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Rutgers Business School’s annual business plan competition gives MBA students an opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial spirit

The 2018 event was the most competitive in years, awarding funding to a variety of startup businesses 

Newark, N.J. - Rutgers part-time MBA student Juan Salinas won the top prize of $20,000 in the annual business plan competition for a company that makes the tasty P-nuff Crunch healthy snacks.

Salinas started West Orange-based Perfect Life Nutrition in 2015 after working in the food divisions of several of the largest consumer packaged goods companies. His main product is a baked peanut puff snack that is sold largely in independent health food stores.

The 2018 competition at Rutgers Business School was the most competitive in years, attracting a total of 44 entries. The judges narrowed the entries to five finalists and in an unprecedented move, they awarded prize money to all five of the teams who made it into the final competition.

The annual competition is sponsored by the Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation to encourage the entrepreneurial ambitions of graduate students and alumni and to support job creation in New Jersey.

“The five presentations here were the five best in 15 years or more that we’ve been doing the business plan competition,” said Richard Romano, the foundation’s president who helped to judge the entries.

Monica Mikhiel, Dominick Cirillo and his wife Merna Cirillo, a part-time MBA student at Rutgers Business School, who partnered up to form a cake-making company called Half Caked, won the second prize of $15,000.

The third place winner was Rutgers MBA alumna Jen Du, who is founder and chief executive officer of Before Elixer, a health remedy. Du received $10,000 in prize money. Anton Kogan, who won first place last year for his business plan for Emma’s, received fourth prize of $7,500 for a new startup called Insite Solution Group, which provides background screening for property managers.

The fifth place prize of $1,000 went to Toolbox, a company started in January by part-time Rutgers MBA student Gabrielle Castelao and her business partner Matthew McGinn. The company helps retailers and small businesses find companies to carry out repairs in their stores.

The winners of the competition and the businesses they form reflect an environment Rutgers Business School has created for nurturing entrepreneurs and their ambitions. Many of the winners are students and alumni of the Rutgers MBA program.

Interested in learning more about the Rutgers MBA program or the special master’s programs offered at Rutgers Business School? Meet program administrators, faculty and current students during a Graduate Admissions Open House on Sunday, April 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Newark, N.J.

The competition was organized this year by Doug Brownstone, an assistant professor of professional practice in management and global business at Rutgers.

In addition to Romano, the judges were Sharon Lydon, executive director of the Rutgers MBA Program and John Wilson, who also represents the Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation. Mayuresh Pandit, a Verizon Wireless product manager and Rutgers MBA alumnus, helped to mentor the students. 

Media may contact Susan Todd at Rutgers Business School: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 973-353-5224.