Tim Aumueller and MedPro wellness aim to improve Newark’s health

With the increasing amount of new, successful entrepreneurs popping up in the Newark area, one could be misled into thinking that starting your own business is an easy venture.

Tim Aumueller is one of the founders of MedPro Wellness, a mobile wellness solution that focuses on coming up with safe, effective, individualized programs for patients and employees of a company via nutrition, fitness, and education. He said learned firsthand that this is not the case.

Aumueller, originally from Wall Township, attended Messiah College in Pennsylvania before earning a master’s degree in Business Administration at Seton Hall University. Fresh out of college, Aumueller decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

“Whatever my fastest course was to being an entrepreneur, I was going after it,” said Aumueller.  This led him to trying a stint as an investment banker. Aumueller spent just two years in finance, but he described it as feeling like “20 years.”

While Aumueller said he did not have any complaints and would not change anything from his financial work experience, he didn’t view it as a success.

“It failed,” said Aumueller. “It just wasn’t something I was truly passionate about.”

This sparked a change of mindset in Aumueller. He decided to no longer follow a career path based on its availability, financial returns, or level of difficulty. From that point on, Aumueller’s approach was, “Let me find what I’m genuinely passionate about, and let me pursue that.” This led Aumueller to a 10-years-and-counting foray in the fitness and wellness arena, which gave him the opportunity to initiate and manage specific wellness centers at some of the top hospitals in the state of New Jersey.

Working in the industry reminded Aumueller that he and his childhood friend, Michael Mihalic, had always wanted to open a fitness center. They had always seen there was a need for them, but thought their current “cookie cutter” structure could be optimized. ”A majority were just sign-up, monthly membership, and after a couple of weeks they’re still taking money out of your account and you’re not even using it,” said Aumueller. While this model could make for a financially successful endeavor, Tim did not want to create a business solely for the purpose of making money.

“We strived to be different and to start some sort of program or center that we felt was going to actually allow people to be successful,” said Aumueller. This meant no longer pursuing the opening of a regular fitness center, but customizing a program based on the individual's needs, and that could coordinate with the customer's doctors, primary care physician, and employer with the goal of sustaining them through the program.

“What we wanted to do is really meet everyone at every level, and that’s how we came up with this mobile wellness situation.” 

After the vision of the initial two founders was set, things sped up for the duo as they eventually added Dr. Robert P. Caruso to the fold. But in order to truly work as a current, efficient mobile wellness solution, the three founders realized they needed technology expertise, and it was then that they connected with their fourth founder, Clark Lagemann.

Aumueller called the partnership a quick, effective union, and marvels at how everything aligned and how unified their approaches are. “All four of us wake up every day and say, 'How can we really help people effectively manage their health?'” said Aumueller. "That’s the only question we answer every day, and every step we take is towards answering that question.”

MedPro Wellness officially launched in February, and it didn’t take long for the startup business to not only grow in size – it currently has four partners, four health coaches, four advisory board members, and a programmer – but also have an effect on the Newark community. One of their very first programs started back in February where they provide a wellness program for all the employees of Newark.

“It is truly exciting working with all the employees,” said Aumueller, who is in charge of the operations aspect of MedPro Wellness. “The fire department, police department, business administration, every employee is offered this program in Newark, and they don’t have to pay a dime.”

MedPro Wellness offers these employees health assessments, where they define a need and ask them the necessary questions to gauge what approach they should take to the patient’s health situation. Whether it's dealing with chronic health issues, acute health problems, fitness planning, or even a little stress management, the founders of MedPro Wellness say help stop employees in Newark from hitting the "snooze button" on their health.

“We all need a little extra motivation,” says Aumueller. “This program allows them to be with a health coach on an ongoing basis, where they can work out a program that gets them fitness, nutrition, and education, and changes the way the individuals take care of themselves.”

Aumueller also hopes to one day expand the community education aspect of the program to provide opportunities for the residents of Newark, and has reached out to fitness centers in the area. MedPro Wellness’ founders hope to grow, and they're looking to develop further in Newark and surrounding municipalities. 

“We only want to find people who are passionate about this industry and understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Aumueller, adding that he's ready to there's constant change in the wellness industry.

