Montclair State students, grads gather in Washington for Promise Prize summit

August 7, 2017

All four of Montclair State’s Promise Prize winners learned, networked and expanded their horizons during an annual leadership summit in Washington, D.C., in late July. The summit is held each year by the Change Create Transform Foundation to bring together all of the Promise Prize scholars.

Kishawn Jean-Pierre, who was the 2017 winner of the Promise Prize, was attending the summit for the first time.

“The opportunity to attend the summit in D.C. was a life changing experience that made me extremely appreciative of my culture, motivated me to reach my goals, and inspired me to take on as many leadership roles as possible,” said Jean-Pierre, a rising senior accounting major. “Throughout the summit, I was exposed to the historical struggles that the African American race has gone through in order to pave the way for the opportunities that we have today. The opportunity to attend the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as listening to the personal struggles of the many members of the Change Create Transform Foundation made me aware of the fight that many have put up for the African American race to progress. I left the summit in D.C. knowing that I wanted to continue the fight and inspire others to do the same so the African American race and community can continue progressing as a whole.”

The Marie Nesbitt Promise Prize is awarded annually by the Change Create Transform Foundation, which recognizes and rewards academic excellence and encourages leadership, scholarship, service and philanthropy. The prize was established in 2002 by the foundation’s founder Vikki Pryor, in memory of her grandmother Marie Nesbitt, who was a great-granddaughter of slaves who held jobs ranging from domestic worker to welder.

Vikki Pryor with Kishawn Jean-Pierre (left) and Stanley Fils

Vikki Pryor with Kishawn Jean-Pierre (left) and Stanley Fils.

The Promise Prize is awarded to a black entrepreneurship or business student with the following traits: academic excellence (high GPA), leadership, scholarship, initiative, service and entrepreneurship. The winners, who are called Scholars, become part of a community that networks together and holds an annual summit. This was the first year that the summit was held outside New York. (more…)

Prof. Jason Frasca, left, delivered welcome remarks at the event.

Renowned “Angel” Jason Calacanis shares advice on entrepreneurship, investing

July 26, 2017

When he nailed his first major exit, Jason Calacanis sat at his computer, refreshing the screen on his Bank of America account. When the balance changed from $3,000 to $30 million, he began to cry. His wife asked what was going on, and Calacanis turned the monitor to her and said, “We don’t have to worry about money anymore.”

Calacanis told the tale of AOL’s $30 million buy of Weblogs, a blog network he created with childhood pal Brian Alvey, along with other stories of entrepreneurship and investing while visiting Montclair State on July 25. Nearly 150 people attended the event where Calacanis, a renowned serial entrepreneur and angel investor, was interviewed by David Sorin, a partner at McCarter & English. The event was presented by the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship, and it was Calacanis’ only appearance in New Jersey for the launch of his first book, “Angel.”

“We had an engaging, lively conversation that reveals the pivotal role of technology and entrepreneurship, politically, socially and, of course, economically,” said Sorin, whose firm sponsored the event. “Jason was generous with his time and insights, with honest and provocative responses to my questions and those of the roughly 150 attendees at Montclair State University.”

Calacanis was interviewed by David Sorin, of McCarter & English, the event sponsor

Calacanis was interviewed by David Sorin, of McCarter & English, the event sponsor.

Although Calacanis has been extremely successful, resulting in financial windfalls, he wanted the audience to know he was just “a kid from Brooklyn” who if he wasn’t a rags-to-riches story, was perhaps a Toughskins-to-riches tale. Calacanis talked about his family making tough financial decisions while he grew up, and said he wrote “Angel” so others could use it as a playbook to see what’s possible. “Doing hard work and trying to be successful is a good thing,” he said. (more…)

Visitors drawn to our MIX Lab innovation center

July 10, 2017

Our MIX Lab innovation center continues to be a draw for visitors who come to the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship to learn more about our offerings. The chance to see our 35 3D printers in action, and talk to students who are innovating, making and iterating inside the lab, remains a top reason to visit the Feliciano Center.

