Meet the New Jersey judges
The success of the program relies on the efforts of our independent panel of judges. The panel comprises past Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award recipients and civic and community leaders who devote significant effort to review and deliberate the merits of each nominee.
Click any judge's name for additional information. The downloadable summary of judge bios can be found here.
CEO and Founder,
Toorak Capital Partners
2022 Regional winner
John Beacham is the CEO and founder of Toorak Capital Partners. Prior to Toorak, John was the founder and president of B2R Finance, the leading mortgage origination company focused on the single-family rental and residential bridge loan markets. B2R Finance (now Finance of America Commercial) is a Blackstone portfolio company. Before founding B2R, John led Deutsche Bank’s single-family rental lending practice where he structured the first-ever securitization of single-family rental properties and originated more than $5.0 billion in single-family rental loans made to large institutional acquirers of homes. Prior to the formation of the single-family rental platform, John originated large balance commercial real estate loans in the Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities (CMBS) group at Deutsche Bank and worked in the financial institutions’ investment banking groups at Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse First Boston. In total, John has completed more than $50 billion in transactions and has structured financings International Financial Law Review magazine’s that won CMBS or structured finance Deal of the Year awards four times.
John graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude with an AB degree in Economics. Back to top
Founder and CEO,
Tronex International, Inc.
2021 Regional winner
Entrepreneur, corporate leader and philanthropist Donald Chu is the founder and CEO of Tronex International, Inc., a US-based global health care products company. From his earliest years, Donald understood that through an enterprise, many could benefit. Born in China and raised in Switzerland, he was instilled with deep family values, high ideals and a strong work ethic that fueled his determination to make a positive mark on the world.
After attending Northeastern University in Boston, Donald was granted the tremendous opportunity to be mentored by the great entrepreneur and visionary known as the “King of Ships,” the late C.Y. Tung, head of the renowned shipping conglomerate C.Y. Tung Group. Working closely with C.Y. while traveling the world, Donald gained invaluable experience that forged his understanding of international trade, commerce and diplomacy. In 1987, he returned to the United States and in 1989, in response to the burgeoning AIDS crisis and his childhood mission of making a positive difference and the world a better place, he launched Tronex International to design, manufacture, and market superior disposable head-to-toe personal protective equipment (PPE). Serving health care, food service and hospitality, retail, and government markets with award-winning global products and service, Tronex is celebrating its 33rd anniversary this year and remains dedicated to long-term partnerships, sustainability, continual innovation, and to the creation of new ventures.
Donald pursues his passion for philanthropy by serving and donating to meaningful causes, which include enriching education, helping to alleviate hunger and homelessness, making the environment a better place, providing medical relief worldwide, and supporting many other positive and inspirational charities for the betterment of humankind. Back to top
Johanna Grossman, PhD
Head of Healthcare & Life Sciences Capital Markets
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
Johanna Grossman, PhD, is currently Co-Head of Healthcare & Life Sciences Capital Markets at the NYSE working with private companies looking to access the public markets via initial public offerings, special purpose acquisition companies business combinations and direct listings. Prior to joining the NYSE, Johanna was Head of Healthcare at GLG, responsible for the strategic and operational leadership of the firm’s healthcare practice in the US. In this role, Johanna worked with healthcare companies as well as private and public equity investment firms. She led a team of content and client service professionals responsible for organizing live meetings and managing client diligence engagements across all sectors of healthcare, including pharma, biotech, medical devices, diagnostics, healthcare IT and services. Prior to GLG, Johanna completed her PhD in Organic Chemistry at Yale. Back to top
