Sunday, 25th February 2018

Scott Broetzmann Elected to Board of Directors of the Council of Better Business Bureau

Posted on 23. Dec, 2013 by in Blogs


Press Release — Arlington, VA, December 19, 2013 – Scott M. Broetzmann, President and Co-Founder of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting (CCMC), was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). CCMC is a market leader in helping Fortune 500 companies use customer satisfaction and loyalty survey results to improve the customer experience.

“Scott is a leading expert in data, applied analytics and the customer care experience,” said Carrie Hurt, President and CEO of CBBB. “He brings a valuable perspective to the Council and the board.” CBBB, the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.

Prior to co-founding CCMC, Broetzmann served as COO for TARP US and Managing Director for TARP Europe. Broetzmann started his BBB career with the BBB in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and later worked in the BBB AUTO LINE program at CBBB.

An emerging thought leader, Broetzmann’s work and perspectives are routinely featured in the national and international conversation about the customer experience. His views have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Business Week, Forbes, and Money magazine. His work has also been referenced on CNN, MSNBC and CBS News.

Broetzmann is a member of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals (SOCAP), the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO), and a co-founder of the Customer Care Alliance.

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About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.

Steve Blank’s Twist on Entrepreneurial Education

Posted on 12. Dec, 2012 by in Blogs


Tuesday evening Startup Grind DC hosted a riveting fireside chat with Steve Blank at iStrategy Labs. For those readers unfamiliar with Blank’s work, he sits at the epicenter of the lean startup movement.

Blank’s framework gives entrepreneurs a fighting chance. Despite everything we know about business, far too many startups fail. Much of that failure stems from adhering to tools and business theory designed for mature companies. According to Blank, using a tool that’s out of sync with a company’s lifecycle is “like using a thermometer to measure distance.”

Blank’s framework, the Entrepreneur API, consists of three elements:

The Entrepreneur API facilitates a startup’s search for a scalable business model. You need to pivot? Great! Using this framework enables you to pivot with discipline rather than play flavor of the month. In fact, entrepreneurs should pivot as they gain more information about their hypotheses. You can expect to iterate through the fact finding and pivot cycles until discovering a scalable business model. (i.e. Don’t stop until you hit paydirt.)

One of the more interesting facts Blank revealed on Tuesday: Federal agencies are very interested in the model. He has met with leaders in a number of agencies this week, and based on the conversation, it gives hope for government reform grounded in a model that works.

Blank views the opportunity to transform entrepreneurial education as a way to pay it forward. You can access the tools and information in a number of ways. Books include Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win and The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company. In addition, The Lean LaunchPad class became available for free on Udacity this fall. Or if you want hands-on coaching, can check out Startup Weekend Next. Finally, you may want to subscribe to Blank’s blog.

I read The Four Steps to the Epiphany two years ago. Since then, it and Blank’s other work have become staple recommendations—largely because his business philosophy is as far from ‘make it and they will come’ as one can get. If you’ve struggled with finding your niche, Blank’s approach to entrepreneurship can provide the thrust needed to get off the launchpad and gain some altitude. An added benefit of attending Startup Weekend Next is that you’ll become part of a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

The LinkedIn Cold Call

Posted on 01. Nov, 2012 by in Blogs


It seems as if cold calling through LinkedIn has become more prevalent lately. While the social network is designed to extend and improve one’s business connections, the practice of reaching out to fish for prospects smacks of selfishness. Healthy networks form around people with common interests (or the ability to satisfy one another’s needs) and instill a sense of community when members help one another achieve their goals.

So, when thinking about using LinkedIn as vehicle for growing your business, the best opportunities will begin with a desire to build relationships. Prospects see through a one’s motivation to drive quick transactions. It turns them off.

To be blunt: Please don’t reach out to connect or fill prospects’ inmail with spam. When it comes to starting discussions in groups, frame the topic from the recipient’s perspective. As with all other communications channels, you’ll gain more value by engaging in dialogue than by using LinkedIn as just one more way to transmit information about your company.

CriticMania Sip and Learn

Posted on 23. Oct, 2012 by in EVENTS


What can be better then sipping wine and learning how to engage your customers on Facebook? Well… Nothing.

Join us in our next seminar about using Facebook to promote your business while engaging our customers to interact with your social media efforts.

WHEN: Friday, January 11, 2013
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM (EST)
AOL Dulles Campus
22000 Aol Way
Sterling, VA 20166

CriticMania, LLC CriticMania provides expert surveys on everything from restaurants to private schools. You can read expert surveys or write your own to your social circle.

ProJet Aviation and The Hoxton Agency Award Aviation Scholarship to Local Student

Posted on 27. Aug, 2012 by in Calendar, TECHNOLOGY

scott bell scholarship
Kaj Dentler, Leesburg Airport Director; Kelly Burk, Leesburg Town Council; Julie O’Brien, Expo Co-founder; Shye Gilad, CEO of ProJet Aviation; Scott Bell, Student Recipient; Dennis Boykin, Leesburg Airport Commission Chairman; Sarah Thompson, Expo Co-founder; Kristen Umstattd, Mayor of Leesburg; Clay Hoxton, The Hoxton Agency. Photo taken by Joey Darley

Kaj Dentler, Leesburg Airport Director; Kelly Burk, Leesburg Town Council; Julie O’Brien, Expo Co-founder; Shye Gilad, CEO of ProJet Aviation; Scott Bell, Student Recipient; Dennis Boykin, Leesburg Airport Commission Chairman; Sarah Thompson, Expo Co-founder; Kristen Umstattd, Mayor of Leesburg; Clay Hoxton, The Hoxton Agency. Photo taken by Joey Darley

Leesburg, Va…The first scholarship from the Aviation Education and Career Expo has been presented to Scott Bell of Loudoun County, Virginia. The scholarship, in the amount of $2,000, was co-funded by ProJet Aviation and The Hoxton Agency. Bell was awarded the scholarship in response to an essay contest about why he wanted to pursue a career in the aviation industry. An excerpt of his essay is outlined below:

“I like aviation because it provides a different perspective of the world that no other career can offer – it will take me places, both physically and mentally.  I am attracted to the excitement of traveling to new places and expanding my view of the world and its people.  I also like aviation because it combines physics and technology; I like complex machinery and the systems that keep them operating. I want to become a flight instructor; teaching is a way for me to share knowledge with others and share the exciting field of aviation while refining my skills.”