Today’s visitors included Liliana Gil Valletta, co-founder and CEO of CIEN+, a business intelligence and marketing services company. Valletta was joined by two of our advisory board members: Mimi Feliciano, founder and CEO of FEM Real Estate, and Ilene Wachs, president of Horizon Casualty Services, Inc. at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

From left: Dennis Bone, Ilene Wachs, Mimi Feliciano, Altarik Banks, Josh Miller, Liliana Valletta

From left: Dennis Bone, Ilene Wachs, Mimi Feliciano, Altarik Banks, Josh Miller, Liliana Valletta

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Promise Prize $5,000 award given to Accounting major

May 11, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sharon Waters @ 4:57 pm

Kishawn Jean-Pierre, a junior Accounting major, was honored with the $5,000 Promise Prize during a May 3 ceremony at Montclair State.

The Marie Nesbitt Promise Prize is awarded annually by the Change Create Transform Foundation, which recognizes and rewards academic excellence and encourages leadership, scholarship, service and philanthropy. The prize was established in 2002 by the foundation’s founder Vikki Pryor, in memory of her grandmother Marie Nesbitt, who was a great-granddaughter of slaves who held jobs ranging from domestic worker to welder.

The Promise Prize is awarded to a black entrepreneurship or business student with the following traits: academic excellence (high GPA), leadership, scholarship, initiative, service and entrepreneurship. The winners, who are called Scholars, become part of a community that networks together and holds an annual summit.

Kishawn Jean-Pierre expressed gratitude after winning the award.

Kishawn Jean-Pierre expressed gratitude after winning the award.

“I would like to express my sincerest gratitude for being selected as the recipient of the Promise Prize,” said Jean-Pierre. “Your financial generosity allows me to be one step closer to my career aspirations, and inspires me to help others by giving back to the community. As a Promise Prize Scholar, I look forward to assisting current and future Scholars to achieve their goals, just as you have helped me.” (more…)

$10K pitch contest results in euphoria, learning experiences

May 4, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sharon Waters @ 7:09 pm

Jamie Wisniewski and Selena Alvarez won $10,000 for their ability to pitch a product with words, but in the aftermath of learning they snagged the top prize in Montclair State’s student pitch contest, they were left speechless.

“I have no words,” said Alvarez, a senior Marketing major, moments later as she stood on stage with Wisniewski, holding an oversized $10,000 check that had just been signed by AJ Khubani, the sponsor of the BulbHead.com Bright Ideas Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.

The two women were members of team Fit B, a customized bra business that was one of 21 student teams that competed May 3 for the $10,000 prize.

“We are grateful for the generous gift from BulbHead and are excited to invest it into our business and see where it takes us,” said Wisniewski, who is pursuing a Masters of Arts in Public and Organizational Relations. “Pitching before the judges who have mastered the art of inventing was an incredibly inspiring experience. We really valued their feedback and seeing their enthusiasm about our product was so rewarding.”

It was fourth year of the student pitch contest, funded by Khubani and the companies he has founded, BulbHead and TeleBrands. The contest began in 2014 with four student teams. This year, the contest was open to any Montclair State student, resulting in a pool of 52 teams considered to pitch, which was narrowed to the 21 teams that presented on May 3.

Many of the student teams, including Fit B, were pitching as a culmination of the 9-credit Certificate of Entrepreneurship, issued by Montclair State’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship. Those students were in an advance course this semester, learning how to validate their idea with real customers and how to pitch their product, service or app.

“Being an entrepreneur is something I have always dreamed of, but never thought was realistic. This class and competition has made me realize that with a lot of hard work and dedication, anything is possible,” Wisniewski said. “Having the opportunity to turn an idea into a business over the course of a semester is so rewarding, and is what makes the entrepreneurship program so special.” (more…)

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From nerves to euphoria: student recalls pitching in statewide contest

May 1, 2017

The following is a student’s first-person account of participating in the second annual UPitchNJ collegiate entrepreneurship contest, held April 28 at Princeton University.

By Kristen Martinelli

I wasn’t nervous until we walked into the auditorium style room at Princeton University.

The pitched seating seemed huge. The room’s layout and presentation placement forced us to rely on our memory when presenting. No assistance from a nearby laptop to see what was next. In between bites of pizza and notes from the tech operator, the nerves set in. My team, Elaion, would be competing for cash prizes against 12 other New Jersey universities in the second annual UPitchNJ contest.

