Iona University Student Wins $6,000 at Iona Innovation Challenge to Grow New Business

“Shark-Tank”-style business competition encourages students to solve real-world problems

Entrepreneurship, Student Success

Jared Balcacer ’26

Jared Balcacer ’26

New Rochelle, N.Y. - Iona University’s Jared Balcacer ’26 took home both the top prize and fan favorite award at the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation's seventh annual Iona Innovation Challenge, taking home $6,000 in cash prizes.

His business idea, Balcacer’s Bouquets, aims to redefine floral arrangements by offering a more affordable alternative to real flowers that are biodegradable, silk, highly customizable and allergy friendly.  

“This accomplishment means the world to me,” said the criminal justice major. “I’m making strides in the right direction. I always dreamed of having my own company.”

Every year, the Hynes Institute hosts a student competition that empowers Iona students to present solutions to real-world problems. After two months of connecting with mentors and completing key milestones, students present their final pitch in a “Shark-Tank” style format.

Looking ahead, Balcacer is eager to grow Balcacer’s Bouquets. He plans to move toward e-commerce sales as well as expand into event and commercial spaces.

He added he is grateful for all the knowledge, mentorship and opportunity he has gained at Iona, saying “it will propel me forward in the world of business.”

“Through engaging classes and hands-on experiences, I'm learning about fundamental business concepts such as marketing, finance and management,” he said. “The supportive environment encourages me to explore my interests and develop critical thinking abilities. Additionally, the professors here are not only experts in their fields but also, mentors who guide me in setting and achieving my academic and career goals.”

We recently spoke with Jared to learn more about his Iona journey. Please enjoy!  

Name: Jared Balcacer
Graduation Year: 2026 
Major: Criminal Justice 
Minor: Business Management   
Hometown: Washington Heights, N.Y. 
High School: Cardinal Spellman 
Clubs and Organizations: Vice president of esports; vice president of Council for Academic Clubs and Special Interests Groups; Iona Cheer; Iona Players; BSU; CEO Club; Gael Guide.

Jared Balcacer with this Iona Innovation prizes.

Why did you decide to attend Iona?
I decided to attend Iona after Kelly Beyrer, director of performing arts, attended my high school production of Once On This Island. I received a campus tour and instantly fell in love with the aura of all students at the Accepted Students Day event as well as Iona’s theatre group.

What interests you most about your chosen course of study?
I find the fields of criminal justice and business management intriguing for their distinct yet interconnected aspects. Criminal justice captivates me with its focus on maintaining law and order, understanding the complexities of crime and ensuring justice is served. I'm drawn to the idea of contributing to a safer society and helping individuals navigate the legal system.

On the other hand, business management appeals to me for its dynamic nature, encompassing strategic decision-making, organizational behavior and entrepreneurial pursuits. I see it as a realm where innovation and leadership converge to drive growth and create value.

Together, these fields offer a unique blend of social impact and strategic acumen, providing endless opportunities for learning, problem-solving and making a meaningful difference in the world.

What distinct advantages have you gained from your Iona experience?
The diverse network of people and connections through numerous extracurricular activities and meeting students from different backgrounds with diverse interests has enriched my college experience. Through these connections, I've been able to collaborate on projects, exchange ideas and expand my horizons beyond the classroom.

Whether it's joining a club related to my major or exploring new hobbies, Iona's vibrant community has offered me an opportunity to forge lasting friendships and professional relationships that will benefit me long after graduation. I also have access to a vast network of mentors through the Hynes Institute. 

What types of roles are you looking to pursue in the future?
As I envision my future career path, I am drawn to the idea of leading as a CEO in two distinct yet equally fascinating industries: floral and private security.

In the floral industry, I am captivated by the creativity and beauty inherent in flowers. I see immense potential in harnessing these qualities to create memorable experiences for customers. As a CEO of a floral company, I envision myself not only overseeing operations but also, fostering innovation in product design and marketing strategies to captivate audiences and drive growth.

On the other hand, the private security sector appeals to my sense of responsibility and commitment to ensuring safety and protection. As CEO of a private security company, I would aim to implement cutting-edge technology and strategic partnerships to provide comprehensive security solutions tailored to the needs of clients.

In both roles, I am excited about the opportunity to lead teams, make impactful decisions and contribute positively to the communities I serve.  

Is there a faculty or staff member who has made a positive impact on your future that you would like to mention?
There are three faculty members that have made a positive impact on me that I would love to mention.

One of them is Kelly Beyrer. She has always reminded me that she’s here for me on and off the stage. The number of opportunities she’s presented me with makes my experience here at Iona a very special one.

The other two faculty members are Rob Kissner and Riana Khan. They offered guidance on how to improve as an entrepreneur through the Hynes Institute. They have truly helped facilitate my transition into becoming a business owner.