Daily News

PeoplesBank Rewards Innovation, Entrepreneurship at Western New England University

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) announced the recipients of the 2021 PeoplesBank Award. The award, first given in 2020, is made possible by a grant to WNEU from PeoplesBank to advance innovation and entrepreneurship across the university and the entire Pioneer Valley ecosystem.

Mary Schoonmaker, associate professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Western New England, applauded the students’ spirit and innovation. “We continue to be encouraged to see the breadth of businesses that have applied for awards this year. It is rewarding to see these student-led ventures made possible through this PeoplesBank grant.”

Matthew Bannister, first vice president, Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at PeoplesBank, congratulated each of the student-business initiatives. “We are pleased that our grant could assist these student teams in continuing to develop their businesses. Small businesses, powered by entrepreneurs, are vital to the economic health of our region, and we congratulate these six new ventures and Western New England University for their efforts in this area. This is exactly what we hoped would transpire when we formed this partnership with Western New England.”

This year, the PeoplesBank Award at Western New England University went to the following innovative and entrepreneurial student teams:

• Jeremy Bowler, a computer engineering major, for his work on an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission (ECVT) for small-engine applications. The funding is being used to continue to advance the prototype;

• Tytianie Brown, a sciences major, who runs a full-service beauty-services business. Brown is using the funding for beauty-services equipment;

• Caleb Miller, a mechanical engineering major and the co-founder of Woodside Getaways, an RV rental startup. Miller is using the funding to provision the RV and complete the rental unit, which is already booked for summer travel by Woodside’s clients;

• Dante Talamini, an engineering major and team leader for Frost Alert, a wearable smart device that monitors skin temperature and alerts the wearer if they are beginning to experience frostbite. The team will be using the funding to continue to advance their prototype development;

• Ethan Valdes, an entrepreneurship major with a minor in health sciences, who co-founded Bus Boiz, a social-media experience startup that captures travel experiences. The team was awarded funding for a drone to assist with aerial shots from their travel adventures; and

• Shemika White, an MBA graduate student and founder of Notes of Beauty chemical-free beauty products. White is using the funding to purchase materials and product testing.

Western New England University aspires to develop students’ entrepreneurial mindset with its innovation and entrepreneurial programs. Through co-curricular efforts, such as Startup Weekend and the Product Development and Innovation course, students are able to create innovations that have market potential. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, located on campus, is a dedicated space for student startup teams, club meetings, and maker space for student-led innovations. Past WNEU student teams have advanced their innovations by participating in the Harold Grinspoon Foundation Spirit Awards, the Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator, and Draper Competitions.