Bell has been accepted at Kansas State University at Salina, and plans to use the scholarship funds to purchase school supplies and flight training hours.

The 7th annual Aviation Education and Career Expo will be hosted by ProJet Avaition on October 26, 2012 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM at its corporate hangar on the Leesburg Executive Airport. The Hoxton Agency will join ProJet in bringing this event to the community, along with the following sponsors: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Flight Safety International, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, USAIG, and Rickman Construction Company. There is no charge for admission and a free lunch is provided for all attendees.

This event, geared primarily toward youth aged 16-20, attracts between 4-500 students, educators and parents annually, and provides an opportunity to interact with more than 40 aviation vendors. The vendors represent diverse and exciting aviation and aerospace careers including US military and national security assignments; emergency medical airlift; law enforcement; aircraft maintenance; government; medevac; avionics and more.

About ProJet Aviation (

ProJet Aviation is the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area’s premier aircraft management and charter company, specializing in private jet management, worldwide charter flights, aviation consulting, and acquisition services.  ProJet operates a full service jet center in Leesburg, Virginia, with additional bases in Winchester and Manassas. A Washington Business Journal “Best Place to Work,” ProJet combines the safe and secure operational practices of the world’s best air carriers with the refined service of a world-class resort.

Michael Grass

Posted on 24. Aug, 2012 by in Entrepreneur

Michael Grass
Michael Grass

Michael Grass

Modern DC Business interviews Michael Grass, Editor of The Huffington Post’s DC edition, to get his take on online media and some of DC’s idiosyncrasies and unique delights.

Michael Grass is the founding editor of The Huffington Post’s local DC edition, covering local news, arts and events in the nation’s capital and surrounding suburbs. He’s worked for Roll Call newspaper on Capitol Hill, The Washington Post’s Express, The New York Observer, and Washington City Paper among other media organizations. In 2004, he co-founded, bringing together the original group of volunteer contributors for what’s grown into one of the DC’s area top local news destinations. In a town that is known for its ephemeral culture, Michael’s roots run deep. His family has been in DC since the 1860s, giving him a unique perspective to the city. We sat down with Michael to talk about online media and some of DC’s own idiosyncrasies and unique delights.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Your ties to D.C. go back quite a bit, don’t they?
I move 1’s an 0’s across the digital ethos for The Huffington Post, where I edit the local DC, Maryland and Virginia homepage.

I’ve worked for most of the past decade at established and start-up media properties in the DC area. I’ve worked on developing some really great online news projects over the years. I co-founded in 2004 when DC’s blogging community was very small. I’ve held editing positions at Roll Call, The Washington Post Express and Washington City Paper. And I always have some sort of side project going, too.

Although I grew up in Michigan, my father’s family has been in the District of Columbia since the 1860s. DC had always been a second home to me growing up because of my family roots here. When I moved to DC after college a decade ago, it already felt like home. HuffPost’s DC bureau is on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, just down the street from the house my grandfather grew up in. Today, Kinkead’s restaurant is there. If you know the Brewmaster’s Castle near Dupont Circle, my great-great grandfather did much of the interior woodcarving in that mansion, which is open to the public. My ancestors carved wood, I help carve the Internet.

What sets Huffington Post apart from other media outlets? What is the secret to its success?
The Huffington Post is an incredibly socially engaged community. It’s not really a secret, but one key to HuffPost’s success has been the ability to adapt how it delivers news and commentary to different readers who sometimes consume information in very different ways. HuffPost isn’t just a news website, it’s a platform to discuss, discover and drive the conversation. Now there are international editions of HuffPost in Spain, France, Canada and Great Britain. But HuffPost can also be incredibly local. And in the DC area, that’s where I’ve been able to help out. The success of HuffPost has been its ability to change and be a driving force.

What do you love about our fair city? What about D.C. still surprises you?
I use ZipCar occasionally, so I live mostly a car-free diet. And I like it that DC is a place where I don’t need to spend money on a car payment, parking citations or gas. For all the bellyaching about Metro, we’re incredibly fortunate to have a good rail and bus network.

Neighborhoods are largely walkable. Transit connects the places that matter. For all the planning and foresight that went into our transportation infrastructure, I’m still surprised by what was left out or unconnected. And I’m still surprised that some people refuse to ride the bus. Technology has removed much of the guesswork that sometimes comes with public transit.

The last decade has seen so much change in DC. Where do you see us headed in the next decade?
There’s certainly been a lot of change in DC. Just look at how places like 14th Street, U Street, and H Street have developed in the previous ten years. Neighborhoods have been transformed in the city and in the suburbs. Plenty of new people have settled in the nation’s capital. There’s so much new energy and so many new ideas. We’ve really shattered the image that we’re a one-company town.

But much of our success is still tied to the federal government and the business of government. With tighter federal purse strings in the years ahead, we’re being pushed to diversify our economy more. We have no choice in the matter. In the next 10 years, the big question will be whether the success we’ve achieved can be maintained and evolve. I think we can continue to transform and innovate.

The DC area has built some solid foundations, a place where new ideas, concepts, businesses and enterprises can experiment and thrive. D.C.’s local politics may just be the most entertaining in the country.


We are the city of Marion Barry after all. Why do you think that this is the case?
Entertaining, yes. But much of what’s been going on in the DC government isn’t funny. But DC isn’t the only place that’s had corrupt elements. (I’m looking at you, Chicago.) What does make DC unique is that we’re not a city and not a state. DC’s local elected politicians can’t climb very high because we’re not a state. It’s not like they can run for U.S. Senate or governor. This has created a local political structure dominated by established players who have few options for growth or advancement. Local DC political culture can stew way too long in its own juices. This particular setup can prevent a healthy political climate from forming. But it can be fun to observe, for sure.

