May 22, 2009 — “Since its establishment in 1987, the business school and its curriculum have been constantly evolving,” said Dr. Fred Palumbo, professor and area chair of marketing and management at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB). Addressing an audience of students, proud parents, and captains of industry gathered at the 2009 Dr. William Schwartz Business Plan Competition, Dr. Palumbo provided a brief history of one of the northeast’s top undergraduate business programs. He went on to explain that recently he has noticed a dramatic shift towards the field of entrepreneurship.
Indeed, over the past two years enrollment in entrepreneurial courses at SSSB has increased almost 50 percent, estimates Dr. Brian Maruffi, professor of management and director of the Ira Rennert Entrepreneurship Institute at SSSB.
“Students are enrolling in greater numbers and asking us to offer more courses and a major with a concentration in entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Maruffi, who moderated the Business Plan Competition along with Dr. Palumbo, Michael Strauss, adjunct professor and entrepreneur in residence, and Dr. Lisa Rosh, assistant professor of management.
Dr. 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.”
In all, close to 30 business plans were submitted for review, with the top six plans selected to present at the competition and judged by seven established business executives and entrepreneurs.
The first-place prize of $5,000 went Matthew Sussman of Miami, Florida for his business, Proseed—an organic energy drink that offers an innovative time-release hydration system. “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 that I will G-d willing do this summer. I need a hydrator that can keep up.”
Second-place winner, Aaron Gordon of New York’s Upper East Side, pitched 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 helpful information and Michael Levy, who developed TriSpecs, fashionable sunglasses that combine Bluetooth and MP3 technology. Romanoff and Levy each received a $1000 prize.
“I can’t imagine a group of educators who could have been more helpful and supportive than the professors at Sy Syms,” said Romanoff, a native of Elizabeth, NJ. “The dedication and support I received, particularly from Professors Strauss and Maruffi, was truly fantastic.”
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 entrepreneur program gave us the opportunity to present our hard work in a supportive environment.”
Marco Greenberg, one of the competition’s judges and managing director at global public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller was impressed with the students and their presentations. “They showed the smarts, dedication and passion that is critical to the success of any start up.”
Prof. 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 Prof. 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.”