MCLA Names Winner of Innovation Challenge
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts senior Shannon Cahill of Grafton was the winner of the college's second annual Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Her winning idea was for "Greylock Sound," a performing arts booking and promotion agency she co-founded in December 2017.
The challenge aims to match entrepreneurial students with resources and networking opportunities that will help them to make their ideas a reality. Also recognized at the competition as the runner-up was senior Ashley Anderson of Springfield, for "Kumba," a cross-platform, digital mental health counseling mobile phone application
For her winning idea, Cahill was awarded a $10,000 prize and a funded, 10-week internship. She also will receive advising and space to continue the development of their proposed idea from Lever, Inc., a center for entrepreneurship and social innovation based in North Adams.
"This was an incredible opportunity that I am increasingly thankful for," Cahill said. "Not only was it great experience to write a business plan, create a pitch deck, and then pitch my business to a panel of judges, but the internship that comes along with it at Lever, Inc., is an amazing opportunity that I’m very excited to start."
Greylock Sound aims to bring affordable, live music productions to the area. It focuses on genres such as hardcore, punk, emo, and metal, with some rap and hip hop shows. The company also offers a sound equipment rental service for events in the area.
"We got the idea for all of this simply because we are all heavily involved in the local music scene, and saw some significant gaps that we wanted to fill," Cahill said.
Cahill plans to invest her prize money in the rental portion of the business, an area identified as having a huge growth potential.
"We believe that investing the money into equipment upgrades, human capital, and enhanced marketing will allow our revenue to grow substantially. With better equipment we can put on higher-quality shows, and also appear more attractive as a subcontractor," she said.
Anderson's project, Kumba, is a cross-platform digital mental health counseling mobile phone application, which seeks to eliminate stigma within minority communities. The name "Kumba" comes from an old spiritual song, and means "come by here."
According to Anderson, the application seeks to connect mental health patients who have culturally sensitive issues with counselors who can help them with their needs, anywhere in the world. She said that many people of color don't feel comfortable speaking with counselors, the majority of whom are older, white males.
"They want to speak with counselors they can better culturally identify with. There's a strong need for this," Anderson said. She plans continue to work on the project after her graduation next month, and appreciates the opportunity to participate in the challenge. "It's my favorite part about MCLA. I am very grateful for the connections I made with my mentors."
The challenge, Cahill added, also is important to the community.
"It allows students to take their ideas and bring them to fruition. It's an amazing opportunity for students to be able to contribute to the community, and work toward a goal with the help of those who know how to get them there," she said.
Judges for the competition included Pittsfield-based entrepreneur Lorraine Jones, the founder of 92nd Street Sauce; Nancy Schulman, a senior business advisor with the Berkshire Regional Office of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center; and Tim Burke, managing director of Mill Town Capital.For more information, go to www.mcla.edu .