“This is a process,” says Aumueller. “It works because it’s built off people, who we listen too, bounce ideas off of, who we make feel confident and successful by setting individualized goals to advance progress, and everyday we’re constantly evolving.” The individualized outlook Aumueller and his partners have on health really opens the door for anyone to take part in MedPro Wellness’s program. But such diversity has made it difficult for the young startup to solidify an identity because the program really is “for everyone” and can change to deal with different needs.

That constant change has served as a humbling experience for the 37-year old entrepreneur. 

“We’re still babies, we’re still learning every day, and I don’t think that’s going to stop,” said Aumueller. “And quite frankly I don’t ever want it too.”

 

Brick City Makers: Crystal Rogers looks to turn passion into progress for Newark

Brick City Makers is a weekly look at people building businesses in Newark at coworking spaces, in incubators, and on their own.

Even as Newark contends with some of the gravest problems a city can face, the whiff of new development in Newark has caught the attention of many prospective entrepreneurs looking to take advantage of the opportunities that entrepreneurial energy can bring. One of those entrepreneurs is Crystal Rogers.

“My perception of the growth has really changed since I started my own business,” said Rogers, who created her own startup business back in March. “I see that there are a lot of resources and motives for the people of Newark to be involved in that growth.”

Originally from Monmouth county, Rogers made the move to Newark in 2004, and has worked in the downtown area ever since. Her new startup business is called Standard Property Investments, and is currently located at 550 Broad Street in downtown Newark. With her business, she offers multifamily homes for low-income families and provides property-managing services to perspective owners looking to invest in their own property.

“People need housing,” said Rogers. She cites that with the closing of “a lot” of project housing in Essex County, those rental clients will be looking for a new place to live. Standard Property Investment would reach out to these rental clients and gauge their interest in multifamily housing.

As of right now, Rogers’ business only owns one property, located on the border of East Orange and Newark, but plans to look into buying other properties once the initial one is completed and displays that “wow factor” to attract not only rental clients, but impress owners looking for property managerial services.

 “We’d be offering them a home where they can have a yard, driveway, be a part of a neighborhood,” said Rogers. “We want to bring those people into a community that they can care about, work in, and invest in.”

Community is a word constantly echoed by Rogers, who doesn’t use the word just for effect. She hired interns from colleges in the Newark area and sends them to training sessions, business classes, and workshops. Whenever she needs help renovating her multifamily housing property, she seeks out local contractors and carpenters, or asks other locals if they know someone who can perform the task needed.

“I try to use community resources and make connections,” says Rogers.” We’re for the community. If you’re for our community, we definitely should partner up and know what services and resources are available to us through the partnership.”

When we spoke, Rogers was also planning Standard Property Investments’ first workshop on financial empowerment. Using her training from the National Labor College, Rogers looks to educate the community on how to take control of their finances and move forward with financial goals.

“We don’t want to rent to our clients forever,” said Rogers. “We want to see them go on and purchase their own multifamily home, have an additional income for their family, have something of value to pass on to their children, and move forward to their next goal.”

Rogers also networks and attends multiple meetup groups as she tries to help other entrepreneurs reach the next level, just as others have helped support her business. Her appreciation of her previous teachings, experiences, and opportunities from organizations like Rising Tide Capital, the Institute for Entrepreneur Leadership (IFEL), and Newark Innovation acceleration challenge, is only rivaled by her passion of continuing to help the growth of the Newark.

Being very involved in the special needs community Rogers, is fully aware of certain stressful situations involving special needs children that are often overlooked in project housing properties. She fought back tears as she explained the particular situation of a single mother with a special needs child, who is trying to deal with neighbors and an owner who fail to understand what her challenges.

“If she could just be partnered with an owner that understood and took the extra step for her family, it would just offer so much more freedom for that family,” said Rogers, who clearly sympathized with the family’s situation. “Just bringing all those resources closer can get someone like her get to the next goal. That’s what I’m passionate about, that’s what I think about when I think about opening the next home.”  

