Welcome!

Apache Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Janakiram MSV, Gil Allouche

News Feed Item

Rutgers business plan competition sees a return to more traditional ventures as a start-up interior landscaper takes top prize

Entrepreneurial part-time MBA students sweep annual competition at Rutgers Business School

NEWARK, N.J., April 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- There is surprisingly little technology displayed by the winners of Rutgers Business School's 2014 Business Plan Competition. Not one of the new businesses, for instance, involves an app.

Raymond Rossi, an instructor on the faculty of Management and Global Business who has overseen the competition since 2011, said the types of businesses that made it to the final round of this year's competition represented a sea change over last year.

"We went from one extreme to the other," Rossi said, noting the absence of apps and Internet-focused business plans. 

"This year, we had a group of students who were very passionate," he said. "They showed an enormous amount of knowledge, and they presented very viable business models."

The two top winners, both Rutgers Flex MBA students, started companies that provide traditional services. Brian Bergen, owner of interior landscaping company, won the $20,000 first-place prize. Paula Zwiren, president of Zwiren Title Agency, received $15,000 for second place.

Sarah Blessing, who graduated from the Rutgers Flex MBA Program in January, came up with the idea for TRAINgle, which is developing a fitness product with some flair. Her team, which includes Flex MBA students Aamir Khan and Leann Cosley-Richardson and recent MBA grad Joanna Trzaska, won the $10,000 third-place prize.

"This is a huge confidence booster," Blessing said after the competition. "It's a first step."

The competition, which has been supported by the Sales Executives Club Foundation of New Jersey for nearly 15 years, has helped to launch a number of businesses, including Tea & Honey Blends (First place, 2011), Heart Juice (First place, 2012) and medical website Opcura (First place, 2013).

This year's winners were selected from a group of five finalists who were required to make pitches to a panel of three judges and answer questions about the viability of their new businesses, including the market potential and growth strategy.

Here are the winners' stories:

Bergen Botanicals

Even without a green thumb of his own, Brian Bergen is staking his entrepreneurial ambitions on the interior landscaping industry.

After spending time working in the industry, the Rutgers Flex MBA student said he saw an opportunity for a new player to enter a marketplace dominated by lots of small, established competitors.      

"This seemed like it would be fun to do," Bergen said. "The competition is generally people who have been at this for a while and are still small. I thought I could enter, introduce technology and use my business knowledge to build a sustainable company."

In February, Bergen Botanicals celebrated eight months of business – and nearly $100,000 in sales – by winning the top prize of $20,000 in Rutgers Business School's annual business plan competition.

Bergen, who is studying entrepreneurship at Rutgers, received his undergraduate degree from West Point and then spent eight years in the U.S. Army flying Apache helicopters. His service included a stint in Iraq.

He said he originally thought the military's discipline had prepared him for the corporate world, but then he began to realize that what he really wanted was to have more influence over operations and decisions. In the end, his desire to influence how a company is run outweighed his comfort with structure.   

"Until I started to navigate the corporate world," the 34-year-old Denville resident said, "I didn't know I would never be completely satisfied until I could do things the way I wanted – and not purely for the bottom line."

In creating Bergen Botanicals, he has adopted principles of social entrepreneurism that he will incorporate into his company as it grows. For instance, he plans to donate 20 percent of his profits to organizations that support veterans and to pay for employee health care benefits once he starts hiring full-time workers.

He also has taken steps to be certified as a benefits corporation, which holds him to certain business practices, including purchasing from local vendors and using suppliers who sign a code of ethics, prohibiting such things as child labor.

"I wanted to create a company that's doing more than making profits," Bergen said. "I wanted to create a company that's also good for people, good for the environment and society – and is well-run and profitable."

Zwiren Title Agency

Paula Zwiren grew up immersed in the real estate business. The conversation around her family's dinner table often revolved around the work of her parents – her father ran a title service agency, her mother was a realtor and her step-mother worked as a real estate attorney.

It's not surprising that she would end up in real estate.

After getting her law degree and spending nine years running a mortgage banker-owned title agency, Zwiren, who is a part-time Rutgers MBA student, said she started thinking about going into business for herself.

When federal lawmakers enacted new regulations designed to tighten standards banks follow when they're doing business with third-party title agencies. The changes made Zwiren's idea of starting her own company even more viable because of the knowledge and experience she had gained working closely with the mortgage industry.

