A team of Leominster teenagers came a step closer to manufacturing an exercise device designed to improve flexibility and prevent injury, after taking first place in MWCC’s Business Plan Competition. During a close, but friendly competition, three finalists presented their proposals to a panel of judges during the evening event on Feb. 24 in the North Café.
The panel of judges comprised of local business and community leaders concurred that each finalist presented strong, well-researched plans, though the KRAM Wellness Group, which is gearing up to manufacture its first product – a mobile compact stretching device called the FLEXFIT – edged out the competition.
St. Bernard High School freshmen Rachelle Wailes, Matthew Aronson and their number one supporters (their parents) impressed judges with the mobile stretching device. The team developed the device while competing in the eCYBERMISSION STEM national competition as middle school students. They began the process after consulting with Dr. Lyle Micheli, noted director of sports medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. The team, which also includes classmate Kathryn Schatia who was unable to attend the event, won $2,000, plus an assortment of consulting and professional services.
Karen Kiver Patalano of Boylston received $1,000 and professional services as the second-place winner for her proposal to expand her electronic medical record software service. Patalano, a registered dietician, created the KaiZen RD EMR expressly for registered dietitians in private practice. The product eliminates the need for paper charts while producing professional client and physician notes as it electronically bills for free, all during the patient visit.
Third prize went to Jonathan Tyler of Shirley, a business major at Fitchburg State University, and Daniel Lafond of Fitchburg, who graduated from Fitchburg State with an economics degree, who impressed the judges with their proposal to open the region’s first e-hookah lounge for patrons ages 18 and above. The duo proposed the Absolem Lounge (named after the hookah-puffing caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland) to provide an alternative nightlife and entertainment venue in Fitchburg. They received $500, plus additional prizes.
MWCC launched the competition in November during National Entrepreneurship Month to help stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in North Central Massachusetts.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and that’s particularly true in North Central Massachusetts,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “We’re very grateful to our sponsors and judges who also support local businesses and start-ups.”
The competition’s premier sponsor was the office of Ronald M. Ansin. The Sentinel & Enterprise was the media sponsor. Competition judges and sponsored also included Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke; Tina Sbrega, president and CEO of GFA Federal Credit Union; Linda Racine, executive vice president of Rollstone Bank & Trust; Jim Bellina of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce, and Tom Mutti of the office of Ronald Ansin. The North Central Massachusetts and Nashoba Valley Chambers of Commerce also served as sponsors.
“It was a very close competition,” said MWCC Associate Vice President of Workforce Development Jeremiah Riordon, who served as emcee and coordinator of the contest.
In addition to the cash awards, prizes included advertising and consulting opportunities, free credit and noncredit courses at MWCC, graphic design services, consultations with marketing and legal experts, and business supplies.