Dogs are certainly man’s best friend, so it made sense to Bill Zengel when his daughter, Sarah, suggested he name a new company that delivers summer camp programs and year round educational opportunities to youth six to 17, after their pup, Rocket.
“Everyone thought I was crazy,” Zengel, co-owner of Black Rocket Productions, LLC, Freehold, one of 14 clients of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers network lauded at the Small Business Growth Success Awards Luncheon held at the Forsgate Country Club in Monroe on Dec. 2. “But now we’re teaching teachers!”
Assisted by Bill Nunnally, director of the NJSBDC at Brookdale Community College, and Jackeline Mejias-Fuertes, assistant director of the center, the company has grown from one employee to seven full-time and part-time year round staff within the last three years, while their seasonal staff has increased from 20 to over 100. Its revenues have tripled and the firm is now developing a non-profit Children’s Institute of Technology to benefit elementary schools and is also considering opening a charter school that emphasizes technology, creativity and leadership.
“Black Rocket and the thousands of children we teach owe a debt of gratitude to the NJSBDC at Brookdale Community College for helping us secure capital at a significant stage of our business,” said co-owner Richard Ginn.
Black Rocket LLC is just one of the 14 inspiring stories of NJSBC clients that have beaten the odds in a challenging economic environment.
“This is my homecoming, said Brenda Hopper, NJSBDC chief executive officer and state director, while addressing the 280 businessmen and women who attended the festivities. “The stories of our small businesses and entrepreneur clients are all very moving and very unique this year. We are all so very proud of you.”
The firms represent success across many disciplines including high-technology and R&D, financial services, telecommunications, international trade, non-profits and manufacturing sectors representing most counties in the state and all helped by the NJSBDC network.
Deborah Smarth, NJSBDC chief operating officer and associate state director, lauded the small businesses for their “pioneering spirit” that was not thwarted by a challenging economic climate.
Smarth, in her remarks at the event, gave credit to the NJSBDC experts “for their counseling of 4,000 to 6,000 clients annually” and said it was “an honor and privilege” to celebrate the successes of such outstanding small businesses.
NJSBDC also honored two state legislators, Senator Thomas Kean, Jr., Senate Minority Leader, and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Assembly Majority Deputy Conference Leader, for their support of NJSBDC’s mission to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners.
“I never need an excuse to be an advocate of small business,” Kean told the crowd. “I’m from Westfield and small businesses have defined the character of our town. They have invested in a community and made it a better place to live and work. You are the people who inspire us.”
Hopper noted that with the support of NJSBDC’ major funding partners – the U.S. Small Business Administration, the New Jersey Legislature and the Christie Administration and all the private partners that support the organization through sponsorships, grant and other in-kind assistance, the NJSBDC is able to maximize resources for the small business sector.
The NJSBDC was one of the first national SBDC pilot projects resulting from the enactment of a congressional law in 1977. The federal Small Business Administration and the State’s Business Action Center are key finding partners. Higher educational institutions around the state host 11 regional centers including the Rutgers Business School which hosts the organizations headquarters in Newark.
“This is all very inspiring,” said Susan Stultz, COO of Datatek Applications, Somerset, and a member of the NJSBDC State Advisory Board Members. “Having won this award once, I know how they feel and we’re very, very proud of their accomplishments.”