The judges came prepared with copies of the business plans. The students came prepared, ready to present their concepts for the “Next Big Thing” and it was a night of innovation, creative thinking and insightful questions and answers.  And after 15 minutes on stage for each of the five contenders, and a ‘grilling’ by the judges, two emerged as scholarship winners, ready to take their business plans to the next level.

The School of Business event, the equivalent of “Shark Tank” was the culmination of four months’ work by the participants who conceived the ideas, wrote full business plans then took to the stage to pitch the highlights and to answer hard questions on their proposal details.

First up was Cameron Morison, with Whimsical Unicycle LLC, pitching the concept of Intramural Unicycle Sports.  His mission was to provide a safe and comfortable learning experience to help in the growth of unicycling as a sport, hobby and meditation method that would promote fellowship among the student population in the spirit of friendly competition.

Next up was Mustang Transport, conceived by Sarah Schmadtke.  The Uber-like service would cater specifically to the Mount Ida campus. Starting with students, then expanding for faculty and staff, it would provide personalized service with Mount Ida students as drivers.  Schmadtke’s concept is expandable to other campuses, and might include golf-cart transportation within large campuses.  It is an antidote, she says to the hailing services that often don’t know where Mount Ida is, or which buildings are which.

Focusing on male accessories, Branden Bidon was next up with Rebel Men.  He displayed his color palette, his designs and a cost analysis of production and sales that would reap him a respectable profit margin.  His distinctive designs were inspired by the urban and industrial landscape of New York City, and drew more than a few oohs and aahs from the crowd, and not just from the men.

The topic then turned to music as Jackson Yager presented UBOOST, a unique way to promote music and new artists through Sound Cloud.  A house-music devotee, his plan spelled out how the music community works to share product and said his plan involved leveraging his own network, while also purchasing pages that already have thousands of followers.  The business would then grow by expanding   across genres.  His passion for the music and his expertise as a producer were evident in the presentation.

Rounding out the evening was the team of Jonathan Berry, Alexander Veloukas and Chad Coelho of Ace Auto Detailing. Wearing their matching green polo shirts, they pitched the idea of becoming a third-party vendor, offering detailing services through country clubs, where members could have the work done while they were out playing nine or 18 holes.  Catering to the upscale client, their financial projections would make it easy for them to one day own their own luxury cars.

At the conclusion of the presentations the judges set about making the tough decision as to which business plans would be awarded prizes.  UBOOST clearly won them over, and the first place kudos and a check for $1500 went to Jackson Yager.  Stepping up to accept a check for $750 and second place, was Branden Bidon for Rebel Man.

This year’s distinguished panel of judges included; Zachary Rosen, a Mount Ida alum, who works with the NES Group, a bank design company.  He was joined by Brett Conley who graduated from Mount Ida College School of Business, with a major in Business Management and a minor in Marketing in 2009, who now works for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

Helping to make the tough decision on the winners were Stephen Butch, yet another proud Mount Ida alum, who has been with New Balance Athletics, Inc. for 22 years and Jean Williams, Williams Consulting Group with over 20 years of experience in executive/leadership development and general management.

The prizes presented to the Next Big Thing winners were made possible by a generous donation from Gregg and Pamela Rosen.  Their son (and judge) Zachary, who graduated from Mount Ida in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sport Management always spoke highly of his Mount Ida experiences in both the classroom and on the lacrosse field.   His parents, proud of his accomplishments and seeing how Mount Ida was growing and changing, established the Business Plan Competition to give other students the opportunities Zachary had.

In opening remarks, Gregg Rosen said he could easily see availing himself of any of the products being presented and urged the students to seize every opportunity.  These comments were echoed by School of Business Dean, Sharon McKechnie.  McKechnie also added that this contest is a great opportunity for students to share their passion with the community, while exhibiting their knowledge of the intricacies of the business world.  “All of the participants did a great job and I can’t wait to see what brilliant ideas are presented next year.”

What better way to learn about event planning and production than by actually putting together a day-long series of sport-related events for a local community organization.

That was just what students in the Sport Management program did. Partnering with the Chesterbrook Community Foundation in Waltham, that provides mentoring, academic support and enrichment in structured after-school and evening programs, the Mount Ida students brought more than 30 students from grades K – 7 to Mount Ida to spend a day building community and learning about the possibilities that exist.

