If necessity is the mother of invention, three students can thank Worcester State’s notorious parking challenges for helping them win $2,000 in an annual business proposal pitch contest. Jacklyn Joncas, T.J. Mulgrew, and Dominique Lee won first prize in the 2018 Robert K. O’Brien ’58 Next Big Idea Contest on Tuesday, Dec. 11, for proposing a solution to the daily frustration of parking on campus: an app that combines ride sharing technology with a valet parking system.
PRK (pronounced “park”) would allow a student to indicate through the app that he or she is arriving on campus and in need of a parking space. The user would arrange to meet an Uber-like contractor, who might be a fellow student looking for some extra money, and hand off the car for parking. The PRK employee would find a parking spot, return the keys to the student (perhaps in class or at a central location), and let the customer know where it is located.
“Too much time is wasted trying to find a parking spot, it’s just as simple as that,” said Joncas. “It’s also an employment opportunity for students and others.”
The team didn’t specify how much the service might cost, but existing parking services in the Boston area can charge between $10 and $15 per transaction. Others use a subscription service. PRK would be unique in that it would be focused solely on the college student market, she said.
Parker Nellis won second place and $1,500 for his idea for a personal training app, College Gains. Also focused on the college student market, his service would provide online instructional training videos based on preference, goals, available resources, and schedule; grocery list and meal plan; and access to a supportive Facebook community.
Nyia Anderson won third place and $1,000 for a proposal to create Anderson’s Artisan Bakery using locally sourced, organic, and all-natural ingredients. And Carla Corley won honorable mention and $500 for her plan to create a mentoring program to build positive connections between families and communities.
This was the sixth year of the competition, which was founded and continues to be funded by Robert K. O’Brien ’58 as a way to inspire students to start entrepreneurial ventures and promote inventiveness. This year’s judges were Craig Bovaird ’77, founder of Built-Rite Tool & Die/Reliance Engineering and chairman of the Worcester State Foundation Board; Judy Carmody ’88, Ph.D., founder and principal consultant of Carmody Quality Solutions; Jim Glickman, principal and founder of NAI Glickman, Kovoga & Jacobs; Bryan Coleman, CPA; and Brenden O’Brien, son of Bob O’Brien.
To prepare for the contest, students took the course Designing the Business Plan, taught by Ross Tsakas, Ph.D., a visiting instructor in the Business Administration and Economics Department, whose specialty is entrepreneurship and strategy.
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