Entrepreneurs Take A Piece of the Pie With Piccolo Pronto

Roll the dough,

stretch the dough,

twirl it in the air.

Pour the sauce,

layer the toppings,

throw it in the oven.

Nothing compares to a delicious pizza, the overwhelming taste of cheese, sauce, and toppings all melted together on bread crust.  Now, thanks to Campus Town's Piccolo Pronto, quality pizza is just a short walk away for students at The College of New Jersey.  The Pronto, located below the Campus Town building One (behind the gym), is a different kind of pizza restaurant that offers customers personal pizzas as well as other pasta dishes and desserts.  During this semester, the Entrepreneurship Club has paired with the Pronto for a couple of events this semester.

On Tuesday March 8th, the owner of Piccolo's, Fami, stopped by a club meeting to talk to members about how he got into the restaurant business, and how to stay motivated as an entrepreneur as well as give back to the community.  

Fami began working at age 12, washing dishes at a local restaurant.  It was then and there that he learned the value of hard work and how to learn everyday.

"Always learn from others, that's how you add value," Fami says.  "Someone always has to listen to someone else.  That's life."

Fami's dream was always to own a restaurant, and he showed his motivation the day he went to the bank for a loan.  While initially denied, he sat there and fought for what he believed in for hours, talking to several different people.  

He had a passion for what he wanted to do and he conveyed this to students, saying that it is passion and motivation that is the key to succeeding as an entrepreneur.  Fami has opened Piccolo's restaurants in Ewing and Pennington, NJ, Langhorne, PA, and now at TCNJ although the Pennsylvania store did not work out in the long run.  

"Why turn good money into bad money," Fami claims is the reason for the Langhorne store closing down.

Two words that he continued to reiterate were 'clarify' and 'verify,' stating that these two words will lead to proper management and efficiency in the workplace allowing the restaurants to thrive.  As a result of clarifying and verifying, Fami has opened three successful restaurants with another one coming with a liquor license in Doylestown, PA.  

Fami got the idea for the Pronto out in California, and he wanted to bring the idea out to New Jersey, believing that it was a good idea.

"If you put a brand out there and its good, people will come," Fami says.

As for the Pronto, Fami loves to use it as a way to give back to the community, hosting a 'Knead Out Hunger' event on Wednesday March 30th.  Pizzas were given to customers in exchange for donations, and 100% of the donations were given to the Trenton Soup Kitchen.  In total, the restaurant raised about $6,000 for the kitchen.

The Entrepreneurship Club wanted in on the action as a group of club members volunteered to help out during the day.  Some group members advertised the event dressed as pizzas staring by the street while others talked to those waiting on line about what their donations mean and thanking customers for donating after the fact.  

Additionally, the club was given the opportunity to create their own pizza to be added to a specialty menu and voted on for a potential addition to the actual menu moving forward.   The club created, 'The Entrepreneur,' an innovative pizza that combines several different popular pizzas into one delicious pizza.  The pizza contains penne chicken Alfredo with bacon bits and broccoli.  After getting a chance to sample the pie, the club members knew they created something good.  

The Entrepreneurship Club has been honored to work with Fami and Piccolo Pronto this semester, and looks forward to hopefully teaming up again sometime in the future.

Network Makes the Dream Work

The Entrepreneurship Club hosted another great speaker last Tuesday night, bring Dr. Joseph D. Salamone, DC, father of club President, Joe Salamone, to talk to students about the importance of networking.  Dr. Salamone was accompanied by his lifelong friend and current business partner, Toni Vardiman.  

Dr. Salamone grew up in Patterson, NJ, where he wrestled in high school.  An unfortunate injury during his career, which required chiropractic treatment, showed Dr. Salamone that he wanted to be a chiropractor.  After that he went out to Iowa, where he finished his degree in 3.5 years.  He eventually found himself revolutionizing the medical field as he was one of the first chiropractors to work in a hospital.  He spent 15 years, teaching how to include chiropractic practices in the emergency room and performed treatments on patients such as pregnant women who suffered from back problems.  

After leaving the hospital industry, Dr. Salamone then opened a 25,000 square foot health club, with his office located right by MetLife Stadium.  One of the first things he advised of those in attendance was to step out of your comfort zones for he did just that when asked to talk about injuries in the common workplace, resulting in about 40-50 new patients within the next week.  Additionally, he would meet and treat athletes such as Andre Agassi, and even be asked to treat the Metrostars soccer team.

 Over time, his network continued growing and expanding, leading to several business opportunities that he has invested some time in.  One business venture in particular, which Dr. Salamone cites as his favorite of them all, is Mozzarella Man, which came to be when he met a perfumer, who was skilled in scents and tastes.  After traveling to Italy and learning how to make fresh mozzarella, Dr. Salamone approached his friend about infusing flavor into the cheese, thus creating Mozzarella Man.  After a few trial cheeses, they finally found the combination that sufficed their vision.  Soon after that, the owner of ShopRite just happened to come into Dr. Salamone's office.

"Where'd you get this?" the man asked. "I want this in all the stores!"

Soon enough the cheese business took off.