 

Team behind Newark design firm Medina=Citi to launch new pop-up coworking space downtown

The team behind Medina=Citi, the Newark-based design firm that counts many Newark businesses and entrepreneurs among its client roster, will soon launch = Space (pronounced "Equal Space"), a pop-up coworking space geared towards technology companies, entrepreneurs, and creatives in and around Newark.

Citi Medina, co-founder and creative director of Medina=Citi, said he hopes to inject the productive energy and creative culture of his design firm into the new coworking space. “So much of my success has been due to an open dialogue within the walls of my design house. We are bringing that spirit into our sharespace," Medina said.

The coworking space will open on Monday, August 11th, at 89 Market Street, and be available for use from 9am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 9am until late night hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to accommodate those entrepreneurs who work primarily during the day. = Space will offer daily, weekly, and monthly pricing plans, as detailed on their website.

Its founders say = Space will be outfitted with workstations and buzzing with programming, including coaching for technology companies, resources for entrepreneurs, and thought leadership talks from guest speakers. They also hope that working together in close quarters will empower entrepreneurs to learn from and collaborate with each other.

The space will cater to the other needs of its patrons, Medina said. Among some of the features of = Space will be wi-fi, conference space, an "honor-based cafe" that Medina envisions as "an open space to sit with a beverage, [and as a] school playground to sit and talk." There will also be "a small putting area in the back for a mini golf session," he added.

While much attention has been paid recently to the residential and commercial development boom in Newark – and the centralization of the lions share of that development within the downtown district – Newark has been enjoying a people-based renaissance over the past few years. Energetic entrepreneurs and artists, both homegrown and new to the city, investing themselves into the city and forming creative, social, and entrepreneurial communities with each other. Medina and his firm have been key players in all three aspects of that renaissance.

The team is also working on the launch of its permanent coworking space, which has been in the planning stages since the start of the year, and will be located in Newark's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Medina=Citi chief operating officer Rafael Roman said that while they're finishing the permanent space in the historical property in partnership with CAPC (Community Asset Preservation Corporation), "[our] intention is to provide our services immediately."

Brick City Makers: Todd Nakamura builds bridge to Google from Newark

Brick City Makers is a weekly look at people building businesses in Newark at coworking spaces, in incubators, and on their own. Above: Todd Nakamura, second from left, and other participants at GDG North Jersey's Google I/O Extended event at Montclair State University, June 2014. Source: Kickstarter.com

If you ever check out the third-floor walkup space at Seed Gallery where the month-old pop-up coworking space, Converge, has taken up residence on Thursdays, chances are you’ll see Todd Nakamura working and interacting with other entrepreneurs.

Nakamura, 36, graduated from Rutgers in the class of 2000, after studying mechanical engineering. But instead of taking a job in that field, he landed at NovaSoft Information Technology, which trained its employes to become web consultants.

“I just jumped into it,” said Nakamura. “I loved it from the beginning and I haven’t looked back.”

Eventually, Nakamura joined different meetup groups, and met other people with the same passions he had. It was one of those groups that led him to Converge. The Boonton Township native first learned of Converge space through the Brick City Tech Meetup, which was promoting the grand opening of Converge back in May. He cites the “family"-like atmosphere at Converge as one of the many reasons he tries to make regular visits to the area.  

“Since the first time I came here, I was just completely sold on it,” said Nakamura. “Every time I come here I meet amazing people who are bringing new ideas, talking about different events, and everyone is really helping each other out.”

Some of those new people have gone on to join Nakamura’s new GDG North Jersey. GDG stands for "Google Developer Group", which is a global Google program which, in the words of Nakamura, “gathers developers who want to push innovation forward,” using Google technology. Responsibilities of a GDG branch include organizing discussions about technology, participating in various Google conferences, and even providing Google with feedback after testing technologies not yet available to the public.  

GDG North Jersey is New Jersey’s newest chapter of GDG, and the only active chapter in the state currently listed on Google’s site.  Nakamura founded it on June 5th of this year, after beginning the thorough application process just five days earlier.

“It was a fairly lengthy process,” said Nakamura, “they wanted to make sure you’re really into it and are going to be proactive.”

