MHC Entrepreneurs Win Grinspoon Prizes

Seven Mount Holyoke students have won cash prizes totaling $2,500 for their entrepreneurial spirit from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The MHC winners include Anna Muench ’13, for her photography business; Muchang Duan ’13, for a travel service aimed at parents visiting Mount Holyoke for graduation; Bei Li ’13, Yu Yan ’13, and Yihan Li ’13, for an online market; and Andreea Bancila ’13 and Sophia Weeks ’13, for a programmable remote camera trigger. More than 50 students from 14 colleges and universities in the region received entrepreneurship spirit awards. In addition, Nan Zhu ’14, who won last month's MHC elevator pitch competition, will compete in a similar event against top student entrepreneurs at the Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative Awards on April 24.

“Mount Holyoke has given the spirit award recipients a solid intellectual base upon which to build their ideas, as well as the confidence and leadership skills necessary to start their own enterprises,” said Steven Schmeiser, assistant professor of economics and complex organizations, who organizes the College’s elevator pitch contest.

“I’m excited to see so many of our students forging their own path with creative and sustainable business ideas,” he said.

Muench, an anthropology and Russian literature double major, started her photography business last year. While her main goal is to get her photographs into galleries, she is also looking to support herself through commissioned photography and by selling her work.

Duan, an economics and statistics double major, sees an opportunity to work with local travel agents to create customized travel packages for Chinese parents who plan to visit the Pioneer Valley to attend their child’s graduation. Through her service, Graduation Trip 4 Family, Duan believes she can save visiting parents up to 8 percent in travel costs by sourcing discounted air tickets, hotel deals, and more competitive pricing from individual travel agencies.

The SeniorSale team of computer science major Bei Li, economics major Yan, and mathematics major Yihan Li have launched their website to provide MHC students with a way to sell secondhand items, such as room furnishings and clothes. The website, launched on March 1, has already received more than 10,000 page views.

Bancila, an architectural studies and computer science double major, and Weeks, a physics major, have developed a remote-controlled device that can be used to prompt a camera to take photos at different time intervals. The device, named Triggy, could be used to create time-lapse movies, or, with a little more programming code, to build a camera-based security system. Bancila and Weeks plan to market Triggy, which is a quarter of the price of similar devices, to electronics specialists and the general public.

The Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative is now in its tenth year. In that time, 17 MHC students have received Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards. According to the foundation’s website, “Spirit awards acknowledge a student's actions to date and encourage them to move forward in pursuit of their entrepreneurial dreams.”

Pictured are (clockwise from top left): Bei Li, Yihan Li, Yu Yan, Muchang Duan, and Andreea Bancila.