Program for first generation entrepreneurs puts Rutgers Business School in national spotlight
The Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative, a cornerstone of Rutgers Business School’s efforts to nurture and promote entrepreneurs, was recently selected as a finalist in a national competition sponsored by the U.S. Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
And in a close contest at the association’s national conference in San Francisco earlier this month, the Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative was named runner up against two other finalists for the association’s Special Recognition in Entrepreneurship Education Innovation Award.
EPI, as the program is known, went right to the top in its foray into the association’s prominent national competition.
The USASBE selected EPI as one of three finalists for its coveted Special Recognition in Entrepreneurship Education Innovation Award in November. The selection was based on a nomination submitted by Jasmine Cordero, the managing director of RBS’s The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
The program was chosen based on its innovation, its objectives and its outcomes.
The competition for the special recognition award was particularly intense, according to association officials. “It was one of the categories with the most nominations,” Cordero said.
As a finalist, Cordero was required to make a presentation at the USASBE’s national conference, where she vied against representatives and programs from Hiram College and the University of St. Thomas.
In the presentation, which was made before a crowd of nearly 150 people, Cordero explained the essence of EPI, highlighting how it has helped entrepreneurs increase their profits and create new jobs.
The presentation also covered how the program has been sustained at Rutgers and how it could be replicated by others.
“It seemed to really help the people who participated
and improve what they were doing.”
-- Brad Hancock, USASBE vice president, events and programs
The Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative at Rutgers Business School is designed to provide training and support to first-generation entrepreneurs. In a series of monthly classes, the program offers counseling, financial guidance, coaching and networking.
The program has graduated more than 100 entrepreneurs. And last month, as it graduated its fourth class, EPI received a fifth round of funding from its sponsors, Prudential and PNC Bank.
Brad Hancock, a USASBE vice president who oversaw the awards program, said one of the most impressive things about EPI is its impact. “It seemed to really help the people who participated and improve what they were doing,” he said.
The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at RBS and The Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship at Hiram College in Ohio received runner up designations. The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas won the competition.
The competition took place Jan. 10 through Jan. 12. Nearly 400 people attended the three-day conference.
“The scoring was very, very close,” Hancock said. “The judges had a very tough time deciding.”
For Cordero, the opportunity to describe the EPI program to hundreds of people from the academic and business worlds was “significant.”
“We want EPI to be a model program,” she said. “As we share this at a national conference, it’s giving it national attention and recognition.”
The hope, she said, is that others will want to replicate it and implement it in their own communities.
The U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship is the largest organization in the world dedicated to advancing entrepreneurship. More than 1,000 individuals from universities, businesses, non-profit organizations and the public sector make up its membership.
It’s not the first time the organization has recognized Rutgers Business School for its efforts.
In 2011, Professor Jeffrey Robinson’s course “Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development,” was recognized by USASBE as a model of Innovative Entrepreneurship Education.
See related stories: