By Hannah Newman
The annual Moonshots and Moneymakers conference gave 18 Rider students the opportunity to meet over 60 entrepreneurs at Oxford University in August 2023.
The conference was established during the COVID-19 pandemic when Norm Brodsky, Rider alum ‘64 refused to let this freeze period in life stop him from creating a difference in the world.
While adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, Brodsky would invite entrepreneurs to meetup on the balcony of his office in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, despite how cold it was outside.
The frigid weather prompted Brodsky to serve whiskey to warm everyone up.
After a time well spent together, they decided to make ‘Whiskey Wednesday’ a weekly occurrence and bring a friend or two each time they came.
Brodsky, who has a passion for helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, knew that the weekly meetings needed a purpose. The first four people to attend the introductory meeting suggested bringing a friend of theirs who needed some business advice.
“A couple of guys brought a couple of friends and that’s how ‘Whiskey Wednesday’ started. And as we met every week, people would come in and out and it would get bigger. I decided that we should have some sort of cause,” said Brodsky.
Brodsky wanted to continue donating to those around him which was the point in time that helped people get on their feet.
“Word caught on that you can come up and pitch us, maybe get some money to start your business or help the business.”
Brodsky assisted businesses such as Burning Man and also lent a hand in the growth of charity work including donations to Neighbors Helping Neighbors and the YMCA.
Before Moonshots and Moneymakers came to be, Brodsky still funded students to travel to England for a similar program but as his resources sharpened through the pandemic, he was determined to fine tune the opportunities made possible for those who attended.
As the tradition continued, Brodsky stumbled upon Nick Howard, who attended Oxford University and connected him to an office in Manhattan where he was able to develop a new program in St. Edmund, Oxford’s oldest school.
“We brought about 35 entrepreneurs and we were limited to around 20 students. And this past year, we brought about 65 or 70 entrepreneurs,” said Brodsky.
The Moonshots and Moneymakers conference gives students the chance to grasp the understanding of entrepreneurship through lectures, workshops and witnessing innovative start-up pitches.
“I was given perspective from the many entrepreneurs I made connections with,” said sophomore global supply chain major Kyle Gerber. “Many explained to me how their journey was how they failed, but turned those failures into their success. A common theme was ‘Follow what you want to do and there will be a space for it.’ It’s about finding the right people to surround yourself with the doors that will open from there.”
Some students were even offered internships during their one-week stay at the program.
“I was offered two internships which was great,” said sophomore accounting major Caitlin Hopkinson. “One was with a woman named Mackey McNeill. She is a retired CPA [certified public accountant] and she does CFO [chief financial officer] coaching, helping businesses to prosper instead of just settling for profits. The other is with a woman named Erica Dobbs. She created her own defense solutions company, where they strive to deliver cybersecurity and analytics solutions to the government as well as commercial clients by using automation, innovation and training.”
Brodsky continues to run Whiskey Wednesday even if he cannot attend every meetup along running America’s largest annual gathering of private entrepreneurs, Inc. 5000 Master of Ceremonies.
“This Whiskey Wednesday has taken on a life of its own. It runs 52 weeks a year. When I’m not there, somebody else runs it,” said Brodsky. “It’s a hot ticket to get in. We get inundated with requests from charities and people who want to make pitches and it’s been really interesting. It’s created a whole new business for me.”