our tribes and we’re free to bash it or praise them on a global stage.”

Traditional advertising agencies do quantitative research on consumers, but the qualitative nuances are what matter now. “We’re no longer one big audience but a collection of micro audiences. Please get to know us first and then serve us messages that are actually relevant.”

The “Big Idea,” formerly created by an ad shop and shaped to fit a known series of communication events across defined channels, now has to work in a lot of small, shifting pieces, writes Crooks. Listen carefully, he warns, “because the next ‘Big Idea’ may come from the audience. If advertisers are inflexible about how they think about and communicate a brand, the escapees they’ve spent time and money to contact will go into hiding again.”

“Forget Web 2.0, try Consumer 2.0. We control a lot of the mediums. To those of you out there who would like to sell us something — come and join us in all the places we congregate and strike up some real conversations. Or find yourselves locked up and requesting visitation privileges.”

November 14

Networker’s Maxim: Remember the Work

Adam Kovitz, by anyone’s definition, is a smart man — an actual rocket scientist-turned-networking guru who almost single-handedly has accepted the responsibility of dragging some very tired old networking cliches into the 21st century. Simply “working the room” and collecting business cards and seeing old friends at the chamber of commerce meeting is no longer good enough. Networking today requires an investment.

The currency? Relationships.

“People aren’t irrelevant,” the 38-year-old Kovitz says from his suburban Philadelphia office. “Everything we want to achieve in this world has to be based on relationships to other people.”

Those relationships, in turn, become what Kovitz refers to as “a constantly evolving portfolio of assets;” a living, breathing network of mutually beneficial relationships that, regardless of your business, make up what Kovitz considers the most important single measure of success — relationship capital.

“Financial capital is merely a reflection of relationship capital,” he says. “You can’t measure wealth without measuring relationships.” He will describe ways to accumulate such a portfolio of business assets at a breakfast seminar entitled “Networking to Grow Your Business” for the Princeton Regional Chamber on Wednesday, November 14, at 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club, 6 Mercer Street. Cost: $30. Call 609-924-1776 (www.princetonchamber.org).

Another networking seminar in this time period will be on Monday, November 12, at 6 p.m. at Raritan Valley Community College’s College Center in North Branch. Giulio Padovani will speak on “Networking Success.” The event is free by registration. Call 908-526-1200, ext. 8934.

At his seminar Kovitz will delve less into the airy concepts of human relationships and more into the nuts and bolts of effective networking. For example:

Building a networking inventory, through which you know who your strongest assets are.

Ranking business relationships to find who are the most and least beneficial — and then finding ways to strengthen the weak spots.

Recognizing the tit for tat factor. Productive business relationships go both ways. If you can help someone else, that person can help you. This can be as simple as asking yourself, “Do I have a business that complements another?” A contractor who knows a real estate agent is in a good position to build a lasting relationship.

“It takes a certain psychology,” Kovitz says, “certain ‘soft skills.’ Most people would rather socialize, but they have to learn to use each other (as assets) to do business.”

This, of course, takes work, and Kovitz makes no attempt to hide the second half of word “networking.” Citing an increasingly popular refrain within the networking industry, Kovitz says, “It’s not net-sitting; it’s not net-eating. It’s net-working.”

And networking, he says, should not be viewed as yet another thing to take care of, but as an essential — indeed, the most essential — aspect of a business’ operation.

“Networking is the way you build your business,” he says, relating it to someone starting a new job. On the first day of work, he says, a new employee needs to know who to turn to in any situation — who is giving the work, who will be receiving the work and who takes care of trouble when it brews.

“That’s all a network,” he says. “It’s working to figure all that out.”

Kovitz’s perspectives (and his growing success in the networking industry) are a combination of experience, hard work, book smarts, and heredity. After graduating from Penn State University with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1992, Kovitz, quite literally, shot for the stars. Working in jet propulsion and rocket science for General Electric in his hometown of East Windsor and for the U.S. Navy, Kovitz says he quickly developed a sense of how large organizations — like rockets — are comprised of very small parts.

The realization that organizations are not just groups of people but are continuously evolving organisms unto themselves was the spark that ignited his venture into the networking industry. No matter the business, no matter the industry, he found, the core reason any enterprise stands or falls rests on its people and the relationships they make.

He took this perspective into the field of management consulting, where he co-founded Mid-Atlantic Development in East Windsor. In November 2004 Kovitz traded East Windsor for Levittown, Pennsylvania, and traded in his business name for the eponymous Adam J. Kovitz International. The latter incarnation of his firm also changed its focus from simply consulting to “connecting, educating, and inspiring” businesspeople. With a greater focus on strategic partnering, networking and relationship building, Kovitz launched the Networker online newsletter in February, 2005.

Later that year, the publication officially changed its name to the National Networker. Kovitz attributes its success (from 900 initial subscribers based mostly in New Jersey to more than 36,000 subscribers worldwide) to his message — that learning to recognize and build mutually beneficial relationships is vital.

Kovitz, a man “descended from accountants and musicians,” mostly credits his father, a CPA, with setting an early example.

“My father was one of my role models,” he says. “He knew he needed to know people to get ahead.”

— Scott Morgan

Corporate Angels

Magyar Bank Charitable Foundation has donated $5,000 to the New Brunswick Education Foundation (NBEF) to support music programs from grades 4 to 12. NBEF hopes to help restore the city’s musical program that has been inactive for 20 years, due to financial constraints.

Individuals and corporations may donate to the Magyar Bank Charitable Foundation, c/o Magyar Bank, 400 Somerset Street, New Brunswick 08901, attention Jay Castillo. Grant seekers may apply to the same address, or call 732-342-7600, extension 111 or visit www.magbank.com.

McGraw-Hill Employees Federal Credit Union donated more than $21,000 to the First Tee of Greater Trenton at a sponsor appreciation event in September at Cranbury Golf Club. Shawn Gilfedder, president of the full-service financial institution, says his organization has raised more than $70,000 in three years and expects to pass the $100,000 milestone next year.

The First Tee of Greater Trenton uses golf as the vehicle to provide area youth with alternative and accessible forums for positive character development.

Supporters of the Jim Hughes Memorial Golf Classic, an October benefit at Bedens Brook Club for Family & Children’s Services of Central New Jersey (FACS), included Long Motor Co./Bridgewater Volvo, Bank of America, BlackRock, Gloria Nilson Real Estate/GMAC, Triune Color, Merck Partnership for Giving, Glenmede Trust, Walter B. Howe Insurance Group, Jamison, Eaton & Wood, Shiseido America, Fox, Rothschild, O’Brien & Frankel, and Wilson Sporting Goods.

Family & Children’s Services serves Mercer and Middlesex counties with counseling, prevention, mentoring, outreach and case management services (www.nj-counseling.org)

Two Great Clips salons, at Nassau Park Pavilion and Hamilton Marketplace, hosted cut-a-thons to benefit Children’s Miracle Network at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. For October 23 and 24, the owners of both salons, Denise and Nick Schiera, donated 25 percent of the sales.

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