Entrepreneurship at Cornell recently announced Barry Beck ’90 as the recipient of the 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year award, which will be presented by University President Martha Pollack at the annual Cornell Celebration of Entrepreneurship on April 14.
Beck, who studied at the School of Industrial Labor Relations, founded several companies, such as Tower Systems, a chain management company, and dental technology platform Evenly. Above all, in 1999, together with his wife Marla Beck, he founded the cosmetic and wellness brand Bluemercury.
Entrepreneurship at Cornell has honored alumni annually since 1984. According to Debra Moesch, assistant director of entrepreneurship at Cornell, a faculty and alumni committee generally evaluates 20 to 40 nominees each year. Past winners have included Sanford Weill ’55, former CEO of Citigroup, and Niraj Shah ’95 and Steve Conine ’95, founders of Wayfair.
Moesch also said the selection criteria include successfully running or starting a business, contributing to the business in a way that inspires others, using business skills to enrich humanity and demonstrating integrity.
“Barry has an overall desire to enable students to start businesses at an early age. He is very passionate,” Moesch said.
Beck currently sponsors the Marla and Barry Beck Entrepreneurship Fellows Program, which provides $5,000 awards to Cornell students to work on entrepreneurial projects over the summer.
Beck could not be reached for comment, but shared his success on LinkedIn.
In addition to the Entrepreneur of the Year award, EaC provides various support to Cornell students and alumni. The program works with students from all universities – not just business students.
“The key thing about this office is that it’s campus-wide,” said program director Zachary Shulman ’87 JD ’90. “We serve students from all over campus – graduate, undergraduate, any school or college.”
Shulman added that the most successful student businesses are usually made up of students from across the university who study different majors.
Moesch, who has been with EaC for 34 years, noted that the program has grown significantly over time.
“When I started our program, it was just in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” Moesch said. “We gradually got other colleges and schools involved to make it truly university-wide – it just grew massively.”
Students can apply for EaC’s summer internship program, which places them in small companies across the country. In addition, student businesses can compete for the annual Business of the Year award, which offers a cash prize of $5,000.
“We tell students that the best time to start a business is when they are students,” Shulman said. “If it doesn’t work out, they’re still students, so there’s really no risk of aggravation,” he continued, adding that he encourages students to balance their business with their schoolwork.
Entrepreneurship at Cornell also offers an eLab program. According to Shulman, students apply during the fall semester and, if selected, take half credit. The following spring, they complete a three-credit course where they participate in boot camps and receive mentoring assistance in developing and launching a business. This year, participating students will showcase their work on April 13, the first day of the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration.
On the alumni side of the program, the Cayuga Forum was launched last year, bringing alumni together in groups to discuss their work, business and personal interests. Shulman said the program is looking to continue to grow and create new products and services in the future.
“Cornell has a rich history of entrepreneurship,” Shulman said. “The program really ensures that business is spread across campus.”