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How the Entrepreneurship and Innovation LLC Grows and Fosters Young Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship & Innovation LLC students pose for a photo at Startup Grind Global Conference 2020
Students from the Entrepreneurship & Innovation LLC pose for a photo at the 2020 Startup Grind Global Conference.
Alfred Blake

When incoming Rutgers University—New Brunswick undergraduates are reviewing their on-campus housing options, one option among Living-Learning Communities (LLCs) often sticks out for business-minded and entrepreneurial students: the Entrepreneurship and Innovation LLC. 

“We have three main goals with this LLC,” said Alfred Blake, who is the assistant director of Entrepreneurship Programs at Rutgers Business School and a faculty advisor for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation LLC.  

“We want to make sure that these students meet other students who have a similar mindset and similar goals, to connect them with all of the resources available for entrepreneurs at and outside of Rutgers, and to make sure that they have coveted early academic access, from meeting faculty to taking core classes as freshmen,” Blake said.  

“On top of all that, we make sure that their experiences are structured by a peer mentor who schedules activities around entrepreneurship for them.” 

For some former participants, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation LLC was foundational to their college experience and aspirations. 

“It was a phenomenal experience,” said Akash Randhawa, who lived in the LLC during the 2019-2020 academic year and later founded SmartMS3, a medical company dedicated to providing more detailed feedback on patient progress in physical therapy. “You all take a class together, and, outside of class, you learn about what everyone is pursuing.” 

“It wasn’t a competition,” Randhawa continued. “Everyone was moving forward in some way, and we were all motivating each other to keep going and figuring out how we could help each other grow.” 

Janice Lee, a recent graduate of Rutgers and a fellow alumnus of the LLC, also highlighted the importance of social connection.  

“The people in the Entrepreneurship LLC were the first people I met, and a lot of them are still close friends four years later,” she said. 

She also emphasized how the skills that she learned there helped her in her future work. 

“I learned that your story really matters,” Lee said. “It’s the heart of any business or start-up, and learning those type of soft skills as I learned more about ‘hard skills’ like the fundamentals of business really helped me.” 

Though students are consistently connected with faculty and professional resources that help give them the skills to become entrepreneurs, for Blake, the essential skills of entrepreneurial thinking are one of the most important things that students can gain from the LLC. 

“With entrepreneurial thinking, you can create value no matter where you are,” said Blake. "Boil it down to three principles: you have a problem, you create a solution, and you find a customer. It’s not just about creating more businesses. It’s about creating more innovative companies and societies.” 

And, for other staff members of Residence Life, like Dr. Ariel Leget, who works as the associate director for Residence Education and oversees many of the LLCs, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation LLC stands out as an excellent example of what LLCs can achieve for their students.  

“The LLC helps make Rutgers a smaller place,” said Leget. “Students who have participated in the Entrepreneurship & and Innovation LLC have stated that they feel that faculty and staff want them to succeed and supported their learning and career aspirations, and their participation has helped them to better understand their areas of professional interest, as well as what the larger Rutgers community has to offer in terms of clubs and organizations.”  

Since the LLC started in the fall of 2019, about 80 students have participated in the program, and its inaugural class graduated from Rutgers in spring 2023. Many of them have received offer letters from companies like IBM, Deloitte, JP Morgan, and venture capital firms, and others are pursuing their own start-ups. 

To Blake, though, that only captures the surface of what the LLC students learn and accomplish. 

“So many of our students go on to become leaders,” he said. “We obviously can’t take credit for everything that our students accomplish, but I do believe that there’s some impact that our LLC has had in contributing to those awesome results.” 

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation LLC will begin taking applications again in January 2024 for fall 2024-spring 2025. To learn more about LLCs in general, check out our previous article on them or Residence Life’s page on available LLCs.