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Restaurant Valenca

Valenca_RestaurantFinding ourselves with no afternoon commitments last Sunday, my husband and I decided to stray from the tried and true local eateries for something different. From a starting point in Millburn, we whipped out our smartphones and began searching for the best-reviewed restaurants in the area. Relying on several excellent reviews on google and tripadvisor, we ended up at Restaurant Valenca in Elizabeth for what promised to be an authentic taste of Portugal – and it did not disappoint!

We took advantage of the 30 minute wait for a table to sit at the small bar, order a pitcher of sangria (the best I've had, including travels to Spain), and peruse the menu. With a four-page menu, plus a full page of Specials, we found it very difficult to narrow the selection, but eventually decided to split three entrees so that we could get a broader experience. When we go back, however, I will definitely try the stuffed scallops appetizer which looked wonderful.

Rebecca Cenni Brings a Human Touch to Staffing

Rebecca_CenniIt’s not uncommon to look around a workplace and think, “If I were the CEO I would do this differently.” It is less common, however, to act on that impulse, and even less common to make that leap after only two years of experience in the industry. But that was exactly the bold move made by Atrium Staffing CEO Rebecca Cenni, and she has never once looked back.

Graduating from the University of Wisconsin and beginning a job at a staffing firm, Rebecca quickly discovered a passion for connecting people with the right job and felt that she could create a better agency – one that had a heightened focus on the candidates they were placing. With that credo in mind, Cenni formed Atrium Staffing in 1995 with an office in Manhattan. Sixteen years later, Atrium Staffing has eight offices, with the most recent office opened in San Francisco, CA. Four of those offices span New Jersey from Little Falls to Princeton, Iselin and Jersey City.

When asked about the key to her success, Cenni confidently asserts that the difference is in her Applicant Centric ™ approach, which provides benefits normally associated with corporate employment, including training and career counseling and a medical, dental and 401K plan that all applicants can buy into. She also implemented a fully automated “e-office” that applicants can access to log hours, check their job histories and view benefits and accrued vacation time.

“Everyone else in the industry focuses on the client - the companies and organizations with positions that need to be filled. At Atrium, we focus on the associate, taking the time to get to know them, find the right match between applicant and client, and offering benefits and services that foster positive and empowered working relationships for those we place. Being a temp is a hard job and it helps to feel that someone is invested in your success,” says Cenni. “What sets Atrium apart is knowing that it’s not just about putting someone in a job; it’s about finding the right opportunity for the applicant to feel comfortable and to grow and excel.”

AtriumLogoWith that theory driving the company, Atrium takes time during the pre-qualifying phase to best understand who the applicant is, what they are looking for and what they are passionate about and analyzing both the hard and the soft skills that will help identify the best match. With clients ranging from small five-person entrepreneurial start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, Atrium has the range of positions available to fit most applicants.

Despite the current unemployment rate, Atrium continues to place applicants and has many vacant positions, particularly in the finance and scientific sectors. In New Jersey alone, over the past 18 months Atrium has placed 2,300 associates in short-term, long-term and temp-to-hire positions. That number doesn’t include the significant number of direct placement positions they have helped to fill.

Atrium is actively seeking new candidates - to view a list of job opportunities or to submit your resume online, please visit the Atrium website.

Cenni’s human approach to staffing is garnering significant attention. Atrium has been named to the 2011 Women Presidents’ Organization ranking of the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies™ in North America, ranked on TimeOut New York’s “Top Temp Agencies,” and on the INC. 5000, and NJ Biz’s “NJ’s Finest” from 2006-2010. Additionally, it made’s top Women, Diversity and Privately Held Firms Lists and Rebecca personally received the 2010 Enterprising Woman of the Year Award and is an E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist.

Cenni also understands the importance of a healthy work-life balance, devoting a significant amount of time to her 8-year-old son and supporting community organizations including CancerCare, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Dress for Success.

For more information on Atrium Staffing, including a list of all offices in New Jersey, please visit the Atrium Staffing website

Woman of the Year Receives Honors

donna_pepe_smallOne of last year's Garden State Woman of the Year Honorees, Donna T. Pepe and her agency, Communications Strategies, Inc. (CSI), were recently recognized with three industry awards. CSI is a marketing, communications and public relations firm specializing in prescription and consumer healthcare marketing. "These awards reflect not only our strategic thinking, but also the strong results that we achieve for our clients' brands," said Donna, the company's founder and president. "We're thrilled and honored to have been recognized by industry peer groups for our innovative work."