"I thought if I'm ever going to open my own company, this would be the time," the 37-year-old said. "My experience makes me confident that I'll be able to help lenders through the changes, which require them to follow tougher standards."

The opening of her company last fall coincided with an announcement about the business plan competition. "The timing was perfect," Zwiren said. "It gave me a chance to hammer out details in a way that I would not have done."

The second place $15,000 prize money will help Zwiren market her new agency, but she is also hoping the recognition of winning the competition will give her business credibility and an early promotional boost.

There's no shortage of people who tried to tell Zwiren how tough it might be to build a business. Ray Rossi, a Rutgers Business School instructor who runs the business plan competition and serves as a judge, described the job of running a title service agency as unglamorous and intensely competitive.

"She had a good understanding of what needed to be done," Rossi said. "She'll be using her background as an attorney and her contacts in the business."

Zwiren, who plans to complete her MBA studies in 2015, is determined that with hard work and keeping to simple business principles she will be build a successful company.

"I feel like I have an incredible value to add," she said. "In my heart, I know I will find customers who share a value system with me. If I find attorneys who look at things the way I do, who believe in informing and advocating for the customer, I know this will work."   

TRAINgle

Sarah Blessing was nervous about presenting her idea for a more stylish-looking fitness band to other Flex MBA students in her Foundations of Entrepreneurship class.

But as it turned out, making that presentation was like setting her idea on a launch pad. It triggered a momentum that has provided Blessing and three of her classmates with a genuine taste of what it's like to be entrepreneurs. 

After the presentation, Blessing partnered up with classmates Leann Cosley-Richardson, Aamir Khan and Joanna Trzaska to build TRAINgle – a play on the word bangle – around Blessing's idea.

"I wanted to find a way to fit the fitness in me with the fashionista in me," said Blessing who finished the MBA program in January. "The whole point is to wear it all the time, but if you're dressed up, it looks horrible in my opinion."

Like Blessing, Cosley-Richardson, Khan and Trzaska share an interest in fitness and saw the market potential for a more stylish device. 

As part of the class project, the team did market research to show the prospects for the product and they used their networks to explore possible funding sources. "As we did each piece, doors kept opening," Blessing said.

During a class trip, for instance, Rutgers Business School Professor Jeffrey Robinson introduced the students to the capabilities of Rutgers Makerspace on the Livingston Campus. The team returned to Makerspace to enlist the help of Ali Hashemi, a Rutgers College senior, who has helped them develop a prototype using 3-D printing technology.

As their class was coming to an end and the students were wrapping up their project, Blessing and her team decided to enter the Rutgers business plan competition. By then the team, as Blessing put it, felt an excitement of "really being onto something."

The team captured third place in the business plan competition and secured $10,000 in prize money that it plans to use to continue developing a prototype and secure a patent on their design. 

TRAINgle is still in the concept phase, but Trzaska said each time the team moved to the next round of the business plan competition, it "validated" their efforts. Now, the four are pressing on, juggling classes and jobs with the work involved in building a business.

"We want to push it as far as we can," Khan said. "The experience itself is worthwhile."

For more information about the annual Rutgers Business Plan Competition, go to http://www.business.rutgers.edu.

A team of Rutgers part-time MBA students with an idea for a stylish fitness device won third place in Rutgers Business School's 2014 business plan competition.

Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-z_5FGBBQak
Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140411/DC02863

SOURCE Rutgers Business School

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. Adobe helps customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide-from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on its established design leadership, Adobe enables customers not o...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue an...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
Digital transformation is too big and important for our future success to not understand the rules that apply to it. The first three rules for winning in this age of hyper-digital transformation are: Advantages in speed, analytics and operational tempos must be captured by implementing an optimized information logistics system (OILS) Real-time operational tempos (IT, people and business processes) must be achieved Businesses that can "analyze data and act and with speed" will dominate those t...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridharabalan, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, Inc., will focus on key challenges in building an Internet of Things solution infrastructure. He will shed light on efficient ways of defining interactions within IoT solutions, leading to cost and time reduction. He will also introduce ways to handle data and how one can develop IoT solutions that are lean, flexible and configurable, thus making IoT infrastructure agile and scalable.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Numerex Corp, a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ:NMRX) is a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The Company's solutions produce new revenue streams or create operating...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.