Student Wins Entrepreneur of the Year Award
a 20-year-old Business student, is the winner of the "East
Coast Collegiate Entrepreneur Award," a competition
hosted annually by Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies
at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Hancock was the top pick from
college students in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Delaware
for his lawn and landscaping company, RnR Services,
which he started six years ago as a 15-year-old high school student.
A resident of Plainsboro,
Hancock is the only community college student ever to win the
award, which includes a $1,000 prize for first place in New Jersey
and an additional $1,000 for the regional award. Hancock automatically
advances to the North American competition, where the top prize
is $10,000. The competition is conducted in conjunction with the
North American Collegiate Entrepreneur Awards program coordinated
by St. Louis University in Missouri.
Hancock considers the
award a great honor, especially considering the stiff competition
from four-year schools. Nominated by Herb Spiegel, a faculty member
in small business management, Hancock entered the contest after
seeing posters in the Business Building. "I thought it would
be nice to be recognized after working so hard since my sophomore
year of high school. I figured I deserved it. But I didn’t
expect to be the winner from four states," he said.
Noted Spiegel, "Russ
is a student who sits quietly in the first row and seems to absorb
everything the instructor presents. He is very open to constructive
advice. During one of our small business management sessions,
fellow students had suggestions on how to make his lawn service
more productive during the winter months. Russ wrote the ideas
down on a piece of paper with great enthusiasm and appreciation."
started small. Moving to a new housing development in Plainsboro
in 1998, Hancock was about to drop off a job application at McDonald's
when his dad suggested that he consider mowing his neighbors lawns.
Taking $2500 – his life savings at the time – he bought
a used commercial lawn mower and started Russ' Lawn Service. "I
had six accounts that first year, all within the development.
I would ride around the street every day after school," he
The next year
Hancock was up to 25 lawns and had hired a friend to do the "weed
wacking" while he did the mowing. "When I finally got
my driver's license I bought a truck and trailer. I advertised
with flyers and notices on people's doors. I was up to 65 customers."
right, of Plainsboro received the “East Coast Collegiate
Entrepreneur Award” on May 3. He is pictured with Mercer
nominating faculty member, Herb Spiegel.
on the job in Plainsboro. He started RnR Services six years ago
at the age of 15.
Clients began to
request other services, including fertilizing, landscaping and mulching.
But Hancock was limited by the hours in a day. "By the time I got
home from school, I only had about three hours of sunlight to handle
65 customers a week," he said.
That's when Russ' dad, Russell
Sr., joined the operation to oversee the landscaping portion of the
business. "He was the boss until I got home," Hancock said.
Following his graduation from West Windsor-Plainsboro South, Hancock
set his sights on college and was accepted to Arizona State University.
Instead he decided to spend two years at MCCC first. "Why not stay
and firmly establish the business? If I had left, it would have crumbled."
With eight employees, RnR
Services now serves close to 200 clients for lawn mowing and landscaping,
both residential and commercial, in West Windsor and Plainsboro townships.
On a typical day, Hancock rises at 7 a.m., is on the job until 5 or
so and then heads for Mercer, where he spends his evenings in class.
In August Hancock sets out
for Arizona State, transferring all 48 of his Mercer credits in general
education and business administration. He has a business plan in place
to insure that his operation will run smoothly in his absence and plans
to be back on the East Coast during some of RnR's busiest months.
Hancock said his Mercer education
has been invaluable, teaching him skills he has been able to directly
apply to his company, including accounting know-how and the development
of a business plan. He particularly enjoyed Mercer's International Business
Practice Firm, a simulated business environment where he directed the
marketing department. "We designed business cards, a logo and a
marketing plan for our simulated business. Everyone was always coming
to me asking questions. I took charge. I’m used to that,"
Other 2004 winners of the
Entrepreneur Award are from Rider University, Syracuse, Columbia and
Quinnipiac universities, and the University of Delaware. Sponsors of
the competition included the Edison Venture Fund, Wachovia and Bloomberg.
This year's competition was judged by George Taber, President of Business
News New Jersey, Erik Ipsen, Deputy Managing Editor for Crain’s
New York Business, De DelBello, CEO/Publisher of Fairfield
County Business Journal (CT) and James B. Streit, Jr., Publisher
of the New Castle Business Ledger (DE). Criteria for the award
include entrepreneurial spirit, overcoming obstacles, the success of
the business, concern for quality and customer service, and the estimated
potential for future success.
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