• Two Communicator Awards Go to Communications Strategies, Inc.
CSI won Communicator awards in the Special Events and Special Events Plan categories.

o Special Events: The awards gala, "50 & Fabulous: Celebrating 50 years of Women's Advances Since the Pill," brought together the most prestigious people in the non-profit world to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the FDA approval of "The Pill" and -- more important -- to provide support for prominent advocacy organizations devoted to women's reproductive health. The event recognized the world of women's advances, and the trailblazers who have helped revolutionize women's health.

o Special Events Plan: An integral element of the planning for this event was the creation of a timeline that showcased the progress in women's reproductive health throughout the last fifty years. The timeline captured historical events in the history of women and birth control by decades, and highlighted specific achievements from the first birth control pill being approved in 1960 to the latest Supreme Court movements of 2010.

• Leading Woman Entrepreneur Award Presented to Donna Pepe
Own It Ventures & New Jersey Monthly Recognize Donna T. Pepe as Leading Woman Entrepreneur.

o For more than 19 years, Donna Pepe has been an innovator and advocate for women's health with her marketing and communications firm. Building on her reputation as one of the leading public relations and marketing strategists in the industry, Donna has built Communications Strategies, Inc. (CSI) into a successful marketing communications and public relations company with a unique strategic focus in women's health. The company was recently ranked the tenth largest independent healthcare PR agency in the United States, and the first in New Jersey. In 2007, Donna was named one of the 50 top business women in New Jersey by NJBiz magazine. This year, she was named Garden State Woman of the Year in Media and Communications.

Donna is an entrepreneur and business leader who is committed to changing the model by which we market to women. Armed with the belief that the buying power and influence of women is undervalued and largely untapped by marketing executives who frequently fail to appreciate women's unique attitudes and point of view, Donna has created groundbreaking national campaigns that have significant impact on shaping public awareness and attitudes as well as influencing policy.

"Donna is a true innovator, and long ago found a way to combine her insight about women's health with success for her business. She has the ability to identify upcoming trends, and the genius to transform that vision into successful marketing strategies," said Michael M. Durand, long-time healthcare counselor.

An active member of the community, Donna has supported many women's organizations including Women In Need, National Association of Professional Women, the National Association of Female Executives and the Women's Fund of New Jersey, an organization dedicated to providing women and girls of New Jersey with the opportunity to succeed. Donna was named a "Woman of Influence in Communications" by this organization, who recognized her because of her excellence and vision in the communications field, and lauded her proven experience and innovative marketing talent that sets her apart as an icon in the PR profession.

Currently, Donna is an active member of Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey, working with its Board on their fundraising initiatives. She is also on the Board of Executive Women of New Jersey, and does pro bono work for them as well as Dress for Success in Madison, NJ.

The CSI Difference
We're the company behind "I've heard of that." Since 1993, CSI has been an innovator in marketing, especially when it comes to healthcare. We put our clients first, we relate to consumers and we haven't met a challenge that we can't overcome. We know how to make news. No wonder we have catapulted so many brands into household names. Check out our website at and you'll see why we have some of the longest client relationships in the business.

CSI...Because Experience Matters

Jack Speece Can Help Your Business

JackSpeeceGarden State Woman recently sat down with Jack Speece to disucss how Ambrose Employer Group can assist small business owners.

Explain to Garden State Woman readers what your firm does and the types of organizations you target to work with.

Jack: Ambrose provides an integrated, outsourced HR solution as well as a dedicated service team, full suite of benefits, and technology platform for employee and manager self-service. Ambrose's service helps high end, white-collar companies focus on their core business by freeing them from having to manage key HR functions. As a result, clients improve operating efficiencies, reduce their compliance risk, and offer their employees top quality benefits. Ambrose provides clients with a full suite of benefits (medical, dental, vision, STD, LTD, Group Life, 401k, etc) at prices otherwise only achieved through economies of scale. This significantly reduces costs of providing employee benefits. Ambrose also offers the members/partners of LLCs or partnerships access to our benefits. The typical client size ranges from 1-250 employees but the service adds exceptional value to companies of 5-50 employees. We invite those interested to visit for more information.

How do your client companies benefit from working with you?

Jack: On the cost side, companies save money by consolidating numerous HR functions, employee services and products with one vendor (HR Administration, payroll, benefits, 401k, Group Life, LTD, etc). Clients also take advantage of the economies of scale we provide in insurance pricing. Equally important, those companies save time by having a dedicated HR Associate handle all the administrative tasks that normally take time away from the client's core business.