Breanna Muir, a junior and Mount Ida basketball player was one of the 16 students in Professor Heather Gilmour’s Sport Practicum, Event Planning and Production class who helped plan and execute the day’s activities. “We had a full day planned, brought in not only members of our class but of the Mount Ida community as well to help out.”

Student Morgan Rzonca helped organize participation by students in Mount Ida’s Dental Hygiene program who spoke to the visitors about good oral health care. While the students were learning about how to brush, members from several sports teams at Mount Ida were preparing to take them through an obstacle course, have them play games, to get signatures from some of Mount Ida’s star athletes and to enjoy a day of activity and community.

“It was a wonderful event,” says Professor Gilmour. “I’m always so proud of our students not just for their excellent planning, but for the example they set for these young people. I know when I give this service-learning assignment to the members of my Event Planning and Production class, that they will experience much more than a class project. They learn so much about themselves and what it means to be a good citizen.” Gilmour shared with the Chesterbrook visitors that she personally overcame many obstacles to get her education, but with the proper attitude and support, she has been able to achieve her goals.

Muir, who wants to be a coach says she learned a lot about communicating and teaching.  Rzonca’s roommate, an education major who volunteered for the day, was most touched when the Chesterbrook students asked when they would see the Mount Ida group again.

“Planning events is hard,” says Muir. “You always have to be able to change course in midstream. We all walked away feeling exhausted but good about a great day.”


The second annual Universal Design symposium kicked off at Mount Ida College on Friday, March 24, with keynote address by Cynthia Leibrock, author, lecturer and Universal Design expert.

Speaking to a room of teams, composed of Mount Ida students, faculty and members of the community, Leibrock took the audience through a tour of her universally-designed home in Colorado and spoke about how she became not only interested in, but committed to Universal Design. “That means creating designs for health and longevity for all,” she says.

Leibrock began her career as an interior designer working on high-end design for the very wealthy. In her early 30’s she made a life-changing decision. Her brother became ill and developed severe difficulties with mobility. She began to realize that it was not his physical differences that categorized him as disabled.

“We all have physical differences. But, the only disability anyone has is what we cannot do. Once we can do what we want to do, we are no longer disabled. As designers we must create with designs that empower.”

Leibrock challenged the future designers in the audience to envelop the concept of universal design in everything they do. “Separate but equal is not okay,” says Leibrock.  “You have to design the same for all. It has to work for all ages and abilities, or be adaptable for difference circumstances and needs.”

As she led people through each room of her home, some of the solutions were large, and others were inexpensive and very simple. For example, there are no thresholds in her home. Instead of area rugs that rise above a surface, becoming a hazard, she has recessed the rugs into the floor so they remain flush. “The only drawback is you can’t move the rug, but it can easily be removed and cleaned.”

Other designs included a refrigerator with different cooling zones for different foods that helps preserve them longer and leads to healthy eating, as does a sink that serves as a cooker. “You can fill the sink, place a strainer of pasta in it, turn it on and when done, you remove the strainer and send the water down the drain.” Speaking of drains, on one sink she installed a button that allows you to drain the sink without reaching into a pool of dirty water.  Carefully placed, it makes the function easy to do from a wheelchair or by anyone.

Leibrock says her house takes care of her. “I had a knee replacement and when my husband was taking me home, he fell and had to move around on a scooter. People asked who would take care of us? Because of universal design, our house did.”  They were able to cook, eat and live without any restrictions. They were not disabled.

Other items included in her home include a temperature control for the shower that allows you to preset how hot the water is before getting in, an induction cooktop that quickly heats water, is energy efficient, instantly stops cooking when turned off and is cold to the touch. The controls click, light up and have raised lettering, so there are multiple ways to determine that it is on.

There are thermostats that are controlled from her laptop, shelves that pop up, countertop design that will allow for future owners to easily adjust the height, oven doors that swing out, rather than down, retractable doorknobs, grip bars that can be hidden in the wall and solar panels that capture the Colorado sun.

“There is often a stigma associated with many of the designs. That can be overcome with such simple things as being able to hide a grip bar in the bathroom.”

Many of the changes are very inexpensive. Adding a button to the base of a bedside lamp to turn it off, light strips on stairs, a video camera attached to a doorbell.   They are easily purchased at the local hardware store, but can make a huge difference. “You have to realize the power in small changes that lead to a healthy and long life.”