Student entrepreneurs to vie for $80,000 in prize money
Entrepreneur AJ Khubani ’84 took a bright idea – direct response marketing – and built it into TeleBrands, which is known for its “As Seen on TV” products and its flagship BulbHead brand. Now, with a generous $500,000 gift, the TeleBrands CEO and founder hopes to continue to help Montclair State student entrepreneurs fast-track their innovative ideas and solutions to real-world problems for the next five years.
“As a proud Montclair State alumnus, I understand the value of an effective education teaching entrepreneurism for success in today’s competitive business world,” Khubani says. “It is with great pleasure that I continue the tradition of supporting student inventors through the BulbHead.com Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs through 2022 with a gift of $500,000. These funds will assure that young minds at the University continue to have the opportunity to pursue their consumer product outreach dreams.”
The University officially announced Khubani’s gift – and invited students to participate in the contest – on Wednesday, December 6 at a noon event at the Feliciano School of Business. With its annual prize pool of $80,000 – $50,000 for first place, $20,000 for second place and $10,000 for third place – the BulbHead.com Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs has become New Jersey’s largest collegiate pitch contest.
When first held in 2014, the May contest was limited to students who had completed the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship’s nine-credit Certificate of Entrepreneurship. Last year, for the first time, the contest was opened to all University students, with 21 teams of students vying in the final pitch round.
“We know there are lots of potential student entrepreneurs around campus, who are serious about developing and launching their ideas,” says Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship Director Dennis Bone. “The new prizes should ratchet up entrepreneurial activity and move the entrepreneurial needle all across campus.”
According to Bone, from the day it opened, the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship has created an authentic entrepreneurial experience for students. By offering a unique opportunity for students to go through an actual entrepreneurial experience, the pitch competition is an invaluable Center program. “The students are demonstrating to themselves that they can be real entrepreneurs with real ventures that offer real value,” says Bone. Other innovative Center initiatives include its 3D printing and digitally mediated making MIX Lab and annual celebration of female founders and leaders during Women Entrepreneurship Week.
The pitch contest serves as a validating launch pad for student innovators. Last May, Team Fit B members Selena Alvarez and Jamie Wisniewski won the $10,000 first prize for their customized bra business. The win opened doors for the budding entrepreneurs. “Thanks to the competition, I was able to intern at New Jersey 101.5 FM and connect with my current employer, at start-up company CheerFit,” says Marketing major Alvarez, who will graduate in December with plans to turn her part-time marketing assistant job into a full-time position.
Wisniewski, who had completed the Entrepreneurship Certificate, was the only graduate student from the School of Communication and Media to enter the contest. “My school was impressed with my experience in the Feliciano School of Business and I was offered an adjunct position upon graduation,” she says. “I am teaching Fundamentals of Speech now, and plan to help students with public speaking and presentation skills for the competition.”
Competing teams composed of at least two students are allowed to seek advice and assistance from faculty, friends, relatives and other outside sources. “We cannot thank Information Management and Business Analytics Professor Ross Malaga enough for helping us prepare for the competition,” says Wisniewski. “We wouldn’t have won without his support and tough love. More important, though, after we won he was there to coach us through the next steps to get us where we needed to be – which is patent-pending and in the early stages of working with manufacturers to produce samples.”