Today, nearly 39 percent of Americans report having a side job, including 43 percent of full-time workers. According to a recent Forbes article, more than half of America’s “side hustlers” will become full-time business owners in 2024, driven by a changing economic and workforce climate. As more young professionals consider full-time entrepreneurship, it’s essential to understand the challenges that lie ahead.
Stony Brook has long been a champion of the entrepreneurial spirit. Princeton Review/Entrepreneur magazine recently recognized Stony Brook in its rankings for the Top 50 Best Graduate Programs for Entrepreneurs in 2024.
“This ranking symbolizes the quality and resources present in Stony Brook’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Richard Chan, associate professor of management in the College of Business. “It emphasizes our steadfast commitment to fostering an entrepreneurial mindset and skills and underscores the university’s crucial role in shaping the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
For more than 20 years, the College of Business has offered graduate courses in entrepreneurship that are unique due to their interdisciplinary nature and experiential learning approach, mentorship experiences, and competitions. MBAs and other graduate students find support and opportunities in the Small Business Development Center, Center for Entrepreneurial Finance and Innovation Center. Students have also heard firsthand from successful entrepreneurs such as Rob Basso, Marc Lore, Dawn Zier and Richard Gelfond.
Chan said the Strategy and Entrepreneurship program focuses on research, education and service. “In terms of research, we have specialized knowledge areas in entrepreneurial finance,” said Chan. “In fact, that’s our focus.”
It’s also a main reason he decided to start the Center of Entrepreneurial Finance — a joint effort with professor of finance Danling Jiang, professor emeritus Gerrit Wolf and other faculty — which focuses on how entrepreneurs acquire, transfer and manage financial resources.
“Our faculty leads students on either a research or industry-related project,” Chan said. “The student brings their own topic of interest and we match them to appropriate faculty members [who work] with students to publish papers, collect data, and with research activities. We also work with students who help external stakeholders solve their business problems.”
Chan said research focuses on how to approach innovation, development and commercialization.
“For example, last year we collaborated with Stony Brook’s GENESIS Center, which focuses on the discovery of functional materials,” he said. “They were interested in boosting their ecosystem, so we collaborated to develop a workshop for their researchers and graduate students.”
The program, called Tech Originator Practicum, is a three-day workshop for graduate students and postdoc researchers interested in learning about entrepreneurship. In 2024, Chan plans to expand through a collaboration with SoMAS that focuses on sustainability entrepreneurship.
“Scientists in the renewable energy arena will be able to better understand how the innovation commercialization process unfolds,” he said. “In addition, we have an MBA consulting project, a program that’s affiliated with our core classes. Then we’ll organize a team of MBA students to help business owners and other innovators figure out how they can best approach the innovation and commercialization process.”
Edward Fabian ‘08, an adjunct lecturer in the College of Business, is an alumnus of one of the program’s first MBA graduating classes.
“I first got involved with Stony Brook and their entrepreneurship and innovation programs as a student in 2007, so for me it’s been more than fifteen years of watching the curriculum and department grow,” he said. “Being named a Top 50 program really illustrates the dedication and brilliance of all the faculty and staff who are involved.”
Fabian is also president of American Eagle Systems, a Long Island-based audit compliance and data security company. He said his goal is to encourage students to be innovative thinkers.
“We live in a time where anyone can be an entrepreneur, as is evident by the millions of people who are finding success through technology and social media every day,” he said. “This generation spends hours a day marketing themselves and it’s important to think about how to innovate and take advantage of that.”
Chan said that the program has helped 28 businesses address market challenges in the past two years.
“This program not only allows students gain practical industry experience on how they can apply their knowledge to solve actual problems, it also allows companies to leverage the expertise of our budding entrepreneurs to help them find solutions to their own business challenges,” he said.
Alumnus Jawad Khalfan ’18, ’21 is co-founder and CEO of SecureTech Systems, which designs and implements electronic security systems for commercial buildings. “I gained a lot of inspiration and confidence from hearing my professors’ lessons and stories,” he said. “They brought in speakers who shared their own experiences of times when starting a business was very difficult and the odds were against them. These are people that were willing to question the status quo and do something differently and that’s not an easy path.”
Khalfan started the company after getting furloughed from his job early in the pandemic. “My partner also started to feel that his job wasn’t secure and we didn’t want to be in a place where we felt our jobs and lives were always going to be in jeopardy,” he said. “When I realized that someone can just eliminate my job, that became a reality check. So I started to really think about what kind of path I wanted to be on.”
Chan also cites the program’s importance to the future of Stony Brook’s landmark Governor’s Island climate initiative.
“If we don’t build a foundation, we are going to miss out on some great business opportunities,” he said. “Right now we are putting a lot of effort toward establishing technology entrepreneurship and sustainable entrepreneurship.”
Fabian agreed, noting the importance of leveraging the growing power of AI.
“In terms of the current workplace, it’s time to get on the artificial intelligence and tech innovation bandwagon,” he said. “The speed of product and idea development is so rapid through technology, we all have to learn how to be more productive and use the tools to our advantage. Anyone can start a company in minutes with all the apps and software available, and today’s entrepreneurs can fail many times over with very limited cost, time, and effort. This allows them to learn from those experiences with less risk than ever.”
— Robert Emproto