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ShelfGenie of Connecticut owner, Alex Modica was the guest speaker on a podcast with Almost Practical business coach, Neena Nandagopal. Check out their great discussion on how to get organized and stay organized!

For National Home Remodeling month, the popular syndicated news program, Fox & Friends invited ShelfGenie as one of the featured companies on their “Remodel Your Life with a New Job” segment. Participating companies were asked to share available job opportunities across their organizations.

In this video, Alex Modica talks about some of the training that his team of designers & installers have to go through.

In this video, Alex Modica talks about the differences between ShelfGenie and kitchen designers.

In this video, Alex Modica talks about typical glide out installation costs.

A unique pantry solution that creates space for your mops and brooms.

Lorie Marrero of The Clutter Diet demonstrates how her kitchen storage was upgraded with custom pull out shelves and accessories from ShelfGenie.

Hi, I’m Lorie Marrero, here on assignment for Woman’s Day with Pam in her kitchen, and we wanted to show you the solution we have for this blind corner. As you see, this is the corner of the kitchen where there is a lot of storage back in there, but this cabinet really didn’t reflect that and make that very easy for her to access. So, part of doing this, what you’re about to see, Pam had to crawl back in there almost just literally crawling in her whole body to reach whatever was in the back there.

So, now, this is the brilliant solution instead. We have a pull out shelf here and another pull out coming from the side. This was done by ShelfGenie and it is ingenius. It has both top and the bottom the same way because she’s got her cake pans and things that she doesn’t use quite as often back there, but they’re still extremely accessible without any climbing or crawling. See more great organizational ideas from Project Declutter.

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Professional organizer Diane Albright attended the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) annual conference and shared her favorite organizational finds, including full-extension pull out shelves by ShelfGenie!

Alex Modica, owner of ShelfGenie of CT and NY attended the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Expo on April 24, 2013, as you can see from the above photo of Alex “networking” with the local restauranteurs. Read the entire article here.

From the Hersam Acorn Ridgefield Home section of March 2013

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Introducing ShelfGenie of Connecticut & New York

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ShelfGenie hit the national airwaves in January of 2013 during The Price is Right. Watch our ad spot!

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Alex Modica, member since 2011, believes in the power of the Greater Valley Chamber. Alex’s time at the chamber has proved beneficial for not only his business, but also his continued growth of contacts and relationships. To learn more about the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce please visit GreaterValleyChamber.com

ShelfGenie’s Coast-to-Coast Support of Disabled Vet

The story begins with ShelfGenie client, Joe Kowalski of Connecticut.  Sgt Joe Kowalski USMC (Retired), “Sarge”, happens to be the co-host of a TV program called theUltimate Fishing Experience.  The show features the truest of American Heroes, our Veterans, who have made unimaginable sacrifices, and illustrates the therapeutic value fishing has on the wounds of war. After recognizing the therapeutic value fishing has on his own PTSD, Joe made it his personal mission to take his fellow veterans fishing to help cope with and heal the wounds of war. In addition to fishing therapy, the Ultimate Fishing Experience seeks to improve the Veterans’ lives in other ways.  After ShelfGenie installed Glide-Outs in his house, Joe recognized what a help they could be to the Veterans he meets on the Ultimate Fishing Experience.  He asked ShelfGenie of Norwalk’s Alex Modica if ShelfGenie would be interested in providing Glide-Outs to the Heroes featured on the show.  Alex brought this worthy cause to the attention of the ShelfGenie Home Office.  This is where the story takes a turn to Colorado. Aaron Bugg of Brighton, Colorado was to be featured on the Ultimate Fishing Experience.  What he didn’t know was that while he was away fishing, his home would be getting a makeover.  ShelfGenie Glide-Out Shelving Solutions were to be part of the package.  ShelfGenie of Denver’s Rosemarie Rae met secretly with Aaron’s wife Lisa to design a solution to meet Aaron’s needs, and Stuart Rae, Rosemarie’s husband, installed the Glide-Outs amidst other enhancements being made to the Bugg’s home.  On January 10th, the Buggs arrived at their newly refurbished home. Rosemarie said, “Lisa was a delight to work with and is a genuinely lovely person.  She texted me the very next day that they love the Glide-Outs!” ShelfGenie is proud to have supplied the Glide-Outs and greatly appreciates the contributions made by Alex for bringing the cause to our attention and Rosemarie and Stuart for donating their time to the Bugg’s project. You can watch the Bugg’s story unfold on the Ultimate Fishing Experience, Thursday, February 23rd, at 8:30pm Eastern Standard Time on NBC Sports.