Will DC ever become a state? And what are some of the benefits of becoming a state?
Many people dream of statehood. Will we get it? I’m not sure, but I’m hopeful that we’ll someday achieve full and equal representation in Congress like other Americans. Maybe it won’t be traditional statehood, but it would be an arrangement that gives DC residents more control over their local affairs and a voice in Congress. And that would be something that benefits both DC residents and Congress.

We are known as a city of lawyers and government contractors. What else is there that people should know about DC?
We should be known as a place that attracts highly educated people. That’s a trait that is found across many professions in the DC area. But we’re much more than just a place for government. Our creative and knowledge sector is diverse, energetic, innovative, and international. Yes, we’re the nation’s capital. But we’re also much more than that.

DC is also known as a transient place. People come, they work and then they leave. Why is that and what can be done to ensure people stay in the city?
That’s been a dynamic that’s been going on for generations. Capitals of nations can be like that. But other places are like that, too. We’re just especially good at hosting a transient culture. We’ve come off a decade of incredible growth and change across the region. Overall, more people are moving to the DC area. We have to plan for that growth and make that growth sustainable.

DC can be a very expensive place. It can be incredibly expensive for young professionals, new families, and those who have been here for generations. Across the region, we have to diversify the local economy and create a place where people have the ability to stay long term. Fortunately, the DC area already offers many compelling reasons to stay and grow.

It’s been noted that we may be the only city in America with a surplus of jobs. Why is it hard for us to attract talent?
It depends on what industry you’re talking about. DC certainly excels in attracting top talent in many areas. But just because there are jobs doesn’t mean we’re drawing the right kind of talent in all areas. DC has a reputation of being an all-work-all-the-time type of town, but a lot of people are starting to want a better work-life balance. There are certain professions and some businesses that tend to thrive in a more relaxed setting and I think DC is slowly chipping away at its obsession with work. It’s okay to relax and recharge.

If you had the power to do so, what one thing would you fix in D.C.
If I could snap my fingers, I would have a new crosstown Metro line built to untangle the Orange and Blue lines through downtown. While that would help connect places like Georgetown Union Station and H Street in DC, it would also help the entire region.

Metro DC Area Business Caterers

Posted on 23. Aug, 2012 by in LIFESTYLE

Metro DC Area Business Caterers
Metro DC Area Business Caterers

Metro DC Area Business Caterers

Planning on hosting a business luncheon? Satisfy your clients’ appetite with this extensive list of metro DC’s top caterers

5586 Tuxedo Rd. | Cheverly, MD
202.342.3400 |

3Citron believes that every meal we cook reflects our passion for life. Every culture, race and religion throughout history has attached a great importance to the feasts, its means of celebration and self-expression. In America, we are fortunate to be surrounded by such diversity of cultures, which offers us a vast array of cuisines to use in creating our menus.

46090 Lake Center Plaza, Ste 308 | Potomac Falls,VA
703.450.6666 |

Fabulous meals and memorable events are created with quality ingredients, skillful preparation and artistic presentation. We offer widely diversified menus for ever increasing international tastes. Our knowledgeable staff is friendly and courteous, providing attentive service that enhances your guest’s experience.

42395 Ryan Road #112-105 | Brambleton, VA
703.898.0728 |

Fusions Cuisine is a referral-based caterer providing professional catering services to the greater Washington DC area. Fusions Cuisine was born out of a passion for combining distinct flavors from different ethnic backgrounds, creating a uniquely new American signature cuisine that is ingredient-driven and uses the freshest available components.

6100 Antioch Rd. | Haymarket, VA
703.754.2714 |

With more than 20 years exposure, À la Carte makes you look good. From an afterwork reception to a large fundraising gala, we’ll strategize planning, venue, logistics and timing for a smooth success.

14918 Carlbern Dr. | Centreville, VA
703.449.9190 |

American Catering is a contemporary catering service with a clear-cut goal: to provide a dynamic balance of dining and decor, creating a truly special event for you and your guests.

109 Clermont Ave | Alexandria, VA
202.337.2000 |

Avalon Caterers, named among “the best of the best” by Washingtonian Magazine, serves our clients with kindness, professionalism, and a keen interest for exceeding expectations.

2316 Jefferson Davis Highway | Alexandria, VA
703.739.1030 |

Sara McGregor’s Capitol Catering makes your event exquisite, memorable, and yours. Your menu, your style, tailored to you. Corporate or social, weddings or galas, Capitol Catering works with precision to get it just right.

4060 Powder Mill Rd | Calverton, MD
301.572.7744 |

Amazing Food, Flawless Service, Elegant Tablesettings, Complete Coordination, Beautiful Venues combine to provide you with unique value.

4980 Wyaconda Rd. | Rockville, MD
301.230.2700 |

Whether large or small, casual or elegant, Festive Foods will work with you to ensure that everything is perfect! No detail is too small, or challenge too large for our professional staff to handle.

1341 L Street, NW, Washington, DC
202.347.8040 |

At The Catering Company of Washington, our philosophy embraces a vision of food and entertaining as a spectacular symphony, a balance of diverse elements that must combine to make any event achieve its own exquisite intentions.

1327 Kenilworth Ave, NE | Washington, DC
202.388.5555 |

While there are many Washington DC caterers, our catering team has traveled the globe and recognize the Mediterranean consists of a plethora of regional delights, gourmet foods, and foreign delicacies beyond the imagination, and not readily available to your average consumer.

2659 South Shirlington Rd., Arlington, VA
703.979.9400 |

We believe that a full-service caterer should lend its expertise, experience, and energy to the process of guiding a client through the millions of little decisions leading up to the event. We believe that a dedication to providing unparalleled service should persist until the departure of the last guest.

425 2nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
202.234.0707 |

By offering gourmet “consciouis cuisine” prepared by graduates of the DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program, Fresh Start offers a powerful opportunity to use your purchasing power as philanthropy. Fresh Start Catering uses local, seasonable and sustainable foods whenever possible in order to help support regional farms and families. Specializing in contract food services, business breakfasts, luncheons and drop-off meals, Fresh Start’s mission makes it easy and delicious to eat local and do good.

