Contest invites women entrepreneurs
Christopher Pflaum, was curious to find out why there were not many women entrepreneurs in the world. To see this potential become a reality, he decided to spearhead the collaboration between Rutgers University and the Central New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners to hold an entrepreneurship contest for women.
The contest, which will offer approximately $15,000 in prizes to the winner, invites any New Jersey based woman entrepreneur with a business or business idea that is less than two years old, to apply.
Pflaum, who works in the Office of New Ventures & Entrepreneurship, said although he is not a Wall Street analyst, it seems obvious that the potential of women in entrepreneurship can benefit everyone.
“[It’s] in light of the fact that 50 percent or more of many business school classes nationwide are comprised of women, and nearly 50 percent of college students studying in innovative STEM [Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics] fields nationwide are women,” Pflaum said in an email.
The contest is called “Supporting Emerging Entrepreneurs’ Development,” or SEED, business plan, and it aims to support emerging women and help them kick start their businesses, said Helen Hogan, the 2014 SEED chair.
The contest is a few years old, Hogan said, but this is the first year NAWBO is collaborating with Rutgers.
The collaboration happened by chance when Rutgers held an entrepreneurial event in October 2013 and someone from NAWBO talked to Pflaum about SEED. Pflaum had just come from a meeting where Rutgers had been planning a similar venture.
“We thought it would be wonderful to have the strength of the new ventures and entrepreneurial group that Chris [Pflaum] represents,” Hogan said.
One past winner is Olive Lynch, founder of Green Waste Technologies, a company that makes use of the black solider fly, an insect used to consume waste and turn garbage into energy.
The contest has seen up to 30 applicants and Hogan is hoping that number will increase with the partnership with Rutgers.
“We’re really excited to have Rutgers’ support and to have it on their location. I think it’s just the beginning of a great relationship,” she said.
The $15,000 prize package offers services to help the winning entrepreneur grow her business.
“It’s a variety of things … For instance, I’m a financial planner, so I offer a financial analysis package which helps new business owners figure out where their profit and losses are,” Hogan said.
Pflaum said SEED 2014 has already produced the positive result of many members of the Rutgers community rallying behind the idea and expressing passion about the advancement of entrepreneurial culture at the University.
“An even more powerful outcome is the potential synergy emerging from those at Rutgers who are getting involved with this project by giving their time to support the competition and its underling goal of promoting women entrepreneurship at the University and New Jersey at large,” he said.
Faculty and staff from the Rutgers EcoComplex, the nation’s first research, technology development, teaching and outreach center, Rutgers Business School and the Rutgers Food Innovation Center have gotten involved.
Although the contest will produce one winner, everyone in the Rutgers community could benefit from encouraging and supporting women in entrepreneurship.
Lori Dars, who works in the Office of New Ventures & Entrepreneurship, said the office focuses on commercializing Rutgers intellectual property, helping startup companies with patents and copyrights.
“We’re really, really trying to listen to students, find out what they need and then work with them on doing everything we can to serve those needs,” she said.
The office also promotes entrepreneurial activities within Rutgers to get the word out about Rutgers’ products and research.
Dars said after the entrepreneurship day in October, the office realized they wanted to do a better job of serving women entrepreneurs at Rutgers, which led them to collaborate on this competition.
“What’s especially great about this competition is it’s an excellent event for students because teams with an idea can enter the competition, you don’t need to have an existing business,” Dars said.
The office hopes to continue empowering women by holding events specifically for women and including more women speakers and panelists at their events, she said.
The office will also continue to work with NAWBO.
Applicants must submit their business or business idea by March 15.
Hogan said on May 1, the finalists will be notified and they will meet at Trayes Hall on Douglass campus to deliver a three-minute pitch to an audience, who will then get to vote on the winter.
Pflaum said the Rutgers community should stay tuned as to what the Office of New Ventures & Entrepreneurship is doing because they are trying to create a culture of entrepreneurship.
“If ever so slightly, one day women entrepreneurship will eventually achieve its potential,” he said. “The more support that is given, the sooner that day will dawn.”