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Here’s a personal welcome message from Alex Modica, the franchise owner of ShelfGenie of NY and CT.

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A short demonstration of ShelfGenie Glide-Out Shelves from Alex Modica, franchise owner of ShelfGenie NY and CT.

See and hear what a difference our solutions made in the life of the reporter! Click here to read a post on TheGoodStuffGuide that shows the steps of a Glide-Out pantry installation.

Joe Sassano and Alex Modica are franchisees of ShelfGenie, a national company that custom designs, builds and installs Glide-Out™ shelving systems. “While most home improvement projects are costly and time consuming, adding this shelving is affordable and easy,” says Sassano. A professional designer develops a custom solution for existing kitchen cabinets and pantries that can increase storage by up to 50%. Glide-Outs are then custom-built out of Baltic birch, an earth friendly material. These top quality pull out shelves can hold items up to 100 pounds and glide in and out easily with just the touch of a finger.

Solutions range from single and double height pull out shelves to tray bins and risers that fit under sinks and around plumbing. A popular product is a solution for blind corner cabinets that is superior to the Lazy Susan. Two shelves are used—the first slides outward while the second slides perpendicular to the first allowing access to all items in the back without having to unload the shelf or dig into recessed space.

While kitchens and pantries are the most popular places for this system, it can be installed in bathrooms, closets, home offices, media rooms, bars and garages. Cabinets are organized, and storage is accessible, efficient and clutter free. According to Modica, “Designing and building solutions for cabinet organization is ShelfGenie’s only business. This is why these are the best pull out shelving you can buy.”

Sassano and Modica also work with architects, builders and remodelers on new homes or larger remodeling projects. Call (888) 848-1375.

Organizing 2011: Meet ShelfGenie March 10, 2011 Say goodbye to my old pantry, because it is outta here! Here’s the problem: I see the first couple of cans, then it’s a huge jumbled mess.  Behind that big jar of Jif right there are 4 more because they got caught behind things, and I didn’t know I had them and bought more. The bottom baking area was also a huge repository hidden away.  When I stock up on extra brown sugar, etc during sales, I couldn’t see them after I stowed them away. Here’s where you can see how really deep these shelves were, which was great for storage, but not for retrievable storage… Then ShelfGenie entered my life. Joe came and talked me through the process, then the installer came to measure my cabinets.  Then all was quiet for about 2 weeks while my custom glide-out shelves were handcrafted. Then this little miracle occurred…. See those 2 boxes there?  I just couldn’t wait to get everything organized and I took these before I remembered that you’d like to see the shelves without all of our consumables on them. This is the middle shelf pulled all the way out.  I could sit a 75 pound kid on there just fine. I wouldn’t do it, but I could. But if I did, it wouldn’t break. (And that’s probably the information you’re after.) And here we are all loaded up: all 4 jars of pasta sauce, 5 bags of flour (!), 3 brown sugars, 5 jars of Jif, and 9 different random boxes of pasta I didn’t know I even had. Obviously, I’m so much happier to open this now organized pantry.  It’s uber user-friendly.  I also hope it makes me a much wiser shopper. Here are some other ideas from ShelfGenie: Words aren’t necessary for this… These folks may already have been neat. I store our games, puzzles, etc in a similar hutch and this would be pretty incredible… Can you imagine the change from the old pantry?  We don’t even need to see the before. This one was actually the most dramatic change for me.  There’s even an extra empty shelf!! Do you have glide-out shelves in your kitchen/pantry/laundry/bathroom?  How have they helped you?  If you want them, where would you use them first?

In a Tough Job Market, Franchising is the Answer for Some — But Not All (EXCLUSIVE)


May 12, 2010

Rob Kuznia — HispanicBusiness.com


Two years ago, Alex Modica was a jet-setting executive earning six figures in the apparel industry.

The Connecticut resident had spent 23 years in the business, working upper management jobs for companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Banana Republic.

Then came the recession. In October of 2008, he was “downsized” from his position as a senior marketing manager at BlueFly.com.