1015 31st Street NW #350, Washington, DC

202.333.2538 |
Bleu meets the distinct needs of each guest by interacting with them on a warm and personal level. Our true service is about building relationships with guests.

2335 Bladensburg Rd., NE, Washington, DC
202.526.8880 |

Dutch Mill Catering has proudly served the Washington D.C. and surrounding metro area since 1977. As a full service corporate caterer we enjoy working with you to design custom menus that will suit your palate and your budget. From a small gourmet sandwich luncheon to full service receptions for 500, we only serve the finest foods possible prepared from the freshest ingredients available.

1217 17th Street NE, Washington, DC
202.380.6966 |

Entree was created from my love affair with food. Every recipe, menu, and selection has been created through a labor of love.

313 Spring Street | Herndon, VA
703.481.9500 |

If you are looking for just the right company with exceptional personalized service to handle your next event, whether it be a simple corporate meeting, a company grand opening, a family reunion, a company picnic, an elegant dinner party, or your once in a life-time wedding, please contact Great Falls Gourmet Caterers.

14135 Estate Manor Dr. | Gainesville, VA
703.357.0496 |

Heaven’s Best catering service is committed to delivering excellence in service, elegance in presentation and overwhelming satisfaction in taste.

6710 Old Dominion Dr. | McLean, VA
703.556.0780 |

We take pride in helping every client create a truly extraordinary event. Our menus are just a starting point: you can add or adjust any items or suggest additional entries or even family-favorite recipes. From a cozy gathering at home, to a grand-scale gala, you can trust us to meet your highest expectations.

8039 Penn Randall Place, Ste. C.
Upper Marlboro, MD | 301.967.0200

When fine dining and exceptional service are a mandatory requirement for the evening’s event, Honesty Gourmet Caterers brings many years of professional expertise to make your dining experience memorable.

14207 Old Annapolis Rd. | Bowie, MD
301.805.2508 |

A family tradition…fresh, wholesome food prepared with Maryland style, grace & taste! The first year we catered 25 events. Last year it was over 1,000 events.

2437 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
202.294.4488 |

Meze Catering offers light, delicious and exotic dishes for every event and budget. We offer pre-fix menus for any occasion. Our experienced team also can help you to create your own menu, plan your event, and select a venue.

15841 Redland Rd. | Rockville, MD
301.670.4744 |

Now in our 28th year of operation, The Knife & Fork Caterers is a well-organized, innovative party planning and catering company recognized by our clients, Washingtonian Magazine and Wedding Wire as one of the top caterers in the entire region. Our management team has some 60 years of collective experience in the fine-dining and catering industry.

4816 MacArthur Blvd., NW, Washington, DC
202.342.6207 |

How do we do it? Simply put, we love what we do, we’re good at, and we have fun doing it! Over the last 14 years, our family-owned and operated full-service catering business has delighted customers in the Metro Washington area with personal service and attention that amazes.

80-A Bureau Dr. | Gaithersburg, MD
301.442.6867 |

Moulin Rouge Catering Services is a full service, off–premise catering company that has been serving the Washington DC Metro Area since 1983. Specializing in Corporate Events, Wedding Receptions, Cocktail Parties, Holiday Parties, Bar-B-Q’s and Business Meetings.

1416 Eleventh St., NW |Washington, DC
202.232.7816 |

Our concept is California inspired, gathered from over 25 years of experience. We focus on professional food preparation and presentation, with a unique selection of the finest ingredients going into each creation.

5458 Third Street, NE, | Washington, DC
202.546.7400 |
The Occasions team continues to delight their customers with the personal attention and creativity one expects when hosting an intimate dinner party, even when they are called upon to create larger and more complex events. Focusing on the details begins with our seasoned and knowledgeable sales and support staff.

3212 O Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
202.298.6818 |

Our recipe for success—Unparalleled professionalism, creative customized event design with meticulous attention to detail, while serving unsurpassed cuisine for gatherings from ten to thousands.

5525 Dorsey Lane, Bethesday, MD
301.652.1515 |

It’s all about the experience. That’s why at Ridgewells, our singular focus is to create the perfect event. At home. At the office. Or anywhere you choose. For ten people or ten thousand. As caterers and event designers, we’re leading the way with organic catering and green entertaining. That means yummy menus made from sustainable, farm to table ingredients.

3636 16th St. NW Ste. A417 | Washington, DC

202.462.4454 |
We at Sans Rival Caterers are proud to be entering our 25th year of serving the social, business, diplomatic, and government communities of the greater Washington D.C. area, working from our conveniently located facilities on 16th Street N.W.

6402 Arlington Blvd., Ste. B150 | Falls Church
703.892.1400 |

No one takes more care to provide the very best in food and service than Sinplicity. Totally from scratch. Artistically presented. Delivered on time. We guarantee it.

202.525.6455 |

We’re different from other Washington DC caterers because of our diverse and international approach to catering and cooking, which in turn enables the creation of a wider variety of menu items, both sweet and savory. We have combined our unique experiences and strengths to create an extensive menu of food options that can serve many event types and styles.

7411 Livingston Rd., Oxon Hill, MD
301.839.6900 |

Susan Gage began her catering career creating parties for friends from her home in suburban Washington. A self-taught chef, Susan initially catered with several friends in her local community, using her home kitchen as a base. She started her own company in 1986. Today, Susan Gage Caterers is a seven-day-a-week enterprise with more than 2000 parties yearly and $12 million in annual sales.

5623 Point Roundtop Ct., Burke, VA
703.323.1607 |
Let Teatime Delicacies make your next catered event truly special – from elegant wedding receptions to important business affairs. Teatime catering offers a wide variety of delicious and artistically presented cuisine to suit your taste and budget, while our professional and personable catering staff impresses you and affords you the relaxation you deserve.