As the next team entered the auditorium to go over their presentation, we went back to our demonstration table. In between conversations we practiced our deck from memory. We knew our parts; that wasn’t the issue. The scary part was facing the unknown. We always pitched to our classroom of peers, and here we were with several prestigious teams of strangers. Despite our smooth pitches in the car ride to Princeton, I was worried about clicking through the presentation at the wrong time.

All too soon, we gathered into the first three rows of the auditorium. Montclair State was fourth in the pitch order and I could feel my heart pounding as each speaker discussed Princeton’s entrepreneurship program.

I went through my parts of the presentation over and over before the first team started. I flipped back through my notes to confirm my numbers and specific details. Yet, at some point as the teams began, I realized I had to trust that over the past 14 weeks we had practiced enough to give a great pitch. We had to believe in one another. I stopped pitching in my head and took a deep breath, we can do this. (more…)

Lineup of students competing for $10,000 on May 3

April 26, 2017

We are excited to announce the students who will be competing in the fourth annual student pitch contest at Montclair State. The BulbHead.com Bright Ideas Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs contest will be held 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 3, at the 7th floor conference center in University Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

The student teams will pitch in the order outlined below. Info about each team includes team member names, majors and hometowns. After the prelim rounds in the morning of May 3, pizza will be served at approximately 12:30 p.m. The final round of pitches will begin approximately 2 p.m., with the $10,000 winning team being announced approximately 4:30 p.m.

Montclair State students who attend the event can enter a raffle to win one of three prizes, courtesy of Residence Life: an iPad, Kindle or Magic Bullet blender. Free raffle tickets will be given to students, with a university ID, 1:30-2:00 p.m. The raffle winners will be announced at 4 p.m.; students must be present to win.

The BulbHead.com Bright Ideas Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs contest is generously funded by alumnus AJ Khubani. (more…)

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Controlling their destiny – women entrepreneurs tell how they did it

March 28, 2017

They left the corporate life to become entrepreneurs, and never looked back, building successful startups in a variety of industries.

“I feel a sense of control of my destiny,” said Tracy Doyle, president and CEO of Phoenix Marketing Solutions, one of four panelists at a March 28 event, “From Idea to Success: Navigating the Entrepreneurial Journey,” held at Montclair State. The event drew 150 attendees, and was sponsored by the university’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship, which has a special mission to nurture women entrepreneurs, and Residence Life.

Also on the panel were Cheryl Biron, president and CEO of One Horn Transportation; Melissa Fensterstock, founder of Aromaflage; and Kristen Jones (KJ) Miller, co-founder of Harlem-based Mented Cosmetics. The moderator was Claire Cowart, president of OOBinker and an ENTR 201 adjunct professor.

The panelists had a few theories why women are under-represented as entrepreneurs. (more…)

More tips about $10K student pitch contest

February 28, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sharon Waters @ 2:49 pm

We have received a variety of questions from Montclair State students as they prepare their entries for our pitch contest, or consider whether to apply. We post all of these questions on our blog, so every student has an equal chance to know the answers. Read the first Q&A post. Read the original post explaining all the rules. Don’t miss your chance to enter the BulbHead.com Bright Ideas Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs $10,000 student team pitch contest!

Here are the latest questions we have received, and the answers. Have a question? Email us at: PitchContest@montclair.edu

Q: Do the judges sign confidentiality agreements? I have a great idea, and I don’t want anyone to steal my idea! (more…)

Q&A about $10,000 pitch contest open to any Montclair State student

February 10, 2017

Filed under: Events,Young entrepreneurs — Sharon Waters @ 5:13 pm
We have received questions about the $10,000 student pitch contest at Montclair State, which will be open to any Montclair State student in 2017. More info below about the BulbHead.com Bright Ideas Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs $10,000 student team pitch contest. Here are answers to specific questions we have received, with answers from Sharon Waters, program manager at the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship:

Q: Is the competition about who has the best, new, innovating product/idea or is it only on how well we pitch our product?
A. Both are important. If I had to pick one as more important, I’d say the the idea is more important. We want teams that pitch well to be moving on to the later rounds, but if a team has the most flawless style of pitching but has a horrible idea, that team would be less likely to advance.
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