Rider competition team takes top 10 in small business case competition

By Tori Pender

Alumni Jake Malek ’20, Isaiah Jean-Baptiste ’20 and Olivia Gillingham ’19 were placed amongst the top 10 groups in the national Small Business Institute (SBI) Project of the Year Competition for their consulting project.

SBI has held competitions annually since 1974, and Rider students and alumni have competed in these competitions since 1998.

Rider has accumulated 37 top-10 national placements, including five national titles, seven second-place awards and six third-place awards.

Malek, Jean-Baptiste and Gillingham were partnered together in ENT 448 Seminar in Small Business Consulting, a class they took while at Rider. Associate Dean of the Norm Brodsky College of Business and Director of Rider’s SBI program Ron Cook advises one undergrad project each year to send to SBI’s competition.According to SBI’s website, the purpose of the program is for students “With guidance of university professors, [to] provide business consulting for actual companies.”

When describing the team, Cook said, “They were three outstanding entrepreneurship students who came together to provide a marketing plan for Fizzee Labs’s new educational curriculum.”

Fizzee Labs, an organization owned by Joe Hudicka ’93, ’00, his wife, Lora Hudicka, and their two teenage children, Joey and Heidi, was the company the team focused on. The group had to create a consulting plan that would foster creativity and innovation just as Fizzee Labs strives to do.

“The company currently [offers] numerous products and services, including board games ‘Launch’ and ‘Outta This World!’, educational workshops and speaking engagement,” Cook explained, “Their newest venture was an educational curriculum that was designed for students in the second through sixth grades.” Malek explained, “The project took a full semester of work from the team of three students and ended with a presentation to the company and a 100-plus page report submission,” According to Malek, students often learn through hypothetical situations.

“This was an amazing opportunity to put our learnings into action by helping a real-world company in their development process,” he said.

The report created by the team will be used by Fizzee Labs to further develop its company and expand its market.

“The hardest part was finding in-depth analysis related to their industry. Fizzee Labs is beginning to operate in a new niche within education so finding information or research related to that specific area was difficult,” said Malek.

Not only was the team focused on developing a plan for a unique market, but it was also up against multiple universities.

Cook explained, “Schools are allowed to submit two cases into the national competition, at different levels. In any given year, there could be hundreds of potential projects in this category.”

In the face of hundreds of competitors, Malek was not feeling very confident in their project.

“When I heard we placed in the top 10, I felt very surprised. After receiving tough submission feedback from our advisor, Ron Cook, my expectations were low.

But with a happy client and a top-10 placement, I am happy with the results,” said Malek.

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