By Lauren Lavelle
Over 8,000 high school guidance counselors’ email inboxes were pinging last week with information about the Norm Brodsky Idea/Business Concept Competition, an academic business venture presented by Rider’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies that focuses on high school students perfecting their entrepreneurial skills through planning and presenting a realistic business concept.
“They have 400 words to develop and explain a business concept,” said Lee Zane, program director for entrepreneurial studies and coordinator of the competition. “We tell them they need to be very clear what the product or service is. ‘Who’s the market? Why does this group of people want this product?’ Then we ask them to talk about the method of distribution. ‘What’s the best way for this product to reach this group of people?’ That’s the basics of a business concept.”
The Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has been involved with the competition for three years, typically offering a first prize of $1,000 cash and a $2,000 scholarship.
To boost Rider’s name and credibility, Zane and a team of advisors decided to move in a different direction this year, opting to appeal to a wider range of students with a larger, more exciting prize.
“The top prize is a four-year, full-tuition scholarship,” he said. “We kept asking the development team to find us a donor who would give us real scholarship money because we thought it would be really good for Rider. They talked to Norm Brodsky and he insisted it be a full ride.”
Brodsky, ’64, is a successful entrepreneur who has earned several honors and accolades by expanding and founding six businesses.
According to Zane, Brodsky, who has agreed to donate half the scholarship money while Rider covers the other half, had specific requests when it came to the criteria of the monetary gift.
“Brodsky admits he was not the greatest student,” said Zane. “He insisted we not set lofty GPA goals to get in because it’s not necessary. Everybody’s different.”
The scholarship winner must be a full-time student with at least a 2.5 GPA throughout his or her time at Rider.
Brodsky also insisted the scholarship not limit the winner to the College of Business, instead letting the student explore all of Rider’s options.
“It’s not required to come to the College of Business if you win,” said Zane. “Brodsky isn’t looking to get a student to come to Rider to study business, he’s looking to expand the name of Rider. You can have great ideas and not be limited to business.”
Although the grand prize is only available to senior applicants, sophomores and juniors have a chance to shine as well, with a $750 prize and automatic entries into the finals when they’re seniors.
“It definitely incentivises the competition,” said graduate assistant for the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Kyle Rubin. “Getting the word out to New Jersey and areas around New Jersey that Rider will pay for your education if you win this competition is a great way to expose kids to new ideas and get them thinking about going to college.”
For Rubin, the ideal student applicant is someone with a knack for creative thinking, who will step out of his or her comfort zone.
“Not a lot of people think about being an entrepreneur, especially in high school,” he said. “I think this is a great opportunity for students to think differently, think outside the box in a field they’ve never had any exposure to. Basically, a very creative thinker is going to excel with this.”
Zane agreed, claiming entrepreneurship is a much more complex concept than what it is portrayed to be.
“People think that entrepreneurship is just about starting a business but it’s really about the mindset, being creative, innovative and solving problems,” he said. “I like this because it gives students a chance to dream and go kind of crazy.”