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Student Entrepreneurs:

Do you have the "Next Big Idea"?

Your entrepreneurial idea could be the "Next Big Idea" and could earn you up to $5,000.

Worcester State University is proud to announce: The Second Annual Robert K. O'Brien "Next Big Idea" Contest.

The contest is named for, and financially supported by, Class of 1958 alumnus Robert K. O'Brien. He has a long and distinguished career in business and has helped launch 10 companies employing more than 300 people. He believes Worcester State University students have the creative innovation to launch the "Next Big Idea."


The 2013 Next Big Idea Finalists

Support for interested students

Worcester Business Development Corp. 2014 Entrepreneurial Seminar
Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts
March 26, 2014
8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Transportation and light breakfast will be provided.

>> Check out this video <<
2013 Winner Derek Canton shares his story at the seminar


Tuesday, April 15:
"Next Big Idea" proposal deadline

Friday, April 25, 2-5 p.m.:
Presentation of "Next Big Ideas" before judges
Student Center, Foster Room

Thursday, May 1:
Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony
Prizes Awarded

Submission Guidelines:

The complete proposal for The Next Big Idea should be no more than 10 pages of text. If you have appendices, they may take up to an additional 10 pages. Send your proposals to

Your Next Big Idea proposal should begin with a registration form and a one-page executive summary that clearly covers the following: what the business is about, the idea itself; who will buy your product or service, the market that you are targeting; why your business is different or better in some way than other similar businesses, your competitive advantage; the location of your business (this might be or include the Internet); and how much the business will make by specific dates, your financial goals.

Nursing Submission Guildelines [pdf]


In the News

3/30/14 WSU helping to foster city's startup ecosystem
5/8/13 -
Robert K. O’Brien ‘Next Big Idea’ Contest Winners Announced
5/10/13 - Shrewsbury resident wins innovation competition

Faculty Mentors

Dr. Renuka Jain is a professor and chair of Worcester State University's Business Administration and Economics Department. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Her areas of expertise include management information systems, managing e-business, operations management with specialization in project management and supply chain management.



Dr. Joan "Jay" Mahoney is a professor and Sam Walton Fellow in our Business and Economics Department. With a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo in organizational behavior, Her areas of expertise include management, leadership, human resources and negotiation. She has been the advisor to the WSU Chapter of the international student organization ENACTUS and has mentored the team as they completed projects for small businesses, entrepreneurs, community and educational community partners. WSU's student teams compete with these projects at both the regional and national levels. Mahoney is also active in our Honors Program.


Dr. Maureen Stefanini, Ed.D. Boston University, M.S. Management, Sloan Fellow, M.I.T., M.S. and B.S. Worcester State University; Professor Department of Business Administration/Economics at Worcester State University.

She teaches Entrepreneurship, Women in Business and Financial Accounting.

Students in the Entrepreneurship classes over the past five years have had many opportunities to meet with business leaders, who have shared their experiences with them, both on campus and at their business sites. They have been invited and have participated in the Venture Forums, held on the second Tuesday of each month at WPI. Representatives from SCORE and the Small Business Administration have graciously shared their expertise with her students. A group of local business leaders met with us throughout the years to share their ideas and suggestions for developing small businesses and growing existing businesses. We have used a variety of templates for writing a business plan, and there are many readily available online as well as commercially. 


Robert K. O’Brien, founder of over five individual scholarships at Worcester State and sponsor of this competition, started his business career at the age of nine delivering newspapers. Graduating from Worcester State in 1958, he started out as a trainee at Hanover Insurance, and rose steadily through the ranks, retiring from the company as vice president in 1989. In 1990, O’Brien founded Health Reinsurance Management, Inc., a company, which along with some 10 other associated companies that he created, employed over 300 people.

Currently, O’Brien serves on the board of directors of American Security Life Insurance Company, headquartered in Uruguay, and holds the title as chief financial officer of O.G.R.E., a software developer for landlords, and president of HRMI, a venture capital firm that handles mortgages.

Kim HarmonKim Harmon is an award-winning nursing leader and entrepreneur. She has held various positions as a registered nurse, clinical director, adjunct nursing faculty, CEO and entrepreneur. Frequently recognized for her visionary leadership, she was featured in a national magazine as one of three successful female entrepreneurs in the United States. She is a 1995 graduate of the Worcester State University nursing program, and in 2008, Harmon was the recipient of the Worcester State University’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Harmon is the founder and CEO of Life Enterprises, an organization focusing on healthcare consulting and small business coaching. She brings her “celebrate life” philosophy to work with individuals and companies on successfully reaching their goals. She serves on the Worcester State Foundation Board as well as several local non-profit organizations.  She is a columnist for the Stonebridge Press and Vitality Magazine, and lives in Auburn with her two children.

An exceptional student from one of the first Worcester State University classes to graduate with a business administration degree, Craig Bovaird began his business journey after graduation in 1977 as a worker at Holden Plastics. He worked there for 20 years and ended his tenure as the company’s general manager.

At a time when local plastics companies were moving overseas, Bovaird decided to grow a specialized plastics maker called Built-Rite Tool & Die. Under his leadership, Built-Rite has experienced a 17 percent growth rate and has increased from 10 employees to 35 since 1999. A Worcester State University Distinguished Professional Achievement Award recipient, Bovaird is recognized for using his WSU education wisely, providing jobs for Central Massachusetts residents, and contributing to the region’s vitality. In 2007, he was recognized by the U.S Small Business Administration as Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year.

David Rumrill is a senior vice president, managing over $300 million in assets at Morgan Stanley in Wellesley, Mass. He began his business career shortly after graduating in 1991 from Bridgewater State University. In 1992, Rumrill became a licensed securities broker and acquired a business position at Fidelity Investments. Through continuous hard work and determination, he achieved the certified financial planner designation in 1996 and obtained his insurance and commodity licenses in 2001.

Today, Rumrill serves as a board member for Peer Health Exchange, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, and Celebrities for Charity. He has also invested in various venture capital companies, including Narragansett Beer, and has taken pride in watching such companies expand and grow. Rumrill likes applying his professional experience to advise and help groups of people manage their personal finances. For fun, he enjoys spending time with his family and playing basketball and golf.

Nick Monfreda is a Global Client Director for Dimension Data Americas, a member of Dimension Data Holdings, plc, and a wholly owned subsidiary of NTT Group. The nearly $6 billion organization is a specialist IT services and solution provider that helps clients plan, build,support and manage their IT infrastructures. Dimension Data applies its expertise in networking, converged communications, security, operating environments, storage, wireless and contact center technologies and its unique skills in consulting, integration and managed services to create customized client solutions.

Nick’s primary responsibility is managing overall client satisfaction for the Dimension Data Americas Global Strategic Accounts that are headquartered in Florida. As Global Client Director, Nick tracks and measures key business performance metrics to ensure that Dimension Data’s solutions meet or exceed business requirements and are aligned with client expectations. Nick ensures that the value of Dimension Data’s solutions is fully articulated, and that clients receive the right solutions and the best value to move their enterprise forward.

Nick has been a Global Client Director since 2009, and has been with Dimension Data for almost 10 years. His ability to analyze, empathize and manage client requirements while articulating the value of Dimension Data services is unparalleled in the industry. Nick, as a Dimension Data Global Client Director, ensures client satisfaction and retention, while continuing to grow the client relationship across the business.

Nick is an avid golfer and one of Dimension Data’s corporate champions for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of America. Nick holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Worcester State University, Worcester, Massachusetts.

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