Suddenly, Modica was hustling for a job.

For months, he went on interviews, but to no avail. Over-qualification was his primary problem, or so his interviewers said.

“It makes you stop and think, ‘What am I going to do?’” he told HispanicBusiness.com. “I’m not an old guy. I’m only 46 — I’m not dead.”

Modica turned to franchising. In September — nearly a year after he was let go — he launched ShelfGenie, a franchise that designs, builds and installs Glide-Out(TM) shelving systems.

Quite a departure from his previous line of work, but Modica said he has no regrets.

“I could not be any happier with my decision,” he told HispanicBusiness.com. “God willing, it’s been very good. We’ve had growth every month.”

Modica is among many high-skilled unemployed workers across the United States who have turned to franchising amid the downturn in the economy.

For him, the option has been a godsend. But it is far from a cure-all.

2009 A Tough Year for Franchising

Franchisers were not immune from economic misery of 2009. That year, franchise businesses reduced employment by 4.1 percent, shedding 409,000 jobs nationwide. Revenue dropped 0.7 percent, or by $5.7 billion, according to a December report from the International Franchise Association (IFA), the world’s oldest and largest organization representing franchising.

However, in prior recessions, the industry has bounced back faster than others. After the recession of 2001, franchise companies added 1.2 million jobs over a five-year period, and expanded at an average of 9 percent a year, according to the IFA.

The IFA expects things to turn around. The organization’s December report forecast a slow recovery for this year, predicting the industry will reclaim 36,000 of the 400,000 lost. It also forecast a boost in revenues by 2.8 percent, to $868.3 billion.

Alisa Harrison, the IFA’s vice president of communications, told HispanicBusiness.com that the organization doesn’t yet have hard figures for 2010, but said discussions with individual CEO’s indicate some positive movement.

“Many are certainly optimistic,” she said. “Some companies are really seeing franchises fill rapidly. But credit remains an issue.”

Jeff Young, a franchise consultant with MatchPoint — an agency that matches franchisees with franchisers — acknowledged that much of the movement is the result of the rising unemployment rate over the past year.

“It’s cyclical,” he told HispanicBusiness.com. “With more people out of work, more, by virtue of sheer numbers, get into starting their own business.”

How to Get the Start-Up Money?

To start a franchise, prospective owners need to pay the franchising company a start-up fee. In Modica’s case, it amounted to $40,000, and had to be made in one lump sum — no payments.

Franchisees sometimes obtain the money for their start-up fees through home-equity lines of credit.

But Young said that the option is less common, now that the banks have tightened the rules on lending. Others get the money from their personal or retirement savings, and a select few — maybe 2 percent — obtain loans from the franchising company, Young said.

The terms of agreements vary, but franchisee entrepreneurs often keep about 95 percent of their proceeds, and pay the franchise company a 5 percent “royalty.”

Minorities and Franchising

The IFA estimates that minorities make up about 20 percent of all franchise owners, and that Hispanics constitute about 6.8 percent.

Given how minorities now amount to about a third of the U.S. population — and Hispanics, 15 percent — those amounts seem disproportionately low.

However, while roughly 1.8 percent of all white-owned businesses are operated as franchises, 2.1 percent of all Hispanic-owned businesses are franchises. For African Americans, the figure is 2.3 percent; Asians, 3.9 percent, according to Census data.

Also, a 2007 survey conducted by the IFA indicates that minorities are more likely to own franchise businesses than independent businesses. That survey found that roughly 19.3 percent of all franchises are minority-owned, versus 13.2 percent among all non-franchise businesses.

Success Rate is Murky

The success rate of the franchise is difficult to nail down. One oft-repeated statistic among industry insiders asserts that 95 percent of all new franchise businesses are still in business after five years.

Some say this is a myth, and even the IFA has disputed this statistic, calling it dated. It also disputes the frequent claim that the success rate of franchise startups is better than that of regular small businesses.

Among all the nation’s small businesses, roughly 70 percent survive the first two years, and about half survive the first five, according to SCORE, a national non-profit organization providing free business mentoring services to entrepreneurs.

So far, Modica is on pace to join the lucky half. Others have gotten off to a slower start.

