Cyndrom Apparel founders Andrew and Joe Strafaci have won the $20,000 top prize in the annual business plan competition at Rutgers School of Businessthe school announced May 2.
Rutgers Business School handed out $50,000 in prizes to participants in the 2022 business plan competition, which included university alumni, current undergraduates and MBA students.
Andrew Strafaci, who earned a dual MBA and law degree at Rutgers in 2020, created the Cyndrom name and logo while an undergraduate civil engineering student at the College of New Jersey. He and his brother developed the idea into an action sports apparel company that generates around $20,000 in annual revenue selling its “Ride On” line of hats, hoodies and beanies popular among skateboarders, snowboarders and cyclists across the country.
The Strafacis were one of five teams that entered the April 22 competition for funding provided by the Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation.
The judges awarded a second prize of $15,000 to MBA students Jason Miller and Matthew McQueeny, co-founders of Big League Pillows; and $10,000 to a team of Rutgers undergraduate students, including Anna Zhang and Iris Zhorov, who are building the Smart MS3 device to help patients improve the effectiveness of their physical therapy.
The judges also awarded two smaller prizes: $2,500 to Rutgers MBA student Kathryn Ruhno, whose startup Raw Paw Life sells dog food and treats; and $2,500 to Andrew Zambrowski, an alumnus of the Rutgers Business School undergraduate program who introduced Monkey Business, a company that offers small businesses an app to help them compete more effectively with established brands.
Each team wrote a short pitch outlining their businesses, strategy and performance highlights, and future growth projections.
The Sales Executive Club of Northern New Jersey Foundation sponsors the Business Plan Competition annually to encourage entrepreneurship among students and alumni of Rutgers Business School. Over the past 20 years, the Rutgers announcement said Richard Romano, chairman of the foundation and a member of the Rutgers Business School Advisory Board, has helped make more than $1 million in funding available to students and former founders.
“The business plan competition is important in several ways,” said competition organizer and professor Doug Brownstone. “Student entrepreneurs can earn money to accelerate their business, and the top five teams also get mentorship.”
“These are full-time students or alumni who have jobs, and they’re also working on building businesses, so that’s extremely valuable,” he said.
The competition awarded funding to companies started by Rutgers students such as Playa Bowls; Emma’s premium services; Bibi drinks; the Turf, Surf and Earth Restaurant; Perfect life nutrition; and the title agency Zwiren.
Andrew Strafaci will use the prize money to grow his business. He grew up skateboarding along the Jersey Shore and said the funding would allow him and his brother to expand Cyndrom from a casual clothing line to an activewear brand that offers more technical sports gear like rash guards for surfers and gloves for snowboarders.
“The money will be a catalyst for Cyndrom’s growth,” Strafaci said. “Money also says that Rutgers believes in me. It’s important to have that support because it’s such a great school.
Cyndrom products are currently sold at a Belmar surf shop and a Red Bank skate shop, as well as in line and in pop-up stores on the Jersey Shore. Stafaci said he planned to use the prize money to increase inventory and marketing; its goal is to increase sales to $1 million by 2025.
In addition to Romano, the judges for this year’s competition were John Wilson, who also represents the Sales Executive Club of the Northern New Jersey Foundation; Sharon Lydon, Associate Dean of Alumni and Business Engagement at Rutgers Business School; and Carolyn Lange, chief financial officer of the Community Foundation of New Jersey.
Mayuresh Pandit, a Rutgers MBA alumnus and senior product manager at Amazon, has mentored students alongside Brownstone. He also helped judge the teams.