President and CEO
MJH Life Sciences
2021 National finalist
Michael Hennessy began his career as a national account manager at MJH Associates in 2010. By September 2015, he became president with the responsibility of identifying new business opportunities and driving the overall growth of the organization. In 2019, Michael was promoted to president and CEO of MJH Life Sciences. Since the beginning of his career, Michael has demonstrated his vision for creating new, engaging ways to serve health care professionals. After overseeing sustained, organic growth, Michael elevated MJH Life Sciences further by acquiring UBM Life Sciences Group in January 2019. In June 2020, Michael launched Medical World News, a first-of-its-kind news channel for health care professionals. He then launched the MJH Life Sciences COVID-19 Coalition, a partnership with health care thought leaders devoted to providing ongoing insight around the pandemic and patient care. MJH Life Sciences has grown under Michael’s leadership to more than 60 brands, producing over 1,100 events and reaching 7.6 million unique visitors per month online and 2 million via print. Back to top
Co-Founder, President and Managing Partner
2021 Regional winner
Lawrence Hibbert is co-founder, President and Managing Partner of BCT Partners, a Newark, NJ-based, diverse-led, multidisciplinary, international consulting firm that delivers a full range of research, consulting, training, technology and analytics services. The firm’s mission is to harness the power of diversity, insights and innovation to transform lives, accelerate equity and create lasting change. BCT is a thriving multimillion dollar business built around the concepts of both profit and purpose in its work. It has been recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Management Consulting Firms (2020–22), Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America (2021-22), and noted by Black Enterprise Magazine as a Top 100 company on the BE100 (2019–2022).
Over the years, BCT has served federal, commercial, foundation and nonprofit clients across the country. In October 2022, Lawrence successfully led the acquisition and integration of Community Science, a MD-based, research and evaluation firm committed to work that results in healthy, just and equitable communities. Today, BCT has over 150 employees committed to achieving its vision of advancing sustainable and scalable social impact solutions and services.
A proud Educational Opportunity Fund alumni, Lawrence earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University and an MBA with a concentration in Finance from Rutgers Business School (Executive MBA Program). He was recognized as one of the Top 10 Urban Entrepreneurs in Newark by Destination Newark. Within his local community, Lawrence volunteered as a baseball coach and is a member of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens where he is an ordained deacon and the Co-Chair of the Diaconate Ministry. He is happily married to his wife, Patrell, and resides in Somerset, New Jersey, with their sons, Caleb Joseph (18) and Joshua Christopher (16). Back to top
CEO and Co-Founder
Cibo Vita Inc.
2022 Regional winner
Emre Imamoglu is the CEO and co-founder of Cibo Vita Inc. He completed his undergraduate degree in Business Administration, Finance and Marketing at Bilkent University in Turkey. After completing his Marketing degree at Zicklin School of Business in New York, Emre worked as a sales and marketing director. Cibo Vita was launched in 2009 when, in true entrepreneurial spirit, Emre — with over 10 years of wholesale and packaging of dry food experience — seized a window of opportunity in the market and unleashed the passion for healthy snacks. Back to top
2020 Regional winner
Through fostering a culture of agility, innovation and collaboration, Gina has proven herself a force, leading Somos, Inc. into an era of transformation and growth. The cornerstone of this transformation has been the development of an inclusive culture where a diverse and engaged team scales business in line with Somos’ ambitious strategy. Under Gina’s leadership, Somos has experienced consecutive years of double-digit percentage growth and significant market expansion. Prior to serving as Chair of the Board of Directors and CEO, Gina served as Somos’ Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, as well as practiced for several years as an intellectual property and business lawyer and advisor to businesses on global corporate and intellectual property matters related to technology, telecommunications, internet, new media and advertising.
