Entrepreneurs face myriad challenges, but they don’t have to go it alone, especially if they are students and alumni of Baruch College. The College has always been deeply committed to the role of developing entrepreneurs, realizing—counter to popular myths—that training and experience enhance entrepreneurs’ potential for building successful businesses.
Entrepreneurship Excellence Begins at the College
The entrepreneurship programs at Baruch lead entrepreneurship higher education nationally. In 2015 the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine ranked Baruch’s programs among the Top 25 nationally at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, at #9 and #14, respectively. Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business also earned the #2 ranking on the elite list of “5 Schools That Cater to Undergrads Who Want to Be Tech Innovators.”
Through the Narendra Paul Loomba Department of Management, Baruch offers instruction in entrepreneurship at the BBA, MBA, MS, and PhD levels. Eight full-time and 15 adjunct professors specializing in entrepreneurship teach approximately 700 undergraduates and 300 graduate students annually. They also keep Baruch at the forefront of entrepreneurship research. Since 2008 the College has co-sponsored The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) U.S. Report. GEM is the largest and most developed research program on entrepreneurship in the world.
Collaboration is key to Baruch’s extraordinary entrepreneurship outcomes. This year especially, Baruch’s entrepreneurship programs crossed disciplines and oceans.
In January, 11 journalism students, led by Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism Andrea Gabor, visited Havana for their class “Covering Emerging Entrepreneurship in Cuba.” That same month, the College’s Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship partnered with the New York Entrepreneur Project to host a 10-day instructional and interactive program for student-entrepreneurs from Chile. And in April, the Zicklin School of Business formed a unique international partnership with Israel’s largest business school, the School of Business at the College of Management Academic Studies (COMAS). The joint-degree program focuses on finance and entrepreneurship.
One of the most significant entrepreneurship developments of 2014–15 was the arrival at Baruch of the CUNY Center for Student Entrepreneurship (CSE). Center Director Lou Anne Flanders-Stec explains CSE’s mission in two words: business execution. The center provides a structured, multipart program to student-entrepreneurs who have gone beyond the idea stage. The director hopes to grow future CUNY-wide cohorts to 18 to 20 students and eventually 30 students.
The center, which is currently virtual (plans are under way to secure a permanent physical space), will receive $5 million in funding over five years from CUNY’s Central Office. Of its first year, Flanders-Stec says, “We’ve learned a lot,” including that the most crucial stage for center effectiveness is cohort recruitment: “We need to determine who is in it for real.”
Seeking His Fortune
FortuneCookieAdvertising.com, which places branded messages inside fortune cookies and distributes them to targeted Chinese restaurants, was launched by Yan Revzin (’16) in 2012. The finance major and CEO was drawn to entrepreneurship because of its “personal freedom and unlimited potential.”
Last fall his company partnered with the Missouri State Lottery for a one-month campaign that placed nearly 1 million cookies with lottery-themed messages and lucky numbers in 70-plus Chinese restaurants statewide. The campaign’s success was off the charts: state and public education received a 19 percent higher transfer, or $25.4 million, over the previous nonpromotion months.
That’s a mighty big win for such a young company, success Revzin believes he owes to a love of marketing, strong communication skills, and attention to the customer. “Whether you are dealing with other businesses or retail customers, you have to be able to empathize with them and figure out what they want or need,” he says.
Elena Kosharny (’14), founder of FIVE AM Inc, is as fearless and confident as her product line of modern, feminine lingerie and accessories fashioned to offer an alternative to mainstream industry brands. FIVE AM’s philosophy reflects its founder: Be yourself. Be comfortable in your skin.
Entrepreneurship appeals to Kosharny because it meshes with her personality and drive. “I have a desire to grow and develop as a person and as a professional,” she says. “Having a business requires discovering yourself over and over again, facing your strengths and weaknesses, and, most important, finding new and innovative ways to grow your business.”
A risk-taker at heart, Kosharny says her confidence comes from an ability “to take any criticism and any feedback and learn from it, get motivated by it.” She adds, “In a small business, it is all about what you are willing and able to sacrifice today in order to have more a year from now.”
Weissman School of Arts and Sciences grad Ryan Tamras (’13) is also ‘in underwear.’ Tamras always knew he wanted to own a business but had no idea what that business would be until undertaking a serendipitous assignment in a Baruch computer art class: pick a product about which you are knowledgeable or wish to know more and create a company and logo. Coincidently, at the time, Tamras was trying unsuccessfully to update his underwear drawer with adult, high-quality garments without oversized text or gaudy logos.
That gap in the market became the focus for his senior project, which wound up earning an A+ and being his entrepreneurial aha moment. Inspired, Tamras worked on the concept for a year, tested the waters, and decided to take the company to the next level. A Kickstarter campaign helped him launch Justin Case, a luxury men’s swim and underwear brand.
Acutely aware that he is “selling a product that has been on the market for years,” Tamras credits his success to his keen eye for marketing, which allows him “to think outside the underwear box to come up with fun, creative, and innovative marketing ideas that are very low cost but get the brand buzzing on social media platforms, online, and television.” For example, Justin Case Underwear was featured on an episode of network reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race.