NORTH ADAMS, MASS.—Although this year’s MCLA Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge, held May 4—May 8, 2020, was a virtual affair, the College community still came together to view and vote for the three finalists’ pitches.
The finalists, all seniors, who pitched their business ideas via video, were David Flight, Kimberly Granito, and Sierra Lamonde. The students were coached through a series of deliverables — determining the solution to the problem, developing a budget and business plan as the roadmap for the project or business, and presenting before a panel of judges.
Granito’s "Detailing Dream" won first place, which came with a $7,500 award. Lamonde’s "Pyrography Crafts" placed second, for a $5,000 award, and Flight’s "Settling the States” won the $2,500 third-place award. The startup funding awards aim to cover inventory, equipment, and marketing costs for the three new businesses.
While this year’s Challenge was different than past events, first-place winner Kimberly Granito said the College made sure everyone had a good experience nonetheless. The Sociology major, with minors in Criminal Justice and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, admitted to being a little intimidated going into the Challenge because she wasn’t a Business major, but stressed that anyone could do it.
“It takes a lot of time to put a business plan together, but it was possible with the mentorship the Challenge offers,” she said. “It’s such a great opportunity, even without the prize money, just learning the ins and outs of putting a plan together.”
Her winning business, Detailing Dream, is a car detailing service meant to cater to people who may think they don’t have the time or money for such a service. Granito’s packages include lower-cost options that other companies don’t offer because they usually cater to luxury cars. Unlike most of her competitors, Granito’s business would also include a mobile option where she would come to the customer, so they could take advantage of the service without leaving their home or office.
“I was trying to cater to single women, single moms, and parents with kids who might be too intimidated to go to a big shop with all men,” she said. “I’m a female in a very male-dominated career — society has deemed cars a man’s hobby. It was empowering to be a female jumping into a male-dominated area.”
Second-place winner Sierra Lamonde said her business, Pyrography Crafts, aims to bring joy to customers by creating one-of-a-kind, handcrafted wood-burnings of people, pets and other animals, cartoons, and more.
David Flight’s Settling the States is a company that designs legacy board games inspired by the geographical regions of the United States. The company's first product, Settling New England, makes players compete against each other to survive the changing seasons to become legend settlers.
This year’s judges were Anthony Barbosa '15, Alison Thompson '98, and Tim Oxborough. Entrepreneur-in-residence Amy Shapiro worked with the students for 16 weeks, walking them through solving a problem, creating a viable solution, and investigating, testing and developing a business plan and pitch video. Director of Alumni Engagement and Donor Relations Kate Gigliotti and Assistant Professor of Digital Journalism and Communications Shawn McIntosh handled the logistics of the virtual event. MCLA students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends participated in the Challenge by voting online.