She was honored as a pioneer, role model and trailblazer by being named to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s Top Women of Law for 2014. Gina has a JD from Northeastern University School of Law and earned a certificate from Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program in August 2021. Back to top
Owner and President
2021 Regional winner
Jimmy Placa is the owner and president of Davion Inc., a leading contract manufacturer of beauty, personal care and household products with operations in the United States and Canada. Since joining Davion in 2009, the company has experienced double-digit revenue and profit growth by developing natural products, recycled or reusable packaging, and manufacturing in a sustainable way. As of November 2021, Davion’s US manufacturing operations generate over 100% of its electrical needs from solar power. Jimmy and Davion have been named in “Innovative Companies and Leaders” by New Jersey Business Magazine and as finalists in both the “Bold New Strategy” and “Manufacturer of the Year” categories by the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. While at Davion, Jimmy also co-founded ProtoExchange Inc., a cloud-based manufacturing software company, and served as its Chief Operating Officer from 2012 through 2013. ProtoExchange received venture capital funding from Techstars, one of the largest and most recognized accelerator programs, and others and CNN Money named ProtoExchange one of “Five Austin Startups to Watch” in 2013. Jimmy graduated magna cum laude and with honors from Colgate University in 2007. Back to top
Co-Founder and Chairman
2022 Regional winner
Bharat Rana is the co-founder and chairman of ProSmile, a leading dental organization on the East Coast. He served as CEO from 2011 to 2022 and managed the overall operations and resources of the company. His leadership resulted in the company’s value increasing from $18m to $146m. While EBITDA margins expanded from 4.5% to 22% (4.9x) from 2016 to 2019. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Bharat managed to expand the business’ footprint by 8.5x while navigating new health care regulations and massive labor shortages. Focusing his team’s efforts on providing the best clinical care to patients irrespective of their socioeconomic background, his mission, since 2011 has been to reshape the dental industry by vastly improving the clinical and operational profiles of the dental practices in ProSmile’s network. Bharat is a serial entrepreneur and is supporting several health care roll-ups across the country. He enjoys partnering with like-minded entrepreneurs to help scale businesses with meaningful growth. Back to top
Dan Schorr is a partner at AEA Investors. He joined AEA in 2008 as a member of the Small Business Fund team. AEA’s Small Business Fund is focused on backing existing management teams and founders/entrepreneurs and providing capital and resources to help them grow and scale their businesses. Dan currently serves on the board of 50 Floor, Meritus Gas Partners, Monroe Engineering, Omega and SBP Holdings. He also served on the board of former AEA portfolio companies Colony Hardware, Galco and National Carwash Solutions. Prior to joining AEA, Dan was a strategy consultant with L.E.K. Consulting in Boston focusing on a broad range of industries. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Economics and Biological Basis of Behavior. Dan lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons. Back to top
Founder and CEO
Triangle Home Fashions
2019 Regional winner
Jenny Zhu is an award-winning entrepreneur, pioneer and motivator-in-chief who inspires a diverse, powerhouse team to create, produce and deliver unique home fashions that customers love. As founder and CEO of Triangle Home Fashions and its signature brand, Lush Décor, Jenny’s visionary perspective earned her opportunities a less keen eye would have missed. Armed with a degree in Textile and Surface Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a few years’ experience in the home textile category, Jenny envisioned a better way of doing business — one where the company delivered more than what was expected.
In 2008, driven by her love of design and passion to create uniquely detailed home decor at key price points, Jenny founded Triangle, determined to be a game changer in what was then a still-fledgling e-commerce market. Jenny invented a company culture of leadership and innovation that not only originates impeccably detailed, accessible home fashions for every room, lifestyle and life stage, but one that also manages global production, warehousing and a direct distribution network. Vibrant e-commerce growth led Jenny to launch Lush Décor in 2013. Lush Décor is crafted in a range of aesthetics and styles, inspiring consumers to create a home that is unique and personalized.
An innovator with a heart, Jenny not only wanted to do good work but do good work that matters. This led to a licensing partnership with Make-A-Wish where a portion of sales from Lush Décor’s Make-A-Wish Collection are donated to help fulfill the wishes of children with critical illnesses. Jenny attributes the company’s success to the strength and shared vision of her team. Jenny believes, “Strong ideas, top-performing teams and a clear path to flawless execution are what motivates us and what drives success through today’s complex business terrain.” Back to top