May 20, 2009 — An organic energy drink that offers innovative time-release hydration won first place at the Sy Syms School of Business 2009 Dr. William Schwartz Business Plan Competition on May 7. Miami native and Syms student, Matthew Sussman, won $5,000 for his energy drink business, Proseed.
“I wanted a better hydration solution to the ones offered,” said Sussman, a finance major who plans to pursue a medical career. “This past year I have been training for a triathlon this summer. I need a hydrator that can keep up.”
Recent years have seen a rising interest in entrepreneurship among students at the business school, and nowhere is this more evident than at the final judging of the business plan competition. Close to 30 business plans were submitted for review, with the top six plans selected to present at the competition and judged by a group of established business executives and entrepreneurs.
Marco Greenberg, one of the competition’s judges and managing director at Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations firm, was impressed with the students’ business plans. “They showed the smarts, dedication and passion that is critical to the success of any start up,” Greenberg said.
Aaron Gordon, of New York’s Upper East Side, won second place for his business plan: a unique high-end restaurant specializing in sushi and one-of-a-kind cocktails called The G. LLC.
“I saw a need for a kosher setting where both Jewish and non-Jewish businessmen and women could go for high-quality light food,” said Gordon, a management major. “This restaurant will be unlike any other Glatt kosher establishment in midtown Manhattan.” Gordon received $3,000 towards his venture.
Third place was split between Eli Romanoff, creator of 3KP (3 Kids Plus), a social networking site for large families offering discounts, and Michael Levy, who developed TriSpecs, fashionable sunglasses that combine Bluetooth and MP3 technology. Romanoff and Levy each received $1,000.
“I can’t imagine a group of educators who could have been more helpful and supportive than the professors at Sy Syms,” Romanoff, a native of Elizabeth, NJ, said.
The other finalists were Knots, a men’s haberdashery, and Sephoco, a photography Web site that incorporates photo contests, event photography and picture printing.
“The entire process was truly a remarkable experience,” said Levy, a finance major from new York City. “The entrepreneurship program gave us the opportunity to present our hard work in a supportive environment.”
Over the past two years enrollment in entrepreneurial courses at Sy Syms has increased almost 50 percent, estimates Dr. Brian Maruffi, professor of management and director of the school’s Ira Rennert Entrepreneurship Institute.
“Students are enrolling in greater numbers and asking us to offer more courses and a major with a concentration in entrepreneurship,” said Maruffi, who moderated the competition along with Dr. Fred Palumbo, professor and area chair of marketing and management; Michael Strauss, adjunct professor and entrepreneur-in-residence; and Dr. Lisa Rosh, assistant professor of management.
Maruffi believes the current recession may have something to with the trend. “The traditional nine-to-five job market is rapidly changing and will remain more competitive and uncertain for at least the next two to three years,” he said. “In this economy, students cannot rely solely on what they have learned in their majors. Graduates need to have an integrated, multidimensional sense of how a business works and the real skills to contribute to the enterprise.”
Strauss believes that entrepreneurship is particularly important at Yeshiva University, where “a significant percentage of the student body was raised in families that either started or continued to build a business that began one or more generations earlier.
“I am fortunate to meet with many of these students on a one-on-one basis to help guide and coach them on how to better focus their thinking and prepare their business plan,” said Strauss, who has already received queries from students about next year’s competition. “I always tell them that most people have many ideas, but we only pay a premium to those that can take one idea and make it happen.”