8455 K Tyco Rd. | Vienna, VA
703.506.9396 |

For 20 years, Saint Germain Catering has provided the Washington DC area with creative and customized catering and event services. From informal business lunches to immaculate wedding receptions, Saint Germain Catering has you covered.

510 11th Street, SE, Washington, DC
202.543.7878 |

We continue to evolve, providing our clients the fresh style but always remembering that this business is all about relationships.

Business Transparency

Posted on 23. Aug, 2012 by in Entrepreneur

Melanie Herman and Chris Croll
Melanie Herman and Chris Croll -Photography by Ray Ally

Melanie Herman and Chris Croll -Photography by Ray Ally

We sit down with Melanie Herman and Chris Croll of The Social Risk Institute, a consulting firm that teaches businesses how to embrace online transparency.

Melanie Herman and Chris Croll are an unlikely team. Melanie is an attorney who is a nationally recognized expert in risk management. For over fifteen years Melanie has been helping executives from mission-focused nonprofit organizations to become savvy about risk. Chris Croll holds two degrees in communications and has spent the past decade and a half helping companies to engage in an unmediated dialogue with audiences online. Melanie and Chris recently joined forces to form the Social Risk Institute, a consultancy that coaches leaders of businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies on how to balance risk and reward through the effective use of social and other online media.

How do you define “transparency” in the context of senior leaders using social media to achieve transparency?
Melanie: When I use the term transparency, I’m referring to the generous sharing of information. This includes sharing within an organization, as well as between the organization and interested stakeholders like investors, funders, customers, partners and the public. The demand for greater transparency is unprecedented; today’s leaders must use every tool at their disposal to meet and exceed stakeholder expectations. Chris: I would define online transparency as honest and open communication. On social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, transparency is about conveying information in a straightforward and truthful way, with absolutely no hidden agenda. For individuals in a leadership position, transparency is about being truthful, but it is also about being real and human, and hopefully, likeable.


What are the biggest risks of having company leaders engage directly with constituents?

Melanie: Lack of transparency is a risk to every business today, but open communication intended to foster transparency also carries downside risks. Information disclosed by senior leaders can impact everything from interest in the company’s products and services to board confidence. Unlike compliance, transparency is a choice that today’s leaders must make every day.

Chris: With the proliferation of online communications channels as part of standard business practice, the lines are blurring between what constitutes personal and professional information. If you are tweeting from work about a project you’re working on to your twitterverse, which consists mainly of your friends but also a few colleagues and customers—is that a professional or a personal tweet? Another risk is when companies and agencies are unclear about employee use guidelines. Even Board members need a very clear understanding of what is and what is not permissible information-sharing.

Can there be too much transparency?
Melanie: Possibly, but sometimes the perception of “too much” transparency is actually a result of changing norms within an organization. Some senior leaders are reluctant to change or abandon the communications protocol of yesteryear—running all communications up the proverbial flag pole or following a carefully scripted communications protocol. The downside risk of using a deliberate and time-consuming filter for news is that today’s stakeholders have many sources from which to gather information. When leaders are slow to respond to requests for information, informal media fills the void. By the time an official announcement hassles its way through the traditional internal channels, the story or focus has shifted and the company’s scripted announcement comes across as irrelevant.

Chris: I don’t think you can have too much transparency. To me, that’s like asking if it’s possible to be too authentic. As long as you are following your company guidelines, I advise senior leaders to be as real and as open as they can be. I even suggest that they occasionally post about their hobbies and interests and give their audiences behind the scenes looks at their companies. The goal is to show the human side. We all like to do business with human beings, not entities.

How can a leader assess the risks of transparency in their organization?
Melanie: Evaluating the risks along the opaque-translucent spectrum begins with understanding an organization’s stakeholders. Who are they and what do they want and need to know? For example, in the nonprofit sector there is growing interest in areas like executive compensation, how an organization raises funds to support mission-fulfillment and how funds are spent to deliver that mission. Stakeholders in these organizations expect a very high level of transparency.

Chris: When we talk to businesses about transparency, we spend a lot of time assessing where a particular organization is on the risk continuum. If a company works in cyber security on government contracts, for example, transparency means something very different than it does to, say, a chain of regional pizzerias trying to build its brand online. It’s different for government agencies too. They have mandates from the top to harness the power of new channels – such as social media – to communicate with constituents, garner support and engage volunteers so transparency for them is paramount.

What types of internal checks and balances can protect a company?
Melanie: Clear guidelines about who may speak for the organization and appropriate tone are key to managing social media risk, rather than overly complicated, prescriptive policies that require a significant commitment of time to digest and enforce. Chris: A good social media use policy will address 85% of a company’s concerns. The other 15% requires basic common sense like making sure you are logged into the right account when you post content and not responding in anger to something negative said about you online. No policy can protect against human error or poor judgment.

What are the key elements that should be included a social media use policy?
Melanie: In my experience, the most effective social media policies include clearly stated do’s and don’ts, such as:

  • Do strive to affirm our mission/commitment to quality/customer focus, etc. in your tweets, blog posts, etc.
  • Do pause before clicking send when posting to a social media site.
  • Do try to offer the clearest-possible answers to questions from customers.
  • Do remember that restraint is often the best response to a negative post.
  • Don’t attack or demean a customer, client or donor.
  • Don’t speculate about matters beyond your reach.

Chris: Each policy is unique because each company’s culture is unique. In general, we recommend that you include sections on privacy, trade secrets, security, disclosure, content creation, legal issues and general online decorum. Some companies outline specific policies for each social media network. Others, have more generic policies that apply to any customer communications whether online or offline. Zappos has a social media use policy that is probably the most succinct one I’ve seen. It’s “Be yourself and don’t be stupid.”

For more information about achieving transparency via online media, please visit to download a free White Paper called, “Mapping Your Organization on the Social Media Risk Continuum.”

Kevin Greene

Posted on 23. Aug, 2012 by in Entrepreneur

Kevin Greene
Kevin Greene

Kevin Greene

Modern DC Business sits down with Venture Capitalist Kevin Greene of Valhalla Partners to discuss the risks and rewards of investing in and building tomorrow’s companies.