It’s safe to say Google made the right choice in approving Nakamura’s application, as the group has certainly been “proactive.” Just three days after GDG North Jersey’s creation, Nakamura and his 40 members were already steadfast in bringing a sanctioned Google I/O Extended event to New Jersey. The event was a satellite extension of the Google I/O conference held annually in San Francisco. The I/O conference focuses on displaying advancements in Google’s software and technology.

Nakamura’s persistence eventually paid off, as just two and a half weeks later, he was able to host the Google I/O Extended event at Montclair State University on June 25th. “I was very happy with how it turned out,” said Nakamura, with a look of pride and accomplishment. “The whole community rallied around the event.”

Despite being created just over a month ago, GDG North Jersey now consists of nearly 200 members. Nakamura claims the group has received good traction mostly because “new technology is universally appealing.” That is why anyone can join GDG North Jersey. “Just sign up,” said Nakamura. “We’re inclusive of anybody, and we’re not selective.”

Even in light of the early success of GDG North Jersey, Nakamura doesn’t intend to slow things down. He and 52 of his members have already made plans to attend one of the local stops of Google’s Cloud Platform Developer Roadshow at the so-called "Googleplex", the nickname for the company's offices, located in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. “It’s a chance to not only learn, but also network with the actual Google engineers,” said Nakamura, who also plans to take GDG North Jersey on the road and conduct “mini I/O conferences” in different areas.

One of those conferences might even end up taking place at Converge, where GDG North Jersey is currently trying coordinate a joint event with other meet-up organizations like Brick City Tech and Rutgers Business School's Scarlet Startups meetup. “I just love this place,” said Nakamura. “It’s definitely worthwhile coming to Converge, and if I do host an event, here I would hope to bring 40 to 50 members of GDG.”

In addition to GDG North Jersey, Nakamura is also the founder of NJ Cloud Architects, operates his own site called One Cloud Architects, and is an assistant organizer with Launch NJ. “It’s just all about the community,” said Nakamura about Converge. “The response from them is inspiring, and I draw energy from that, and I hope to give just as much energy back to those people."

Newark Tales: The bakers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

The ladies at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel are baking again – which means only one thing: the annual feast is just around the corner.

Catherine Pannullo, a retired school cafeteria cook and a member of the parish for all of her 80 years, was in her glory last Wednesday afternoon, putting a batch of chocolate chip cookies into the oven in eager anticipation of the 124th annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which runs from July 16 through 20 at the Oliver Street church in Newark’s Ironbound.

The street festival that is part of the celebration will run from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on each of those days.

It’s a tradition Catherine knows well: for the last 20 years, she and her friend, Fran Campbell, 77, the secretary at the nearby Oliver Street Elementary School, have been in charge of making the goodies – from the biscotti to the perfectly textured meat balls – that are cooked from scratch and then sold during the street festival.

Every day, for the two weeks prior to the feast, they can be found here in the kitchen of the church rectory, 259 Oliver St., enjoying each other’s company as they roll out the dough and make sure the meat balls don’t get overcooked on the rectory’s six-burner stove.  

Fortunately, the kitchen is cool, thanks to the air conditioning, and there’s help. Don, Fran’s husband and ace bargain hunter, is the designated shopper and gravy (sauce) maker. And this year, they also have a self-described apprentice, Lizett Acosta, 42, and Lizett’s 8-year-old daughter, Izabela, who is rewarded for her efforts with cookie dough.

Last Wednesday, as the evidence of a hard day’s work could be seen the overflowing trays of scrumptious-looking anise cookies cooling on the tables and waiting to be glazed and sprinkled, Catherine and Fran ticked off just some of the ingredients on Don’s massive shopping list: 45 dozen eggs,  80 pounds of chopped meat for the meatballs, 28 pounds of almond paste for the pignoli cookies and God knows how much sugar and flour for everything from the pepperoni-filled pretzels to the aforementioned chocolate chip cookies. (By the way: last Wednesday's round of baking consumed 60 pounds of flour.)

By then, it was almost 5 o’clock, and they had been working since 9 a.m.  Everyone was looking forward to ending the day with the 7 p.m. novena in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Next week, during feast week, the hours will be even longer. “Forget about it – next week we’ll be here til it closes,’’ Catherine said.

When all’s said and done, quitting time will be one o’clock in the morning.