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VHS Marketing Champ Heads To National Competition


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Danny Stryker accepting his DECA win.
Danny Stryker accepting his DECA win.
Maybe, during this long recession, you’ve had an idea for a new business. Maybe you’ve roughed out the expense and revenue numbers and convinced yourself that it would work. But ask yourself this: Is the idea solid enough to stand up to examination by a panel of judges? Is it solid enough to win in local and state competitions? Is it solid enough to send you to a nationwide business competition?

Danny Stryker’s is. Late next month, the Verona High School senior will compete in entrepreneurship in the 2013 DECA International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Stryker is a four-year member of the VHS club DECA, a business education program that requires written and oral presentations at regional, state and nation-wide competitions. Now the club’s president, he went into competition this year with an 11-page business plan for The Ad Box, a mobile marketing unit that Stryker believes could have first-year gross revenues of $50,000. But not here: Stryker wrote his plan to debut The Ad Box in Oklahoma City. “It’s the small business capital of nation,” he says.

To win the New Jersey DECA 2013 State Career Development Conference in February, Stryker had to withstand challenges from the judges to his assumptions about how many customers The Ad Box would get in its first year. He had to justify his expenses to the last dollar and defend his belief that while the business would operate largely at venues selected by its clients, it needed a fixed office location. He did. (In case you’re wondering, Stryker’s favorite show on television is Shark Tank, the reality show based on business pitches.)

Stryker was one of nine VHS competing in Cherry Hill. Seniors Tyler Kirkwood and John Cifune competed in a sports and entertainment category, and Olivia Newkirk, Danielle Watkins and Olivia Lewis competed in fashion merchandising. Newkirk earned first place for the written portion of that event. Juniors Cristina Calandra and Carley Festa competed in a public relations project, while Brett Drozdowski competed in the international business plan and made it to the finals for his entry.

Stryker’s win was a sweet one for Joel Throne, who had supervised DECA at VHS for three decades until his retirement last June. “One of the coordinators knew my kids were in the competition and he told me that the judge was wowed by the ideas and concepts that Danny had stated,” says Throne, who was a volunteer at the event. “He was very impressed by Danny’s statistical information. He really thought that Danny had an idea that was workable and he presented it with great enthusiasm.”

The win also earned Stryker a big shout-out from Fil Babalievsky, a Yale University freshman who took first for VHS in Automotive Services Marketing at the DECA nationals in 2011. “I am so proud of what Danny and DECA have been able to accomplish this year,” he says. “We were all concerned about what would happen to the club with the retirement of our wonderful adviser Mr. Throne, but now I see we needn’t have worried. Danny is one of the kindest and hardest-working people I have ever met and he deserves this more than anyone.”

Stryker, who will major in accounting at Ramapo College this fall, has studied his DECA competition enough to know that winning in New Jersey won’t be enough to capture the big title. “At nationals, there are kids who are already running their own business,” he notes. But his enthusiasm for business could carry the day. “I’m not the fastest and I don’t jump the highest,” says Stryker, who competes with the VHS track team. “But I have entrepreneurship in my blood.”

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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