Kevin Greene is a Partner at Valhalla Partners. He has over twelve years of operating, banking, and investment experience with both early and late stage enterprise software, healthcare and media companies. Prior to joining Valhalla Partners, Kevin was a principal at Flagship Ventures, a $600 million early-stage venture capital firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he served as a member of the investment team and worked closely with a number of Flagship’s portfolio companies. Before Flagship, Kevin worked for IBM out of its Research Triangle Park, North Carolina campus, where he was responsible for establishing, retaining and growing relationships with IBM business partners across the globe. He also held a variety of product marketing positions at IBM, including managing the WebSphere Application Server product portfolio. Prior to IBM, Kevin worked for several years at Goldman Sachs in its New York and Hong Kong offices, where he executed over $30 billion in equity, equity-linked, and M&A financing transactions for technology, healthcare, media and energy-related clients.

Can you tell us what an average day is like for a Venture Capitalist?
An average day for a Venture Capitalist (if there is such a thing) represents a challenging sprint across three priorities – building companies, investing capital, and developing sector knowledge. Every day is a portfolio company building day. If we serve our entrepreneurs well, our own success will follow. If one of our CEO calls, we drop everything to help. The entrepreneur comes first.

Second, we seek to be the first to indentify and win attractive investment opportunities. We aggressively invest in creating, nurturing, and expanding our relationships and networks in an effort to partner with the very best sources of innovation. New deal flow is the lifeblood of any venture firm.

Lastly, effective company building and investing requires staying abreast of changing markets and sector opportunities. We must constantly strive to anticipate and adapt. It’s a constant balancing act and it requires strict time management, which isn’t always popular.


What is the best way to get a VC’ s attention? Will a simple email work?
Email is tyranny. Venture firms receive thousands of external emails a week. Therefore, most VCs tend to filter projects through people and relationships.

The best way to gain a VC’s attention is through other people. Ask for an introduction from someone connected to the venture capital firm.

Can you briefly explain why it’s best to get a small valuation when getting an investment?
Low valuations relative to other projects in the same sector and at the same stage are generally not a good thing for a company. Valuations represent the price the market is willing to pay to own a piece of a company. A low relative valuation says something about how the market views the company and, depending on the amount of capital raised, could significantly dilute the existing shareholders.

That said, companies that attract high relative valuations face a different challenge. These companies must grow revenue and profits to meet or exceed these valuation expectations. If the company fails to do so, perhaps because past valuation expectations were unreasonable, it could enter a tail spin.

Building a successful company takes a long time. Maintaining alignment of investor, senior management, and employee interests along the way is critical to building great companies and achieving superior returns. Ideally, everyone involved is incented to achieve success. At any given financing event, unreasonably low or high valuation levels can haunt a company down the road. It’s best to think long term.

Do you invest in family teams? Are there any kinds of businesses or management arraignments that you immediately turn away?
Indeed, the best sources of innovation sometimes run in the family. Locally, brothers Scott and John Ferber are two of the most innovative forces in the ad tech industry. “Ferber class” entrepreneurs are hard to find and are always a privilege to work with. All companies run into challenges when decisions are optimized for reasons that are not in the absolute best interests of the company or its shareholders.

Family teams are no different. Building a great company is tough enough. There is simply no room for those who put their personal interests ahead of the interests of the company or its shareholders.

Are there a mentorship programs conducted and organized by VC’s that coach entrepreneurs?
A seed accelerator (or incubator) mentorship industry is rapidly surfacing across the world. Some are national in scope.

Others are regional in scope. Most accelerators receive venture capital funding and/or participation. A recent Kauffman Fellows Program field study highlighted that three incubators (Techstars, Ycombinators, and Seedcamp) accounted for over 50% of the startups generated to-date by the 30 U.S. seed incubators with one out of six participating start-ups achieving qualified financing events. These accelerators typically provide coaching and handson support through an intense multimonth formal program. In exchange for small equity positions, the support often comes with office space, access to venture capital through demo days and a small amount of cash to cover living expenses.

While entrepreneurial mentorship programs are not new, the institutionalization of these programs is a powerful phenomenon that is positively changing the innovation landscape. These programs will foster the creation of more competitive and therefore successful start-up companies. They may also further democratize the venture capital fund raising process, which ultimately, may fuel further consolidation in the venture capital industry as the origination of deal flow lends itself less to regional advantages.

What happens when a company you invested in fails?
My late mentor, Prof. Jeffry Timmons of Babson, liked to differentiate good ideas from real market opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs and investors know good ideas do not always represent sustainable, real, or, most importantly, timely market opportunities. However, sometimes we assess the market opportunity wrong, or worse, fail to capture a real and attractive market opportunity.

If a company we invest in fails, we generally hope it fails fast–in a capital efficient manner and for the right reasons. If we’re lucky, we learn something early in the company building process that enables the company to pivot to success. In some cases, management succeeds in finding a new home for the company’s employees and technology, while returning as much shareholder capital as possible. And in other cases, the company is shut down and we are left holding a multi-million coffee cup with a cool company logo. Failure is a key part of the innovation business. If you fear failure, you do not belong in this business. We must be free to fail in order to take the calculated risks required to pursue great opportunities.

What are some practical words of advice you can give to the entrepreneur about to be interviewed by a VC?
Clearly articulate the customer problem and market opportunity. Know and tell your story. If you’ve attracted “glow in the dark” talent to your team, talk about them. Do not spin.

Non-fiction is preferred. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Tolerate interruptions. VCs are notoriously impatient. All the VC likely wants is simple acknowledgement that they have been heard. You may learn something new, but then again, you may not. Keep your head up. Maintain that quiet confidence that enabled you to quit your job, take the risk, and pursue the American dream. You are an entrepreneur and you deserve our respect.

Do good entrepreneurs make good venture capitalists?

Changing the world and building a new company, from invention to innovation, is replete with challenges. Successful entrepreneurs require a unique mix of optimism, paranoia and courage. It also helps if entrepreneurs’ venture capital Board members are great coaches. Some great coaches are former star athletes. Some terrible coaches are former star athletes. Entrepreneurship and venture capital are no different from the ball field.

