Cornell Entrepreneurship recently announced that Barry Beck ’90 is 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, has founded several companies, such as Tower Systems, a convenience store management company, and dental technology platform Evenly. Most importantly, he co-founded the cosmetic and wellness brand Bluemercury with his wife Marla Beck in 1999.
Since 1984, Cornell Entrepreneurship has honored alumni annually. According to Debra Moesch, associate director of entrepreneurship at Cornell, a committee of faculty and alumni generally evaluates between 20 to 40 applicants a year. Past winners have included Sanford Weil ’55, former Citigroup CEO, and Niraj Shah ’95 and Steve Konin ’95, founders of Wayfair.
Moesch also stated that 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 a general desire to empower students to start work 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 achievement on LinkedIn.
In addition to the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, EaC provides a variety of support to Cornell students and alumni. The program works with students from all colleges – not just business students.
“The key thing about this office is that it is completely university-wide,” said program director Zachary Shulman ’87 JD ’90. “We serve students from all over campus – high school seniors, college students, any school or college.”
Shulman added that the most successful student businesses are usually made up of students from across the university who are studying different majors.
Moesch, who has worked with EaC for 34 years, noted that the program has grown greatly over time.
“When I started with our program, it was only in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” Moesch said. “We’ve gradually brought in other colleges and schools to make it really university-wide – it’s just grown massively.”
Students are eligible to 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 while they’re in college,” Shulman said. “If it fails, they’re still students, so there’s really no risk of negative consequences,” he continued, adding that he encourages students to balance their work with their schoolwork.
Entrepreneurship at Cornell also offers an eLab program. According to Shulman, students apply during the fall semester and, if selected, take the course for half credit. Next spring, they take a three-credit course where they attend boot camps and receive mentoring help to develop and launch a business. This year, participating students will display demonstrations of their work on April 13, the first day of entrepreneurship at the Cornell Celebration.
On the alumni side of the program, the Caiuga Forum was launched last year, which connects alumni in groups where they can discuss their work, business and personal interests. Shulman said the program wants 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 entrepreneurship spreads across campus.”