Opportunities allowed student to pursue entrepreneurial interests
The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced Janice Lee to complete half her college career online, but the Rutgers Business School-New Brunswick junior still found plenty of ways to thrive.
As a freshman, Lee was chosen for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Living-Learning Community where she lived with 14 like-minded students. She joined key campus organizations that have expanded her business skills and connections. A double major in marketing and supply chain management with a minor in entrepreneurship, Lee has taken on leadership roles and landed coveted internships, as well as a supply-chain co-op with L’Oreal USA.
“RBS has opened up so many opportunities for me to develop as a person and prepare for a career I feel passionate about,” Lee said. The 20-year-old intends on launching her own business eventually but is intent on first learning all the ins and outs of venture-capital, technology, and beauty industries.
Joining the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Living-Learning Community “was definitely one of the best decisions I made to kick-start my involvement at RBS,” she said. During her first semester, she and her fellow LLC members toured Wall Street. Early in the second semester, they traveled to San Francisco for the Startup Grind Global Conference, getting a first-hand look at successful new technology ventures.
Her LLC involvement also gave her access to RBS classes normally reserved for upperclassmen, she said. Lee took Introduction to Entrepreneurship her first semester, and in the second, a class in leadership and development taught exclusively for the LLC residents by the LLC Director Alfred Blake. During the fall 2020, she took Professor Mukesh Patel’s popular Innovation, Creativity & Entrepreneurship. “We learned about case studies of successful startups, but also so much about personal growth,” Lee said.
Normally limited to freshman year, the Entrepreneurship & Innovation LLC was extended to sophomore year for Lee’s cohort, she noted. “Venture capital is a buzz word, but through my classes and experiences, I’ve learned to spot patterns and connect the dots, and really understand it,” she said.
In her freshman year, Lee joined Road to Silicon V/Alley Program (RSVP), an organization of 150 students with entrepreneurial aspirations. Soon, she was involved in pitch competitions, both with groups and on her own.
Lee and some of her classmates entered the Innovate in Artificial Intelligence Pitch Competition sponsored by UBS. They used databases to build a model to rate the economic vibrancy of New Jersey communities, identifying 14 key factors.
“I learned that defining ‘economically vibrant’ locations valued community, welfare and education just as much as financial wellness and retirement homes!” she said. Her team earned second place.
They also entered the Hult Prize global student startup competition, tasked with creating a business to better the planet. She and her teammates developed a proposal “to mitigate methane levels and toxic runoff by upcycling cow manure to cover to bioplastic and aerogels.” They came in third at the Rutgers University round and then competed virtually in the regional semi-finals held in Mexico against 70 other teams.
“This competition gave me valuable experience in what it takes to plan, strategize, and grow a business from the ground up,” Lee said. As a sophomore, she served as campus director for the Hult Prize, recruiting and mentoring teams for the competition.
Lee struck out on her own for the 2020 Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs. She pitched a new line of affordable, stylish professional clothing for young women. She went through several rounds and made it to the semifinals.
Lee said she could not emphasize enough how much the mentoring she has had at RBS has contributed to her successes. For every pitch competition she’s been in, she turned to Professor Patel and Professor Gary Minkoff. “I wanted feedback from them for everything,” she said.
Lee credits her RSVP mentor, Ranjeeka Sharma, a 2021 RBS graduate, with piquing her interest in supply chain. Sharma’s influence helped Lee make the decision to double-major in supply chain and that helped her to land a co-op at L’Oreal. Throughout the fall 2021 semester, she has worked 40 hours a week — half of those in the beauty corporation’s New York headquarters — helping product lines launch influencer and marketing campaigns, she said. Lee helps connect L’Oreal subsidiaries with marketing companies that specialize in digital and creative services, TikTok and influencer advertising. She intends to continue the co-op part-time during the spring semester.
Lee took the RSVP reins from Sharma, becoming president of the organization in August. She recruits members, oversees mentorship events, communicates with members, organizes case competitions, and helps members connect with corporations for interviews. Lee is also involved in Rutgers Women in Business, Women BUILD and Delta Sigma Pi, RBS’s professional co-ed business fraternity. “I enjoy spending time with people who may or may not be like me, but have similar passions,” she said.
Lee intends to work in technology and fashion as she continues to build a foundation for her own startup. One day, she plans to pursue a career in politics.
“I find something new to do every day at Rutgers. Getting involved was the best decision I’ve made in my time here,” Lee said. “I hope to get the most out of the time I have until graduation”
- Margaret McHugh
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