Rutgers Business School Honors Graduates of Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative

From left, Ivone Cornejo of MC Productions Photography and Video, Jennifer Tsang of Sqwishful, and Neil Wilcox, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Fiserv

First generation entrepreneurs were honored at a Rutgers University – Newark ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative, which helps New Jersey residents who are the first in their families to own businesses develop their companies.

Eighteen graduates of the nine-month Rutgers-Business School program learned how to create long term plans for success through counseling, mentorship, networking and education. 

“Today we celebrate Fiserv and Rutgers-Newark’s collective commitment to developing local businesses and cultivating entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs in and around Newark,’’ said Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor. “We all know that small businesses are the lifeblood of communities from coast to coast and around the world, and so it’s essential that small businesses reflect the faces, experiences, and concerns of our communities.”


In recognition of their success within the Entrepreneurship Pioneer Initiative (EPI), two graduates were awarded $5,000 grants from Fiserv (NYSE:FI), a leading global provider of payments and financial technology solutions with a flagship Innovation Center in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. 

Grant recipients were:
•    Jennifer Tsang of Sqwishful, a Highlands-based company that makes eco-friendly cleaning and kitchen essentials. Tsang founded the company after a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome, which has been linked to a chemical found in plastics, led her create to create plastic-free products.
•    Ivone and Mario Cornejo, who own MC Productions Photography and Video, based in Roselle Park. The husband and wife team, who work with a range of clients, have grown their business by offering bilingual photography and production services for weddings and other events.

The grants are part of the Fiserv Back2Business initiative, a $50 million commitment to support minority-owned small businesses. In addition to providing grants, Fiserv played an active role in the EPI program, helping to educate business owners on financial technology. 

Fiserv involvement with the EPI program expands the relationship Fiserv and Rutgers-Newark established in 2022 with the announcement of the Fiserv-RU-N Program for Inclusive Innovation, a multi-faceted initiative designed to leverage diversity to drive innovation in the financial technology industry, which includes the on-campus Fiserv-Rutgers Innovation Hub (IHUB).

“We are committed to supporting diverse entrepreneurship, which furthers innovation that enables communities to thrive,” said Neil Wilcox, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Fiserv. “Jennifer, Ivone and Mario exemplify the potential of thinking big, and we look forward to seeing the success of their vision honed by their participation in the EPI program.” 

The EPI program is open to qualified New Jersey entrepreneurs who have been in business at least two years, with a focus on those who are women and people of color. 

Tsang, a granddaughter of Chinese immigrants who was raised in Holmdel, said that as a first-generation entrepreneur she has worked to be self-reliant but learned through the EPI program that seeking funding before she needed it most could be key to business development.

Ivone Cornejo, the daughter of immigrants from Ecuador, said the EPI program helped her and her husband, who have focused on creative side of their work, learn more about business management.

Since the EPI program’s inception, it has had great success with 84% of graduates surveyed reporting their businesses improved. More than 73% of EPI alum report higher revenue, while 67% report higher profits.

At the event, guests received a tour of the Fiserv-Rutgers Innovation Hub (IHUB) and learned more about the partnership between Fiserv and Rutgers, the EPI program and supplier diversity.