The Story of Jaime Porras

Like Modica, 45-year-old Jaime Porras is a highly skilled worker who struggled to find a job in the down economy. He grew up in Mexico City, where he thrived as a computer software developer, and started his own company.

In 2007, his wife landed a good job in Houston. The couple relocated with their two kids, now 8 and 6 years old.

For six months, Porras searched for a job to no avail.

“My skills were more management and database design,” he told HispanicBusiness.com. “I don’t have any specialization on energy or health care. Nothing useful for Houston.”

As with Modica, the idea of franchising found Porras, not the other way around. A franchise broker had spotted his resume on a job site, and wanted to know if he’d like to try his hand at opening a franchise business.

“In the beginning I was a little skeptical,” he said. “I thought maybe they worked just for the commission.”

But the broker with the company FranChoice grew on Porras, and he decided to give it a go.

Like Modica, Porras made an initial investment of $40,000. But he also had to invest in marketing, sample materials and two employees, bringing the total startup cost to $150,000.

In February of 2009, he launched the Houston branch of Floor Coverings International, a shop-at-home floor-covering retailer.

Porras said he expected 2009 to be slow. But the actual performance failed to even meet his low expectations. So far, he’s made no money.

“It has all been investing,” he said. “I expect to recover some money after next year.”

Meanwhile, he admits that his wife is skeptical.

“When she saw that $150,000 was out of the bank, and saw the loss of the last year — it was very huge — there was panic,” he said. “She is not convinced it can work.”

Porras makes home visits to people looking for improvements. He has two employees, one in sales and the other in operations. Their small company contracts out with vendors that perform much of the painting, carpeting and tile work.

Despite the slow start, Porras said he remains optimistic.

“When you see there is movement, and see you’re going to have a business that is, in the end, good for your family and everything, I think it’s worth it,” he said.

The Story of Gilbert Enriquez

Some franchises take off and are almost immediately profitable.

Such is the case with the startup of Gilbert Enriquez.

Since opening his first Hungry Howie’s Pizza branch McAllen, Texas near the border, Enriquez — a former accountant in the construction industry — has opened another in a nearby town, and plans to open a third in a few months.

So far, his profit margin, depending on the season, ranges from 8 percent to 15 percent, he said.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and open my own business one day,” he said.

Hungry Howie’s is a pick-up and delivery establishment, with no dining in. This helps keep costs low.

Enriquez’s start-up fee was only $15,000 for the first restaurant, and $9,000 for the second.

Unlike Modica and Porras, Enriquez got out of his industry on his own terms, quitting his job in the summer of 2008 after saving up money to pursue his dream. His timing was impeccable: About a year after he quit, the construction industry tanked.

But for all his success, Enriquez — who now wears a uniform and delivers pizzas — said he still isn’t making what he used to earn as an accountant.

“I’m sure it will get there,” he said. “I eventually plan to open four stores.”

Better Homes and Gardens.

Genie in a Drawer
Posted by Veronica BHG Editor at 1/8/2009 1:55 PM CST

I love anything that makes life a little easier. That’s why I’m a big fan of glide-out shelving for cabinets. I’m not alone. Allan Young, a National Associate Director for the National Association of Professional Organizers, loves glide-out shelving so much that he co-founded ShelfGenie.

ShelfGenie custom designs, builds and installs shelving systems for kitchens, pantries, bathrooms, closets, home offices, media rooms, and garages. These shelves glide in and out with touch of a finger. Not only do these systems reduce back and knee strain, but they also make it easier to organize and find items in your cabinets. Who doesn’t need that?

In these economic times, it’s not often one hears of a success story. Yet, despite the many headlines of foreclosures, unemployment and bailouts, some people are making major changes to emerge from their own personal economic crisis.

A case in point is longtime Ridgefield resident Joe Sassano, who has left his more than 30 years in the financial sector and opened a new franchise with ShelfGenie.

Having been laid off from Citigroup three years ago and aware of the sad condition of the financial sector, Mr. Sassano decided to fulfill a longtime dream – running his own business.

“I needed to find something that would balance my living,” he said. “After job hunting for a number of months, nobody was doing any hiring whatsoever, so I thought it was time to start my own business.”

He examined the franchise market, and found ShelfGenie, a growing company that specialized in shelving systems.

“ShelfGenie just spoke to me,” he said. “I read the concept, loved the concept. I was extremely impressed by the support and infrastructure. Here’s an opportunity to step into something that is really put together.”

