At just 22 years old, George Garcia, a senior at Montclair State University, has had a hand in two startup companies and a seat on a government agency looking at economic development. He’s a young professional to watch, according to NJBIZ, which named him to its list of 40 influential up-and-comers, all under the age of 40.
The NJBIZ Forty Under 40 awards program recognizes the achievements of millennials making headlines. Garcia currently works as the CEO of a social application startup called Wheatpaste Inc., winner of the Montclair State pitch contest, the richest collegiate prize pool for promising business ideas. He’s also a member of the Randolph Economic Development Committee, where he is committed to the growth of small businesses.
“These are just a few ways to describe his accomplishments,” says Sharon Waters, program manager at Montclair State’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship. “He is also a master networker and visionary.”
Garcia will be the first student to complete Montclair State’s new entrepreneurship major when he graduates this coming December. A transfer student who earned his associate degree from the County College of Morris, he will be just the second in his family to earn a four-year degree. The first was his sister, Alexa, who graduated from Montclair State in 2017.
The Garcia family is full of entrepreneurs. George’s grandparents and father immigrated from Cuba when his father was young. Ever since the family has been in United States, they have been starting businesses to continue their American Dream. His dad’s venture is in telecommunications and George has helped out in a variety of roles, including assistant director of operations overseeing large fiber optic and telecom projects, as well as assisting in sales pitches to Fortune 500 telecom giants.
“As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized how much I like emerging technologies and being in the forefront of ideas,” he says.
Wheatpaste, the startup that won a Shark Tank-inspired pitch contest – Montclair State’s BulbHead.com Inventors Day for Aspiring Entrepreneurs – takes its name from the mix-it-yourself paste advertisers use to plaster their messages on fences. With an easy-to-use app for small businesses to design, post and push out ads, coupled with community news and events, Wheatpaste is envisioned as the “glue that holds a community together.”
It was an idea born in the Montclair State’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship. “Our professors really helped us,” Garcia says. “They have experience in the startup field and in the business world. They’ve been able to give us the real-world experience to keep moving us forward and fresh ideas rolling.”
Along with this work, Garcia interned with FEM Real Estate, owned by the founders and funders of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship. He is also an early employee at a startup called Pause Wellness. Pause is a new concept in the “Space-as-a-Service” industry that provides guided meditation offerings to improve corporate wellness.
“I can see myself staying in this lane my entire life,” he says, “working on startups and breaking technologies.”
Garcia joins an impressive showing from Montclair State in this year’s Forty Under 40 as two Montclair State alumni who are using their degrees to succeed are also included on the list:
- Ermal Luzaj ’03, ’10, a partner at Sax LLP, earned the Forty Under 40 title in Accounting. Luzaj earned a BS in Accounting and MBA with a concentration in Finance. Growing up in Albania, he saw his future in the United States, moving to the Montclair area at the age of 18. He worked throughout college to pay tuition, landing at Sax with the help of the University’s career services. He is now head of the firm’s construction practice, a member of the executive committee and partner in charge of business development. He volunteers at Paterson Habitat for Humanity and raises money for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
- Shannon Lazare ’09 MBA, a vice president team leader at M&T Bank, was named Forty Under 40 in Banking. Lazare earned her MBA with a concentration in Management. She serves a wide variety of businesses, from start-ups to companies with $20 million in revenues for M&T Bank. For the past three years, she has served as president of the Mahwah Regional Chamber of Commerce. She sits on the boards as a director on several nonprofits, including Jersey Cares and Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative. She is also a director for the Bergen County Workforce Development.
NJBIZ and the program sponsors will honor all the winners during an awards reception and ceremony on Monday, September 20, 2018, at iPlay America’s event center in Freehold and spotlight their achievements in a special supplement to NJBIZ.