LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ — Although donuts are a popular first breakfast choice for many, they are often known to derail weight loss goals. But Cait Hopkinson, a senior at Manasquan High School, has given a healthy spin to this breakfast staple, and her idea helped her win a full scholarship to Rider University.
On Jan. 29, Hopkinson presented her business idea, an air-fried donut shop, to a panel of judges at the University’s annual business concept competition.
The University’s annual Norm Brodsky Business Concept Competition challenges high school students to develop an innovative business idea and present it in front of a panel of judges, Shark Tank-style.
Hopkinson’s business idea, AIR Fried & Frosted, uses an air fryer to make donuts rather than the traditional method of frying. Part of her business model also includes gluten-free and dairy-free options. The student even created her own prototypes at home.
“I never thought I would come out on top and be the big winner, but the feeling is mind-blowing and is still so surreal,” Hopkinson says.
The idea of air-fried donuts came to Hopkinson when she visited a local donut shop. “I love this local donut shop in Spring Lake. But even their mini donuts, which are delicious by the way, have so many calories,” she said.
At the Hopkinson household, the air fryer is the most popular appliance. “We use it for pretty much everything. I thought why not fry a donut in it – it’s healthier and one can still enjoy the treat,” she said.
Hopkinson spent a week researching recipes and finally came up with one that was not only healthy but also tasted good. That’s when she knew she had to enter the competition. “I’m already taking an entrepreneurship class in school. So, the scholarship kind of spoke to me,” she said.
Before the competition, Hopkinson was “very nervous” because she’s “not a huge public speaker.”
“But once I started speaking, I looked up and the judges were really enjoying my presentation. After it was over, I definitely felt like I accomplished something,” she said.
“Winning this scholarship helped relieve a lot of stress in figuring out all of the financials for college,” she said. Her entrepreneurship teacher, friends, and family are “ecstatic” and “extremely proud” of her, the student said.
Hopkinson hopes to bring her business idea to life in the future. She plans to study accounting with an emphasis on fraud and business forensics.
But in the coming few months, she is looking forward to graduating high school and participating in all the senior activities.
Rider University received more than 300 submissions for this year’s competition. Applicants were required to submit a brief summary of their business concept, which went through two rounds of review, before being narrowed down to the 10 finalists.
Other winners included Denver Edwards of Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan (second place, senior division); Thomas Wright of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (third place, senior division); Sofia Ruvo of Park Ridge High School (first place, sophomore/junior division, and automatic entry into the senior next year); Lola Cantillon of Newark Academy (second place, sophomore/junior division); and Brianna Fazi of Park Ridge High School (third place, sophomore/junior division).
“We are incredibly proud to welcome Cait to Rider,” Lara Hudicka, director of Rider’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies said in a statement. “All the judges and I were inspired by her passion and budding business acumen. We cannot wait to see how she thrives at Rider and continues to embrace her entrepreneurial spirit.”
The competition is sponsored by husband and wife Norm Brodsky ’64 and Elaine Brodsky.
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