|ABOUT THE SERIES
They are the owners, chairmen,
chief executives and staff, all
wrapped up in one.
They are one-person businesses;
they not only own the company
but also do all the heavy lifting.
This week, The Record is profiling
four of them.
Their businesses -- wholesale
restaurant supply, mobile pet
grooming, video production and
nautical event planning -- are as
diverse as their paths to becoming
their own bosses. All, however,
share a take-charge attitude and
an entrepreneurial spirit.
In addition to depicting the
day-to-day challenges of running
a business alone, the profiles
explain how these solo
entrepreneurs came to follow this
road -- and offer some insight into
what it takes to pull it off.
Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006
Going it alone: Restaurant supplier
Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006
Going it alone: Pet groomer
Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006
Going it alone: Video production
"Revelry on the river "Commute turned her into Entreprenaur"
Friday, December 22, 2006
By DUNSTAN PRIAL
Camille Cerria refers to it simply as the "puppy sale." In other words, one look at the
puppy and the sale is in the bag.
Cerria, of Oak Ridge, views her job in a similar light. As sole proprietor of Smooth
Sailing Celebrations, Cerria matches people arranging parties with the operators of
a handful of yachts that ply the Hudson River and that double as banquet halls.
Similar to the puppy, the boats tend to sell themselves, the 48-year-old Cerria said.
"If the ship is dressed up and ready to go, it's fabulous. You can't get them off," she
Cerria's decision to go into business for herself and by herself had more to do with
logistics than financial considerations.
For nearly 10 years she had worked as a cruise line employee, arranging events on
But in 2001, she moved with her family from Clifton to Oak Ridge, and the drive to the
Weehawken docks, where the line she was working for was located, suddenly got a
lot longer, she recalled.
Indeed, the 40-mile ride from northern Passaic
County to the Hudson River waterfront
frequently took up to two hours because of
But Cerria said she enjoyed her job and didn't
want to change careers.
One day one of her bosses suggested she go
into business for herself, a concept she
laughed off at first.
"Honestly, I never, never thought that I'd own
my own business. I thought it would be too
hard. I didn't think I was the type," said Cerria.
The next time it snowed, making an already
difficult commute all but impossible, she
reconsidered his suggestion, and in 2004 she
founded Smooth Sailing Celebrations.
She had prepared herself by taking several
courses offered by the Small Business
Administration that focused on law and
accounting, two aspects of owning her own
company that she found especially daunting.
It was well worth it. Her fears, she said, "turned
out just to be in my head."
She bought a top-of-the-line personal computer
for $3,000 and set up shop in a sunny corner of
her home office. The sun beaming through the
window helps her through the winter season,
when business is slow, she explained.
The easy part of getting started was touching
base with past clients to let them know she had started her own business.
It was harder reaching out to the owners of cruise lines for whom she had never
worked and negotiating her commissions with lines that expressed interest.
Now entering her third year in business, Cerria brokers events for eight boats owned
by five cruise lines.
Cerria's services are free to her customers because she gets her fee from the cruise
Imagine a floating, elegant banquet hall whose broad picture windows afford
partygoers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the
George Washington Bridge.
That's what Cerria offers.
Many of her clients are corporations seeking an innovative place to hold holiday
parties, employee appreciation celebrations or awards ceremonies. She has also
arranged vendor fairs, fund-raisers for non-profit organizations and high school
Other customers might come to her seeking a unique experience for a wedding
anniversary or birthday party, she said.
"It's important for me to know what goal they're trying to accomplish and how they
envision the event unfolding," she said.
Cerria said she tries to be as unobtrusive as possible when approaching potential
customers. For instance, she never cold-calls, preferring instead to send post cards
that can be filed away for future reference.
When a potential customer calls seeking information, Cerria typically replies with an
e-mail that includes menus and prices, as well as information on parking and
Then, hopefully, the potential customer will want to see the boat. That's when the
"puppy sale" factor kicks in, Cerria said.
She said the two most important elements of her job are providing information and
then helping the customer to sort through that information to make decisions that fit
their concept for the event being planned.
Cerria said she tries to be a "one-stop shop," offering customers music, parking and
transportation to and from the docks, if need be.
Many of her clients are first-time customers seeking to create a new experience for
their event. Consequently, they are curious but in many instances slightly wary of the
"There's a lot of handholding in this business. It's the first time they're doing
something outside the box. They're taking a risk by doing something different. But
that's what they want -- something different," she said.
Besides offering her customers the best possible service to ensure return business,
Cerria said she networks by joining trade organizations such as the New Jersey
Association of Women Business Owners, for which she is the vice president of
A believer in karma, Cerria encouraged fledgling entrepreneurs to share their good
with others. "What goes around comes around," she said.
Copyright © 2006 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
"Reproduced with permission of North Jersey Media Group."
To schedule an event, call Smooth Sailing Celebrations at 973-409-4456
or send them an email. You'll receive a prompt and friendly reply.