If companies sign up to work with your firm what type of commitment do they make? What is your basic fee structure and how long of a contract do you require?

Jack: Unlike many of our peers, we don't have a minimum contract – we simply require 30 days notice for administrative reasons. We only want clients to stay with us because they're happy with our service, not because they're locked in to a contract. Also unique among our peers, we have a set administration fee per employee per month that is based on the number of employees. This covers the cost of all of our services (i.e. no added cost for each additional service used) and it often results in a cost base less than the combined costs of the client's separate service providers (payroll, benefits, 401k, etc).

What is the compelling reason that companies sign up to work with your firm? What is the compelling bang for the buck?

Jack: Most of our clients would tell you it's our turnkey solution that includes the dedicated HR Associate - our key differentiator in the market - and that's what we focus on. However, while we don't promote it, the real "bang for the buck" is often the substantial overall annual savings we provide for our clients when they eliminate numerous other service providers and the pooled pricing they obtain for insurance.

You have competitors. What is your competitive edge?

Jack: We have the highest level of service out there from the dedicated HR Associate (main point of contact for everyone from summer intern to CEO) to the quality of our medical/dental/vision plans to our entire organization's focus on excellent customer service. Everything about Ambrose is tailored improve the client's business. It is our responsive and client centric focus. Any high end, white collar organization that truly values its employees will be hard pressed to find a better solution than Ambrose.

What are the key challenges you have to deal with when trying to close a new account? Your service seems logical and important. Why would target potential clients say "no."

Jack: Honestly the biggest challenge we face is one that everyone in our industy faces – the issue of co-employment. Ambrose and similar organizations use a legal arrangement called co-employment where we become the administrative employer of record and file all payroll taxes under our Federal Tax ID – this is what allows us the pooling mechanism for medical/dental/vision plan pricing. Many people have the misperception that they lose their employees to us when, in reality, it is a co-employment relationship for administrative purposes. The other big challenge is that our monthly administrative fee initially appears high, so the challenge is to help companies realize the costs they would avoid with Ambrose when eliminating other service providers and also the medical/dental/vision plan savings. Nine times out of ten, adoption of our service results in a net savings for our clients.

Give us some history on your organization. When did it start? How many states do you cover? How many client organizations do you have in the metro NY, NJ, Connecticut area?

Jack: Founded in 1997 in NYC, Ambrose has grown significantly but maintains an exclusive focus on serving white collar companies. In the early years, our main industry vertical was financial services, but we now also serve numerous other white collar industries (law, accounting, consulting, technology, life sciences, cleantech, etc). Ambrose currently has a staff of 78 employees of which most are HR Associates and supporting specialists (benefits, 401k, legal specialists, etc). Many of our clients are concentrated in the tri-state area, but we have client companies located across the US as well. Ambrose currently has over 500 client companies equating to over 7,800 serviced employees.

Any final comments for business owners and leaders?

Jack: If the costs of providing quality benefits to your employees are getting out of hand or you're tired of wearing multiple hats, it's worth your time to talk to someone from Ambrose to see how we can help. At Ambrose we take a diagnostic approach to meeting with new prospective clients, so I guarantee we can help – if we're not the right solution for your business based on your needs, we'll help you figure out what is the optimal one for you and can provide guidance for that solution.

Our viewers like to have a feel for the good people we introduce them to. So, tell us just a bit about you personally.

"I’m originally a farm boy from Ohio that wanted to get out and see the world.  West Point provided this opportunity, in addition to a top-notch education, and offered me some amazing experiences during my time in the Army.  I achieved the rank of Captain and realized that for the next 10 years or so my Army time would consist of staff positions rather than the operational side I enjoyed.  As such, I decided to get out and, while I was good at shooting things and blowing things up, those skills aren’t overly applicable to corporate America.  I was fortunate to get my MBA from Harvard and went to work on Wall St. as a trader.  Following that, I had a few interesting roles before joining Ambrose – I ran a Home Depot, worked at a startup, and was VP of Operations for a global call center company.  I’ve truly enjoyed Ambrose as it not only allows me to help business owners but also the quality of life it provides are phenomenal.  I have a 1 year old little girl and enjoy spending as much time as possible with her and my wife.  We’re very active and our daughter loves the outdoors so we’re usually out walking, biking, or hiking whenever we can."

Jack is an impressive young man! He is reachable at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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