“ShelfGenie custom manufactures, sells, and installs glide-out shelving systems for existing cabinets, primarily in kitchens, but also in bathrooms, garages, entertainment centers, and anywhere where easy access and maximized capacity can benefit the homeowner or business,’ Mr. Sassano said.

“They key is existing cabinets—we don’t’ build or install cabinets, just the very high quality glide-outs that fit inside. Each unit is individually measured and custom manufactured to exact one-millimeter tolerance for perfect fit and solid performance.”

Mr. Sassano is optimistic, citing the affordability of the shelving systems as well as the locale where he will be working.

“My role will be to do most of the sales myself as I get the business up and running,” he said. He manages the installer network—“these are handymen that want to have an additional source of business—believe me with the building industry laid low at the moment, these guys are easy to find!”

“Ten years ago, I never expected to be in this situation,” Mr. Sassano said. “With many years in the corporate world, the thought of owning a franchise business was way down my list of possibilities.

“I feel very fortunate that I took this step, and am confident that this is the right move for me at this time and stage in my life.”

accentHome – The Hour

Minimize, organize to simplify many of your day-to-day tasks

Sorting household items to maximize space and still have easy access will forever be an annoyance to homeowners. With Get Organized Month jumping into full throttle, finding a new home for items around the house cannot only be exasperating, but also a huge hassle.

A local franchisee of ShelfGenie wants to help solve the problem, and says one can quickly reduce or diminish that clutter, disorganization and frustration altogether.

“First and foremost, do one piece at a time,” said Alex Modica. “I recommend that before getting started, pick an area that bothers you the most,” said Modica. “If you don’t, you’ll look at your house and say, “Oh my gosh! There’s so much to organize!” and you’ll be overwhelmed before you get going.”

Once you choose an area, the next step is to empty everything out and get started.

“For the kitchen, focus on a couple of cabinets and think it through. Then take everything out,” said Modica. “Physically touch everything that’s in there. IF you hear yourself say, “I didn’t even know I had that,” then that goes in the out pile.”

Modica advises sorting through the items and picking out the things you use frequently.

“Those that you use the most often are the things that should be included,” he said. “The items you use once a year probably shouldn’t be there.”

For excess things that you use once a year, Modica suggest putting them into a secondary location.

“Stuff you don’t use as often shouldn’t be in your primary location,” said Modica. “If you haven’t used it in over a year, I’d get rid of it. Reality is, when you do need it, you won’t find it anyway.”

If the items are still in good condition and not yet ready for the garbage, he encourages donating them

“Give to the poor, give to a charity – just get rid of it! You’ll be amazed at how much space you create for yourself when you start,” said Modica. “Bu the key is to take a small piece of the puzzle rather than trying to do everything at the same time.”

After going through each of the items, decide what you really want and need in your primary space.

“Think about what you want in there. The things you use the most often – for example pots and pans – should be near the stove,” said Modica. “The only time they’re not near the stove is if you have limitations in terms of the cabinet itself. But, that’s a good starting point.”

ShelfGenie franchisee Alex Modica says having a place for everything, and putting things where they belong, is among the keys to staying organized.

That method of taking everything out and starting from scratch is a method that can be used for any space.

“These rules apply to the closets as well. Take everything out, do your sorting, take out the things you haven’t worn in a year or two and get rid of it,” said Modica. “You’ll find a lot more space for yourself.”

Once reorganized and incorporating the changes into a daily routine, Modica stresses maintaining your work.

“It just takes that extra minute to put an item back where it belongs,” said Modica. “Once you’ve thought it through, done your sorting, reorganizing, and cleaned out the clutter, take that extra minute to put things back. It’s a slippery slope. If you start putting it somewhere else, the next thing you know, you beautifully organized plan suddenly becomes nebulous, and you’re right back where you started.”

Modica’s company has been helping people get organized through a system of custom-built glide-out shelving for cabinets.

“I used to have to move stuff to see in the back of the cupboard,” said Marilyn Bender of Southbury. “Now, I just pull out the shelf and pick up what I want; I don’t have to move anything. I’ve just arranged things as to how I like them. Other people need to organize everything to suit their needs.”

Phyllis Kauffman of Hamden also sought the help of Modica and ShelfGenie.

