Super Bowl Champ Brad Benson Participates in Innovative Conference for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

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Contact:          Cheryl McCants, Impact Consulting, 646-872-2377 or

Unprecedented Innovation Conference for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

Presented by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation


Newark, NJ – January 29, 2016 – Today Brad Benson, ’87 Super Bowl NY Giant turned entrepreneur, Emmet Dennis, Sundial Brands Chief Community Officer, Travis Perry, Shark Tank Season 3 Winner for ChordBuddy, Larry Bailin, Newark-native internet marketing author and Single Throw CEO, Karin Bellantoni, business strategist and Katalyst CEO and other successful entrepreneurs are sharing their perspectives on ways to innovate within small businesses. Retailers, service providers, consultants, caterers and other business owners from around the region are participating in a day-long series of keynotes, workshops and competitions where they learn, first-hand, that innovation is a mindset and is not reserved for tech companies.  Rutgers Business School’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development served as host.

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) Next Level Conference, now in its eighth year and presented in partnership with the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation (Newark Community EDC), explores innovative start-up, growth and exit strategies for business owners.  Participants started the morning with a charged breakfast where Chris Dessi from Silverback Social paved a roadmap for extraordinary success. They then heard from luncheon keynote speaker Benson about how he leveraged his professional playing skills into innovative marketing tools for his auto dealership – Brad Benson Hyundai in Monmouth Junction, N.J., the number one Hyundai dealership in the country[1].  Workshops throughout the day wrap up with a food-expo and a $10,000 business pitch competition. This unique forum reminds owners that there is no downside to innovation. Attendees received access to first-hand knowledge and experience that small business owners don’t usually have.

“IFEL’s targets are the everyday businesses, service providers and storefront owners that make Newark and the surrounding areas better communities,” said Jill Johnson, CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “The conference is for owners who want to get to the million-dollar level and for those who want to figure out how to create wealth through an exit strategy. It’s a great opportunity for people to learn from the successes and failures of highly successful entrepreneurs. Our theme this year was about practical innovation. When you don’t have a lot of resources, you have to  take what you have and use what you’ve got, to get what you want. That’s what today was all about.”

This year, the City of Newark is partnering with IFEL to ensure that Newark residents are aware of the many resources available to business owners as they work hard to strengthen the city’s economic foundation.  “Mayor Baraka has made it clear that we are to move the economic needle and help business owners achieve better outcomes by doings things differently,” said Newark Community Economic Development Corporation President & CEO Otis Rolley. “This conference does just that. Innovation in business ties in perfectly with our goal of doing whatever is necessary to spur economic growth and development in Newark.”



 The 8th Annual IFEL Food Expo and Best Chef Competition will take place immediately after the conference starting at 4:30 pm. Attendees will sample foods from several chefs who successfully completed a screening process. The participating chefs will be judged in three categories: savory, dessert and product, i.e. sauces. The winner(s) will receive $1,000 worth of business consulting support from IFEL, feedback on their presentation and exposure.

The conference will conclude with the 8th Annual Next Level Business Plan and Pitch Competition. The six finalists, from 40 entries, who all happen to be female business owners from New Jersey and New York, include Leslie Faulkner of Emerald Advisors & Consultants, Inc., Megan Brenn-White of The Brenn-White Group, Adrienne Fudge of 40 Dreams Catering, Krista Barnett of Boot Band, Yvette Gauff of Dreams Alive and Annie Etheridge of Field and Clover. Each will have the opportunity to give a three-minute pitch as they compete for $10,000 in cash and other prizes from the conference sponsors. The judges include Travis Perry, a Shark Tank funded entrepreneur.

Sponsors of the 8th Annual Next Level Conference include: City National Bank, Elite Strategies, Lime Energy, State Farm, Plus Packaging, Inc.,, PSE&G, C&A Financial Group and DCH Millburn Audi. Marketing partners include Newark Regional Business Partnership, Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce, My Business Plan Book, Single Throw Internet Marketing, WIBO, New Jersey Tech Council, A&J Management, American Entrepreneurship Today, the County of Essex, NJ, Score NJ, Essex County Latino Chamber of Commerce and the City of Carteret, NJ. Media sponsors include The Circl Small Biz Network, The Positive Community and Impact Consulting Enterprises.  Many of the sponsors are offering conference attendees special promotions such as employee pricing for cars and free phone service for 12 months. For a complete list of offers and details, go to

The Newark Community Economic Development Corporation (Newark Community EDC), founded in 2007, is the primary economic development catalyst for Newark – New Jersey’s largest city. It is organized to retain, attract and grow businesses, enhance small and minority business capacity, and spur real estate development throughout the City’s 20 diverse neighborhoods. As a business development company whose sole client is the City of Newark, Newark Community EDC collaborates with the Newark Department of Economic & Housing Development to initiate and execute economic development activities that produce and sustain economic growth, generate jobs and create wealth for the citizens of Newark.


The Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) was founded in 2002 with a planning grant from The Prudential Foundation.  IFEL launched pilot program services in 2004 with a group of five Newark-based clients.  In 2015, the IFEL Family of Programs served over 1,800 entrepreneurs in New Jersey, New York City, Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, Virginia and Bulgaria.


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[1] The dealership was sold in 2015

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