SOMERSET, NJ - A diverse group of business owners and entrepreneurs pitched their business plans to lenders at an event conceptually based on ABC's Shark Tank, Tuesday afternoon at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School. 

The Franklin Township Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration partnered to host the event, and organizers deemed it a success. 

"The Shark Tank event was a huge success," Chamber Board Member, Francesco Prandoni said. "It was the first time the Franklin Township Chamber of Commerce adopted this format, and we had over 25 interested business. Seven businesses from different parts of New Jersey were selected to pitch their business to a panel of five 'Sharks'."

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Amaury Berrios and John Mavrianos, co-founders of Motovise, a new company that conducts used car pre-purchase inspections had the opportunity to pitch their idea.  

"Shark Tank organized by the Franklin Township Chamber of Commerce was a great experience," Mavrianos said. "It was a great opportunity to present our business ideas and receive feedback from seasoned professionals. It's important to support local entrepreneurs and small businesses."

April Harris-Holmes, owner of Keeping You Sweet a successful Newark based all-natural cheesecake company gave a compassionate pitch expressing growing pains she is having with the business, and the panel provided her with feedback. 

Juanita Painson said she was happy with the event and hopes contestants will take advantage of the contacts made. 

"The lenders in attendance are able to offer as little as $10,000 to as high as $500,000 in business loans," Painson said. "The advantage of connecting with these lenders is, they are not just lenders, they are also mentors, advisors, and connections to talent each small business requires to succeed. Everyone in attendance left richer because of their experience during the Franklin Township Chamber of Commerce 'Shark Tank' event."

Kenneth Bland a loan officer with Magyar Bank facilitated the event and helped contestants and the panel through the pitch process. 

Claudia Yarborough, Omar Buendia, Kevin Chu, Tom Loucopolos, and Nathalia A. Giraldo made up the panel. According to organizers panel members will schedule more detailed interviews with business owners whose needs may be a match with their lending portfolio.

"We touched several industries ranging from travel, IT consulting, personal digital services, baked goods, and automotive services," Prandoni said. "Every participant pitched their business idea to the Sharks, who gave remarkable feedback." 

The panel offered services that included mentorship, marketing, and funding. Some participants also received offers to finance their businesses once the required documentation was provided, according to organizers. 

The chamber is looking to have another session soon. 

"We will definitively have another session in the winter; this time frame will allow small businesses interested, enough time to prepare their business plan, perfect their pitch and develop their business ideas to obtain financing and other forms of support to create successful ventures," Prandoni said. 

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