Rutgers Business School and PSEG set example of a public-private partnership to create jobs and solve social problems

Friday, September 28, 2012

NJ Social Innovation Institute trains entrepreneurs to launch businesses to serve their communities

Rutgers Business School Social EntrepreneurshipSo who wants up to $100,000 to launch a new business venture, one that makes good business sense and helps the community?

This might sound like the premise for a new reality TV show. But it’s actually the basis for a new initiative undertaken by Rutgers Business School in partnership with PSEG that has already produced two dozen detailed business plans and a dramatic competition that culminated in the selection of four winning proposals.

The undertaking is part of a larger initiative from the business school’s New Jersey Social Innovation Institute. The Institute, overseen by the school’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED), is the first effort of its kind and an opportunity for the center to partner with leading organizations in New Jersey to make a positive contribution to the state’s economy and continue in its mission to serve as a training ground for social innovators and enterprising non-profit organizations.

“This is a great example of a public-private partnership that will lead to job creation and social problem solving,” said Professor Jeffrey Robinson, Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship and the Center’s founding Assistant Director. “This program is important for the economy and for our community. We believe our efforts with the institute will yield a new class of companies that will inspire others to create entrepreneurial ventures for social purposes.”

Rutgers entrepreneurship pitch day

Social Entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to PSEG Foundation to win part of $100,000 to get venture started.

The effort began last fall, as the Institute, with support from a federal grant, solicited proposals from nonprofits and entrepreneurs who wanted to start a new business that would help society. The Institute worked with PSEG, along with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Support Center for Nonprofit Management, a New York-based organization that assists nonprofit organizations.

The Institute received about 50 applications, and then selected 15 teams to participate in a six-month training and mentoring program to help participants consult with potential investors and business leaders and other entrepreneurs while refining their proposals and to focus on job creation. The program included monthly classes at PSEG Headquarters in Newark and one field trip to visit successful businesses, The Greyston  Bakery and Ice Stone, a durable surface manufacturer, both in New York.

The program culminated in “Pitch Day” held July 19 at PSEG’s headquarters in Newark, where the participants gathered together to present their final business plans to a panel of judges. From the 15 proposals, the judges selected four finalists, who refined their proposals before making a final presentation to win up to $100,000 from the PSEG Foundation.

The winning proposal, Fathers Now Green Cleaning & Maintenance Services, Inc., received $82,500 for a plan to build a business offering cleaning and maintenance services to companies in Newark using only environmentally conscious, or “green,” products. The plan was submitted by Fathers Now, a social venture being created by the organization Newark Now that helps unemployed fathers in Newark and Essex County, including many who have been in prison and are trying to re-enter the workforce and assume a greater responsibility for their families.

“We were pretty nervous during the presentations. But when we were announced as the winner, it was just awesome,” said Carlyle Adams, a job developer at Fathers Now. “This will help our organization tremendously and give us the momentum we need to assist those who are unemployable. We could not have done it without the assistance we received from Rutgers Business School and all of the other organizations.”

Rutgers Entrepreneurship pitch day

Fathers Now Green Cleaning & Maintenance Services, Inc., received $82,500 for a plan to build a business offering cleaning and maintenance services to companies in Newark using only environmentally conscious, or “green,” products.

The second place winner, The Hub-Health Generator, received $17,500. The group plans to establish a pilot program in Plainfield to prevent obesity in families by providing access to healthy food, fitness activities and lifestyle coaching, working with the YWCA and a Community Supported Agriculture program that allows consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.

The two other finalists, Foundry Farm, which hopes to redevelop abandoned industrial sites starting in Trenton, and New Brunswick-based Step by Step Baby Coaching and Parent Services,  each received commitments from PSEG to connect them with PSEG representatives to help with their business plans.

Unlike some reality television shows, the selection of the winners did not mark the end to the program. The Institute will continue to counsel all 15 teams on their business plans, with quarterly meetings over the next year.

“This was a tremendous success because we got 15 teams from the idea stage to the stage where they have a business model and are developing their ideas,” Robinson said. “If they can continue on this path, they will make a big difference in the communities where they live and work. What’s more, this program demonstrates you can use the principles of business, technology and entrepreneurship to really make a difference in the world.”

- By David Schwab

TAGS: Entrepreneurship New Jersey Social Innovation Institute Social Entrepreneurship The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development