Posted on 23. Aug, 2012 by in Entrepreneur


“Founders Funding Founders” is the motto that drives, an early stage venture fund that loves entrepreneurs and understands what it means to take an idea and turn it into a product…

With 18 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, Jonathon Perrelli founded to provide seed and early stage capital to startups based in the DC region. As a MindShare CEO, Jonathon understands the value of the network and active participation by mentors. He and his team have spent the past year building up and closing their first venture capital fund, creating pitch events where they give away cash with no strings attached, and opening an accelerator in DC. We were fortunate enough to speak to Jonathon and his General Partner and co-founder of, Carla Valdes and asked them a few questions about their model and the DC ecosystem.

Tell us about Fortify. What makes you unique?
Jonathon: is unique because our team is comprised of serial entrepreneurs and experienced angel investors. When we started investing in the Spring of 2011, I was asked what the goal was for and to this day it is the same; to have significant deal flow of early stage investments that are distilled through our pitch competition format, and to help evolve the startup ecosystem in the DC region by making hundreds of investments over the next 10+ years.

Carla: At a time when founders and entrepreneurs were desperately in need of earlystage seed capital, we were able to write checks to fund them. Startups are in need of more than just capital and our team has been there to assist and guide our portfolio companies wherever needed.

Jonathon: While building our portfolio over the past year, and during our first six months running an accelerator, we have found that it is the strategic and operational advice that some companies need more than capital.

Carla: Being funded by has become validation for many local stage companies. In many ways, receiving startup capital adds a level of assurance internally to a founding team and signals to angels and VC’s that a company is growing and worthy of capital. Founders like to know that we are going to be there to support them during the rollercoaster ride in startupland.

Jonathon: What makes unique is what we have accomplished over the past year. We have; 1) started and closed our first venture capital fund, 2) created Distilled Intelligence, our pitch competition, and 3) founded and operated, DC’s first tech accelerator.

Carla: We hope to see more early stage funds and are glad to be seeing more pitch events, and a few more accelerators. However, I would not recommend trying to create all three within one year. We survived it, but don’t try this at home.


What is Distilled Intelligence?
Jonathon: Distilled Intelligence is a pitch competition designed to energize startups and investors. In October of 2011, we held DI 1.0 and hundreds of companies applied to a one day event, where over 50 companies pitched for a cash prize of $25,000. There was no cost to apply and no cost to attend for the selected companies. Investors and entrepreneurs were welcome to attend and tickets were priced appropriately for students and investors. A select group of service providers that add value to the startup ecosystem were also invited to sponsor and attend the event.

Carla: DI is our way of giving back to the community and is also our way of further distilling companies that we will invest in and invite to participate in The Fort (our accelerator) or invest in directly. DI 2.0 will have a cash bounty of $100,000 and will take place on October 11–12, 2012 in DC. We hope to make DI 2.0 a celebration of entrepreneurship for our region. Applications can be submitted at

How much has Fortify invested so far?
Jonathon: In our first year we’ve made 25 investments. Although we can’t disclose the details of our investments, on average our initial investment range is $25,000–$250,000. As part of our investment thesis, we maintain rights to make follow–on investments in subsequent funding rounds. To date, we have invested in several companies in the round following the initial seed investment that was either led by or that we participated in.


What are some of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when pitching you their ideas?

Carla: There is a very fine line between being focused and confident vs. seeming unwilling to take feedback. Entrepreneurs should be receptive to feedback regardless of the source. Based on the fact that we invest in early-stage companies, we like to know that an entrepreneur is willing to pivot and explore other models and be agile when needed, while still driving towards their vision. Flexibility is essential early on and feedback from mentors and investors has proven to be useful for many of the companies in our portfolio.

Another mistake that we have seen entrepreneurs make is exaggerating the status of their business. Having the vision for an incredible product is quite different than stating that there is a working product in the hands of customers. Having an accomplished team and committed investors is not the same as potential cofounders that will join once the investors commit.

Jonathon: We have only seen a handful of companies that spin their story in ways that don’t compute and I doubt that we will meet with those folks again. Having seen pitches from over 1,250 companies, we have found ways to quickly notice the real opportunities from those that have not yet written a line of code. Our process for distilling companies is quite unique and we can identify which startups have the most promise based on simple data points that they provide for us. Our goal is to be fair and reasonable in order to start out a relationship on the right foot. Tell us what you have, what you hope to become, and where you are in the process. Honesty goes a lot further than most entrepreneurs may realize.


When making a decision on a company, what are the top three things you look for?
Jonathon: Team, product, and market. In real estate it is all about location, location, location. The equivalent in early stage investing is team, team, team. Ideally, we like to see a focused founding team made up of one hacker that writes code, a hustler that drives the business, and a designer that creates an elegant and easy to use product interface. The team should be established and knowledgeable in their industry, passionate and dedicated to their company, and completely committed to fulfilling their vision.

Carla: It’s one thing to tell us what we want to hear, which is that you want to change the world. However, it’s entirely different and more appropriate to tell us that you will change the world and show us how you will do it.

Jonathon: Second to the team that will change the world, we need to see a market that is huge and growing and that the team truly understands. Relationships in the market as well as a path for the business and the ability to execute are critical. This is where the team has and will continue to add value to our portfolio. Not only have we picked up the phone to make calls on behalf of our companies, we pack our bags and travel with them to customer, partner, and investor meetings.

Carla: One more thing to mention is that we require a company to have a working prototype at a minimum. The vast majority of our investments are made in product companies with traction and we like to see revenue.

What are some of the risks of backing early stage firms?
Jonathon: As investors in enterprise software, mobile commerce, cyber security, and consumer internet platforms, there are risks that vary by industry, while some risks are common across the board. In addition to helping founders work through common issues associated with all startups, such as product risk, partnership risks, and the risk of future financing, It is also our goal to assist founders by addressing risks that are less frequently discussed, such as personnel and strategic risks. Startups at the early stage depend mostly on the success of their team and as the earliest investors in most of our deals, we focus on finding and nourishing the right individuals and teams. Personnel risks are really the most impactful to a small company, so we do our best to support and provide assistance in selecting team members and fostering the development and growth of the team. We have also provided support leading up to and during the challenging yet essential times when team members exit.