“Everything used to be a mess, I couldn’t find anything.” said Kauffman. “I would just throw everything in the cupboard and had lots of dead space. Now I have a lot more room.”

With or without ShelfGenie, making the extra step to put things back makes a big difference.

“Try to take that extra minute to put it all back,” said Modica. “It will save you lots of aggravation.”

Starting a business 101
Chamber event prepares budding entrepreneurs
by James Nash – Hour Correspondent

NORWALK – Few businesses likely begin without a dream. Fewer likely succeed without the tools and skills needed to forge cerebral sparks into hot commercial form.

And so dozens of visionaries came to the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center this week for the kick-off session of the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 Small Business Development Academy. For 25 years the chamber’s annual academy course has offered free business creation expertise, along with caution aplenty, to those with the grit to serve their entrepreneurial imaginings.

Paul De Graaf, 58, said he started a garage door installation and servi e business, AGP Door, from his Norwalk home a month ago. He’s worked as an employee in the industry for 15 years, and has also run two small businesses in the past. He said he signed up for the chamber’s academy to update his knowledge and possibly gain elbow rubbing insights.

“I’m sure that since the last time I had a business things have changed.” De Graaf said. “You never know who’s going to have a good idea.”

Norwalk resident Martha Agrado, 52, said she has no business experience, but has long been curious about how to start and run one.

“I always wanted to have business like a jewelry store,” Agrado said. “I need to know how you setup a business, how does it work, who to call to get supplies, merchandise.”

Sponsored by Citibank, the no-cost, once-weekly sessions cover essential business start-up topics such as: developing a business plan; acquiring financing; tax, insurance; money and profit basics; employing technology; marketing, advertising and communication plans; and understanding the importance of sales and customer service, as well as the resources and reference materials needed for business.

The sessions are taught by chamber volunteers possessing corresponding proficiency. Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Nov. 15.

This year’s kick-off speaker was Tony Aitoro, owner and operating chief of Aitoro Appliance & Electronics at 401 Wesport Ave. in Norwalk. With jovial, homespun charm, Aitoro related how his family’s original business, a variety store, got started with a $600 loan. The sidewalk sale of a single wringer washing machine eventually grew into a showcase emporium of work-saving appliances and high-end electronics. Although he now owns and runs the store with his brother and cousin, his father remains a delighted presence in the business he founded.

“My dad is there every day,’ he said. “He walks around like a million dollars.”

Aitoro said the business witnessed the dawning of interactice electronics and welcomed the new day, recalling the time with amazed humor.

“We had the first video game in the world. It was called Pong. We sold hundreds of those things,” he said. “I remember the first video recorder we sold. It cost $1,900.”

Aitoro said he started working at the store while still in high school and values the experiencegained from working various aspects of the business. But, he told the audience, he values, trusts and gains knowledge from his employees.

“I’ve learned to surround myself with good people. What’s always stayed the same in the business is the great people working for me. People love to share their business ideas,” he told the audience. “Ask them.”

In response to a question from the audience, Aitoro said the internet has created a tough retail market and he see shrinking margins on the horizon. He said businesses must be flexible, and a dropped-shipped 800-pound refrigerator delivery is not equal to the service he can deliver.

“We make adjustments. We do whatever we have to do,” he said.

Aitoro said giving back to the community is important and the store continually hosts charity functions. Upcoming events to be held in the store’s Westport Avenue showroom will benefit the Caron Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and The American Cancer Society.

Diane E. Winston, a SCORE counselor and founder of the strategic communications firm Winston Strategic Partners, advised session participants to avail themselves of free business advice available through the SCORE chapter at 24 Belden Ave. in Norwalk. Winston also gave a presentation debunking business startup myths, and offered advice on what to do, and not to do, when building a business.

During a break, Mike Rettenmeier, a UConn landscape architectural graduate, said he will be attending academy sessions with his boss who recently founded Eric Rains Landscape Architecture in South Norwalk.

After 20 years working on corporate side of the apparel business, Alex Modica said he’s running a franchise called ShelfGenie, an installer of slide out shelving for existing cabinet and closet frames. Modica said he signed up for the academy to measure his senior vice-president level corporate experience against what’s needed to run a small business.

“You don’t’ know what you don’t know,” Modica said.