"I was getting 2-3 calls a day," Dr. Salamone said.

As the cheese began selling at ShopRite, the demand soon reached about 100 pounds of cheese every 3 or 4 days, and soon enough, WakeFern wanted a piece of the action.  The business took off so fast that Dr. Salamone eventually pulled it, in order for him to find a way to regulate production and sales without taking him away from the office.  He has since found away to balance both jobs.

Mozzarella Man is not the only business Dr. Salamone has invested some time in.  Grammy award winning artist, Jerry Wonder, a friend of Dr. Salamone, approached the chiropractor about a new type of liquor he wanted to hit the shelves.  This drink, formally called Bonfun, is a wine infused cognac.  Luckily for Mr. Wonder, Dr. Salamone knew the owner of Bottle King, and they were able to get the drink on the shelves.  

AlignMed is another product that Dr. Salamone is excited to see hit the market.  In an attempt to see bettering posture, AlignMed has released a vest that can be adjusted to any size to pull the wearers shoulders back.  Overtime, the constant pulling on the shoulders will create better posture through muscle memory just as muscle memory can create poor posture over time.  

One last product was a bear that can become both a hot pack and a cold pack that Dr. Salamone has been working on with his close friend Toni Vardiman.  The two have known each other since they were 12, and Toni brings experience and connections from from Linens and Things that is currently getting the product into stores.  

The two business partners wanted to share a couple tie bits of advice with the audience at the meeting.  

Dr. Salamone says that the best business partner is someone that you've known for a long time.  As far as networking goes, he says to join some sort of club, i.e. Rotary, Knights of Columbus, Free Masons, etc.  This is a great way to meet as many people as you can.  He also says to connect with as many people as you can on LinkedIn.

"Think outside the box," Dr. Salamone said, "Think of people of different genres, then try to know someone from each genre."

As for Toni, who found herself a Vice President at Linens and Things before the company fell, she talks about the importance of maintaing relationships for you never know when you may need to start over.  

"You are what your friends are, you are who your friends are," she said.  "Relationships are everything,  EVERYTHING!"

TCNJEC Semester 1: A Great Way to Succeed and Have Fun

The College of New Jersey-A group of business students founded the Entrepreneurship Club this past semester, bringing the prospect of innovation to life on campus, every other Tuesday night.  The club offers a fun way for students to bounce ideas off of one another and learn about, not just Entrepreneurship, but a variety of subjects, and how to successfully turn their thoughts and ideas into a reality.  In addition to networking and providing feedback, the club also allowed for club members to learn through both guest and student speakers. 

The club saw a total of 67 different students attend at least one of the club’s six meetings during the semester, and not everyone who attended was necessarily a business major or ready to give birth to the next ground breaking piece of innovation.  “I like to come and listen to what other people have to say.  I think it’s interesting to see what I can learn from what people try to do with their ideas,” says Kevin Dray, a freshman engineering major.  The club pushes for non-business majors to attend, as well, in an attempt to spark campus wide interest in the Mayo Business Plan competition.  In 2015, $50,000 total were awarded to the top three teams with the top team winning $30,000, and past winning teams have featured combinations of all types of business majors as well as engineering and even biology majors.

Even businesses that are not associated to the college strike the eye of the club members.  In November, six members traveled to Trenton in order to assist smaller, lesser known businesses in the area by getting them into Google’s databases making them easier to find on the Internet.  This event, formally known as “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” helped the businesses verify themselves online, manage their information, and keep the information up to date. 

For students who do have an innovative idea, and want to know how to take their idea to the next step, the club offers a safe haven for students to receive valuable feedback for their ideas.  According to senior eboard Chief Advisor, Brian Dragotto, “E-Club is a great opportunity for anyone who has started a business, or wants to get themselves out there.” Dragotto created his own social media app, Toboggan, which uses unique picture and video contests to connect people.  “Without this club, I wouldn’t have gotten as much guidance,” he says.  After getting word out about his app to the club and receiving feedback about it, he has seen his app’s number of downloads and popularity skyrocket.

Club members were able to learn about entrepreneurism from the some of the best because of the various speakers that students were able to see live either on campus or in the area.  Students had the opportunity to hear from Chris Rakow, the founder of Ewing’s RiverHorse Brewery, Brian Smith, founder of UGGs, Daymond John, one of the famous Sharks from Shark Tank, and TCNJ alum, Chris Hindley, creator of the Hoodie Pillow.  Vice President Joe Salamone asks, “How often do you get to meet the founder of a multimillion dollar corporation (Brian Smith)?” Each presenter rose to the top with a different kind of product but all brought great insight on how to run a successful business, and each student gained a lot of knowledge. 

If you have an idea you would like to see come to life, but lack the constructive feedback or even a partner with the last bit of knowledge you need to succeed, or if you are simply intrigued by the prospect of entrepreneurism and want to learn more, than come out to one (or more) of the Entrepreneurship Club’s meetings in the Spring semester now being held weekly at 8:30.   The club expects to have a great turnout for all of the fun meetings and events planned for the semester as they continue to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, and new business ideas.