Students Receive IdeaLab Funding – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Students Receive IdeaLab Funding

From environmentally sustainable practices to helping children with their oral health, seven innovative ideas developed by HWS students have been awarded funding by the Centennial Center for Leadership’s (CCL) “start-up” accelerator program, the HWS IdeaLab.

The students with winning proposals, Noah Lucas ’13, Kathryn Pawlak ’13, Samuel Singer ’13, Matthew Colfax ’15, Joseph Bisesto ’14, Cece Carsky-Bush ’16, and Cody Rivera ’16, each will get a portion of $3,000 in funding to launch their respective ideas, all of which were refined throughout the course of the IdeaLab process.

Held as a pilot program, the IdeaLab called for students to submit proposals for their best and most innovative ideas for products, services or organizations. Following an initial review, top proposals are selected by a student selection committee in coordination with the CCL to begin a six-week accelerator program designed to help students develop their plans. During that time, students join workshops with faculty, staff and alums to refine their ideas, eventually resubmitting their plans for a final review process.

“We consider the pilot of this spring’s IdeaLab very successful. While we have goals to grow the funding and to expand the content of the workshops, we heard clearly from the students that the environment simply worked,” says Amy Forbes, associate director of CCL. “They learned a broad range of entrepreneurial concepts from the faculty, staff and alums that led sessions, but it was largely the collaboration techniques with their peers that really allowed the students to grow their ideas.”

Earlier this month, the group of students who were selected for funding gathered at the CCL to share their experiences and receive congratulations for their success and participation in the IdeaLab. The proposals selected for funding through the IdeaLab include:

  • Noah Lucas ’13 for his idea, UBike: An environmentalist and cyclist enthusiast, Lucas hopes to create a cycling culture on college campuses. Lucas was awarded $1,000 to start UBike, a plan intended for college campuses which will include the creation of do-it-yourself repair stations, bike lanes, and a safe way to store one’s bike.
  • Kathryn Pawlak ’13 for her idea, Bright Smiles from Afar: Driven by the understanding that oral hygiene is quintessential to an individual’s health, Pawlak seeks to educate communities in Peru about the importance of oral care. Kathryn has been awarded $350 to complete Phase 1 of her project, which includes bringing tooth brushes, tooth paste, and a variety of other education information about dental care to communities in Peru.
  • Samuel Singer ’13 for his idea, Train Gum: Singer hopes to bring an artisanal gum to the market. Made of four simple ingredients, the main ingredient – chicle, of which is sourced from Central America, will all be purchased from fair-trade companies. With the $400 Singer has been awarded, he plans to create batches to get consumer feedback.
  • Joseph Bisesto ’14 for his idea, AWEaken: Bisesto recognized that more often than not media outlets reflect the negative aspects of society. He will use the $100 of funding he has received to create a website centered on the benevolence of society.
  • Matthew Colfax ’15 for his idea, Campus Connections: Frustrated from the current way he has to buy and sell books, Colfax envisions creating an inter-campus web-based trading system. He would like to see Campus Connections pair students who are looking for a wide-variety of objects, from books to furniture. Colfax will use the $300 he has received in funding to help launch a website.
  • Cece Carsky-Bush ’16 for her idea, Shameless Name: Recognizing that dealing with depression and other mental-illness issues is one of the most difficult things for college students to deal with, Carsky-Bush hopes to create a forum on college campuses to address this issue. She will use the $600 in funding she has received to get the program off the ground at HWS.
  • Cody Rivera ’16 for his idea, Giving Change for Opportunity: Rivera will use his $250 in funding to travel to New York City to interview different people on what it is like to be a biological, foster, or adopted child.

Reflecting on the IdeaLab experience, Lucas says the program really helped to get his plans off the ground.

“I have had previous ideas, but none I could see becoming a reality,” Lucas says. “Through the workshops, I have been able to develop my knowledge of innovation to such a level that I now believe this idea, and many more, can be turned into reality.”

Carsky-Bush says through developing her idea over the course of the program, she embraced the power of being an entrepreneur and a leader.

“My definition of entrepreneurial leadership is seeing something that doesn’t exist and using innovativeness to try and make it happen,” Carsky-Bush says. “Entrepreneurs take risk and seek change. They look at things in a different light. That is, they look at things and see how they can be improved.”

With the available funding, students will begin to pursue each of their ideas, continuing to hone and perfect their plans of action. In light of the IdeaLab being an idea accelerator, Forbes says the program provides innovation strategies to students who are still in the early incubation stage of their entrepreneurial endeavor.

“Our hope is that through the structure and support of the IdeaLab they will consider entering their proposals into The Pitch contest,” Forbes says. Facilitated by the CCL, The Pitch is an annual entrepreneurially-focused contest held at HWS that gives students the chance to compete for funding by proposing well-planned and designed ventures that can change communities, improve systems, and deliver products or services.

Additionally, Forbes says she is proud of the leadership opportunity that the lab provided the IdeaLab’s student selection committee, which had been tasked with choosing proposals and allocating the funds.

Speaking on behalf of the student committee, Daniel Budmen ’15 says the IdeaLab is not only about the proposed idea, but also about development and growth, as well as the individual student as an entrepreneurial leader. He says, as a committee, the selection team looked for ideas that push boundaries, overcame challenges, and improved on existing ideas.

“The IdeaLab process presents students with an invaluable set of learned skills that will help them in the future – from conveying their ideas in a well-developed manor to learning the cost-structure of a business,” Budmen says.

Together, the student IdeaLab selection committee says the growth and development of each student’s proposal was impressive. Committee members say it was evident through reading the proposals, that the students were learning the language, the processes, and the skills necessary to be entrepreneurial leaders.

Susan Pliner, director of the CCL, says the submissions for the pilot program were excellent and that all students involved deserve recognition for their work.

“This being the inaugural IdeaLab experience, I was simply amazed by the level of engagement from all of the participants, as well as the dedication of the selection committee,” Pliner said at the IdeaLab gathering earlier this month. “The work all of you have done demonstrates how passionate you are about your ideas. Remember your passion as you continue to develop your plans.”