Entrepreneurship at Cornell recently announced Barry Beck ’90 as the recipient of the 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year award, which University President Martha Pollack will present to him at the annual Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration on April 14.
Beck, who studied in the School of Industrial Labor Relations, has founded several companies, such as Tower Systems, a chain management store company, and dental technology platform Evenly. Most notably, he co-founded cosmetic and wellness brand Bluemercury with his wife, Marla Beck, in 1999.
Entrepreneurship at Cornell has honored alumni annually since 1984. According to Debra Moesch, assistant director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell, a committee composed of faculty and alumni generally evaluates between 20 to 40 nominees yearly. Past winners have included Sanford Weill ’55, the former CEO of Citigroup, and Niraj Shah ’95 and Steve Conine ’95, the founders of Wayfair.
Moesch also stated that criteria for selection includes successfully running or beginning a business, contributing to business in a way that inspires others, using business skills to enrich humanity and displaying integrity.
“Barry has an overall desire to empower students to start businesses at an early age. He’s very passionate,” Moesch said.
Beck currently sponsors the Marla and Barry Beck Entrepreneurship Fellows Program, which provides $5,000 awards for Cornell students to work on entrepreneurial projects over the summer.
Beck was unable to be reached for comment but shared his accomplishment on LinkedIn.
Outside of 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 J.D. ’90. “We serve students from across the campus — grad, undergrad, any school or college.”
Shulman added that the most successful student businesses are usually composed of students from across the University studying a diverse range of majors.
Moesch, who has worked with EaC for 34 years, noted that the program has grown extensively over time.
“When I started with our program, it was only in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” Moesch said. “Gradually we brought the other colleges and schools on board to make it truly university-wide — it’s just grown massively.”
Students are eligible to apply for EaC’s summer internship program, which places them with small companies nationwide. In addition, student businesses can compete for the annual Business of the Year award, which offers a $5,000 cash prize.
“We tell students the best time to start a business is while they’re a student,” Shulman said. “If it fails, they’re still students, so there’s really no downside risk,” he continued, adding that he encourages students to balance their business with their schoolwork.
Entrepreneurship at Cornell also offers the eLab program. According to Shulman, students apply during the fall semester and, if selected, take a one-and-a-half-credit course. The following spring, they take a three-credit course where they attend boot camps and receive mentor assistance to develop and launch a business. This year, participating students will showcase demos of 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, connecting alumni in groups where they can discuss their work, business and personal interests. Shulman said that the program is looking to continue to grow and create new products and services in the future as well.
“Cornell has a rich history of entrepreneurship,” Shulman said. “The program really ensures that entrepreneurship gets spread throughout the campus.”
Correction, Feb. 2, 11:52 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the eLab fall semester class as a half-credit course. This article has been corrected to include the accurate number of credits for the course.