Mayor Richard Moccia was on hand to greet hopeful entrepreneurs. Before stepping to the microphone, he chafed a bit at some online criticism regarding time he spent at ribbon cutting ceremonies.

“I’ll cut a ribbon every day if it means a new business,” Moccia said.

Moccia went on to tell audience members they’re in for a valuable treat, and pointed to the success of Michele’s Pies, whose founder Michele Albano was an academy graduate.

“She actually was a student here, and she came back as a graduate. You’re going to hear from some great people who know what they’re talking about,” Moccia said.

Before offering introductory remarks, chamber president and CEO Edward J. Musante, Jr. noted more than 1,000 people have attended the academy over the years.

For more information about the remaining sessions, call (203) 866-2521.


Business group’s goal is growing members’ businesses
by Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn –Correspondent

In these tough economic times, it’s nice to know someone has your back.

Members of Monroe’s Business Network International (BNI) have a sense that there are other entrepreneurs in the community looking out for their business.

“I like to think of BNI as having 37 people working out there as my sales team,” said Ed DeFeo, president of the Monroe chapter of the global networking organization.

Every Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 A.m., Monroe BNI members meet at the Stone Barn at Whitney farms to help each other grow their respective businesses.

“We’re there to give referrals, not to get them,” DeFeo said. “It’s based on the idea of ‘what goes around, comes around.’”

He said business people who receive referrals and increase the amount of their “closed business” – or sales – are more likely to reciprocate with referrals back.

During the weekly meetings, members are given the opportunity to state in one minute what their company does and what they are specifically looking for to “grow their business.”

At last week’s meeting, Lisa Bartlett, a real estate divorce specialist for Century 21 Greengarden, asked that members refer people to her who are selling or purchasing a residence because of the dissolution of a marriage.

A BNI member for two years, Bartlett emphatically asserted that the networking group has helped her increase sales leads.

Like DeFeo, Bartlett said she often feels as if she has a in the community working on her behalf because of her BNI involvement.

As Tuesday’s keynote speaker, Bartlett was able to speak for 10 minutes about her business. “Eveery week we have oneo f our members give a longer ‘comercial’ about what thtey do so we could get to know them better,” DeFeo explained.

Building relationships
The Monroe BNI chapter has almost 40 members, and 20 people showed up for last week’s breakfast meeting.

Absenteeism is not taken lightly, DeFeo said, and those who miss a few meetings are asked to leave the group.

“The biggest benefit of joining BNI is that you are getting ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising, and that happens through building relationships,” DeFeo said. “We encourage members of the group to get together during the week for one-on-one meetings.”

TO encourage unconditional support and avoid having conflicting agendas, a BNI chapter limits its membership to one representative from each occupation. Although three attorneys attended last week’s Monroe BNI meeting, each has a unique practice specialty.

This membership rule may sound stringent, but it’s in place “to protect our members,” DeFeo said. It’s also what motivated him to start the Monroe chapter in 2006.

His membership request at another local chapter had been declined because it already had a mortgage broker in the group. “I thought about it and decided to be pro-active and help myself out and, hopefully, other business people in the community,” DeFeo said.

More than five years later…chapter – which is called the Synergy group – to be “my prized proessional achievement.”

Only one other member from the original group – Palm Stenger, of Bearingstar Insurance – is an active member today.

New members
As they grow their businesses together, BNI members are encouraged to expand the Synergy group by inviting business people to attend a meeting.

Guests may attend only twice, though, before they may be asked to join. Again, this is done to protect members who are sharing referrals with each other.

DeFeo said that annual dues are about $390, plus a fee for breakfast and use of the Stone Barn facility.

For Nick Santarsiero of Monroe, it’s the “Sense of community” that has kept him attending BNI meetings for five years. He said his security and alarm business, Property Protection Consulting, has benefited from his association with BNI members. “It’s absolutely increased my business.” Santasiero said.

Mike Liebensohn, owner of Connecticut Local Marketing in Shelton, thought he would check out BNI’s Monroe chapter to help generate leads for his new business.

Alex Modica, owner of ShelfGenie, a company that provides custom glide-out shelving, told Liebensohn about the group.

Liebensohn said having only one person from each industry is what initially attracted him to BNI. “The idea is that everyone is there to support one another and give each other referrals,” he said.