Carla: It is our preference to fund reasonable individuals that communicate well with one another and show mutual respect. We have passed on deals where founders didn’t even get along during their pitch meetings to us. We have also passed on deals where the founders did not treat their employees respectfully. Our philosophy is centered on our motto, ‘Founders Funding Founders’ and we work side-by-side with founders, so we prefer to get along with them and want to make sure that they are good leaders who care about their teams.

Jonathon: Sometimes risks are mostly within the control of founders, such as cash flow, hiring, financing and, in many ways, technology risks. Market and timing risks are most often outside of the control of founders.

Although capital is a critical component for startups and most will not achieve their product-market fit without funding, it is the face-to-face time with investors, mentors, and advisors that can often be more critical than the investment. It is amazing how involved folks (specifically advisors) will become once they have actually written checks to fund a startup.

What are some of the trends you see in D.C. How does this city compare to what’s going on in Silicon Valley?
Jonathon: Every market has variables that make it unique. There are incredible startup markets and entrepreneurs thriving in places such as Austin, Indianapolis, Denver, Boulder, Philadelphia and, in our region, places like Richmond, Raleigh-Durham, and Blacksburg.

Dozens of markets around the country and the world are evolving their startup ecosystems because we have entered the Age of Innovation. Similar to teaching a farmer how to use tools during the Agricultural Age, we need to teach more entrepreneurs to write software today.

DC will never be Silicon Valley, but the valley will never be DC. We need not compare why one is better than the other, rather, we need to support and learn from each region. We are seeing a significant increase in innovative and creative startups and some of the most advanced technologies in the world are being developed right here in our region, by some of the most energetic and brilliant entrepreneurs.

Carla: We are seeing more and more new faces in startupland every week. One critical success factor for the DC region is that jurisdictions and organizations supporting startups must work together to foster entrepreneurship. One of the greatest joys for us since starting and The Fort is the overwhelming and positive response from the community in support of these efforts.

Why D.C.? What makes this city a good place for what you do?
Carla: First and foremost, because this is home for our families. The DC region has a truly unique set of characteristics that make it a great place for early stage, innovative companies. Jonathon: DC has an incredibly talented and diverse workforce. The ingredients needed to create the highest chances for startup success are: easily accessible technical training, a skilled workforce, collaborative workspaces, capital, and an ecosystem that supports risk takers. We are starting to see the right combination of these attributes regionally and that makes our area an ideal place to launch a startup. More affordable office space that is convenient for commuters, along with a more active angel investment community are also critical.

Where do you see DC in the next decade?
Jonathon: The DC region will continue to develop as a high-tech center for innovation and creativity. Our area is very family friendly, and the economy has been fairly well insulated, thanks in large part to federal spending. In the months and years to come however, Uncle Sam will not be growing in the same manner and a reduction in defense and federal spending may force more hackers, hustlers, and designers into startupland. We welcome these folks and we are confident that the ecosystem will be ready for them.

Carla: The DC area is and will continue to be an attractive place for people to move and is a wonderfully diverse community for folks to settle in and stay. Although does have plans to expand to other markets, we plan for this to be home to our core team and our headquarters.

Tell us a little about the companies operating out of the Fort.

Jonathon: As challenging as operating an accelerator has been, I would not trade the past six months, as the experiences were priceless.

Lemur winning the NVTC Hottest Startup award was exciting, but watching them work as hard the next day as any other day was just as awesome as their winning. Lemur plans to disrupt retail and they’ve built an incredible team from just two individuals in January to over twelve people. Speaking of growth, Social Tables, recently featured on CNN, has grown from a single founder six months ago, to several employees working together to disrupt the event management industry. Hinge is making matches through friend of friends via the Facebook platform and their approach to social question gaming is truly addictive. Speaking of matching, CoFoundersLab is the online platform for matching founders of startups together. They also have real world events in a number of cities and CoFoundersLab has already acquired two of their largest competitors!

Carla: Some of The Fort companies have technology with a lot more to offer than what is visible to the outside world. Slowly but surely, they continue to grow their client and user statistics and are now well–recognized brands in their respective industries. Feastie offers a recipe search engine for blogs. Klaggle has a resonance platform that powers large content and media resources. NextGame helps people connect and participate in their favorite activities. HugeFan provides a medium for fans to meet celebrities over unique experiences. Saylo offers a platform for local search and chat. Uppidy helps users store, search and manage text messages.

Jonathon: Forensic Innovations has a unique cyber security product for high tech investigators, prosecutors, and national security agencies and is leading the revenue charge at The Fort. Venga has experienced the most amazing pivot that we have seen and they are increasing revenues daily with their restaurant loyalty and analytics platform.

What have been your biggest surprises and disappointments since starting Fortify?
Jonathon: When we opened the accelerator program and invited the first dozen companies to participate, we envisioned it as a 12–month program. A few months in we were pleasantly surprised to see that several of the companies were getting so much traction so quickly that they were ready to move out. So, at the six month mark, we actually had some of our companies “graduate.” At the end of June we held our first Investor Day, (DC’s first ever Accelerator Demo Day), where The Fort companies pitched investors for follow-on funding. We are proud to report that going into Investor Day, over $2,750,000 had been raised and it looks like over $5 Million will be raised in the Fort’s Inaugural Class. As challenges go, it’s actually the other side of that same coin. When a company moves out, we miss seeing them every day, but at the same time we are really excited to see their progress. Not all companies succeed and hopefully those that do not will have the nerves and knowledge to try again someday.

Carla: One of the greatest outcomes is the founder network that has been created and the assistance that the Fort companies provide to one another. It must be obvious that we are indeed proud of the companies and their accomplishments. We are just as proud of the relationships that have developed between the founders that will last well beyond their time that was spent together at The Fort.