Nick Lazzaro ’23 Wins 40 Under 40 Award

Nick Lazzaro with friends and family

In recent news, Holy Cross has been excited to witness the achievements of one of its alumni, Nick Lazzaro, a member of the class of 2023. Nick has been making headlines in the entrepreneurial realm with his company, Nick’s On-Site Detailing. His journey from a student at Holy Cross to a successful business owner not only deserves applause but also offers valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs within our community.

Nick’s recent recognition in the Worcester Business Journal’s esteemed 40 Under 40 awards ceremony is a testament to his dedication and innovation through Nick’s On-Site Detailing. This acknowledgment not only celebrates his achievements but also highlights his entrepreneurial spirit, which has set him apart in the business world.

During his time at Holy Cross, Nick actively engaged in the Ciocca Center Shark Tank Competition, an experience he considers pivotal in shaping his entrepreneurial path. Reflecting on this experience, Nick emphasizes the importance of effective pitching, noting how the competition provided him with a platform to refine his skills, receive valuable feedback, and gain confidence in presenting his ideas. “The shark tank competition was instrumental in my pitching skills development. It allowed me to learn from mistakes, receive feedback from alumni, and gain comfort in presenting,” Nick shared.

A key takeaway from Nick’s journey is his unwavering determination to seize opportunities and step out of his comfort zone. His decision to apply for the Worcester 40 Under 40 award underscores the significance of taking risks and putting oneself out there, ultimately leading to remarkable achievements. Nick also advises current Holy Cross students to embrace challenging coursework, believing it will equip them with the skills and resilience needed for future success.

Nick Lazzaro’s journey from Holy Cross student to a recipient of prestigious business awards is both inspiring and instructive. His story serves as a beacon of hope for budding entrepreneurs within the Holy Cross community, reminding us of the importance of perseverance, seizing opportunities, and embracing the journey towards our work. 

Written by Nico Corporon ’26

Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives Site Visit

Students at MBI

My name is Maeley Nakamura and I am in the class of 2026 majoring in Economics and minoring in Ethics, Society, and the Institution of Business and pursuing a business fundamentals certificate alongside entrepreneurship. I had the opportunity to go on a Site Visit to Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI), as it is a step to earning a Certificate in Entrepreneurship. Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, located in Worcester, is an incubator that encourages scientists to take transforming innovative ideas and make them into tangible realities, empowering entrepreneurship. 

During the visit, Jon, the CEO of MBI, provided us with a thorough tour of the facility, offering insights into entrepreneurship in biomedicine. One of the hallways we walked through showcased various inventions originating from Worcester, such as pieces of the space suit, birth control, and the duckbill pipe wrench. It was fascinating to see how MBI continues to foster innovation through its incubator. While technically an incubator, I found it unique that MBI exhibits qualities of an accelerator by actively supporting and guiding entrepreneurs through the entrepreneurial process. The environment and architecture of the building was particularly notable with each floor, wing, and section representing a different stage of progression. For example, the journey for entrepreneurship at MBI starts in a small lab room for initial experimentation and research then goes into larger labs with an office dedicated for manufacturing. When the tour concluded, we all sat down to converse and ask questions. Jon shared some valuable insights. Something that stuck out to me was his ideas of the entrepreneurial mindset. He says some great advice he was given was to meet one new person every day to expand your network, adhere to the “touch a paper only once” principle to promote efficiency and productivity, and be a problem solver, addressing challenges proactively. Jon also emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education, highlighting that liberal arts students know how to learn. In conclusion, I personally had the best time during the site visit. I was able to get a glimpse of the complex and powerful ecosystem of biomedicine entrepreneurship at MBI.

Written by Maeley Nakamura ’26

Entrepreneurship Course Students Pitch Business Ideas for Final Presentations

Students Presenting

Thursday, December 7th marked the last day of classes and final presentations for students in the Entrepreneurship Class taught by Tom Patton ’86. Students presented business ideas to a panel of judges from SV Health Investors, including Andrew Capetta,  A.J. Rossi, and Megan MacDonagh.  SV Health Investors is a venture and private equity investor that backs entrepreneurs in the healthcare space. 

Students pitched their ventures on a variety of innovative topics including:

  • PennyVentures, an app to support students who study abroad that combines budgeting, social media, and connections to local restaurants and services vetted by users.
  • Bass River Cruise, a luxury boat company providing unique water bound experiences on the Cape.
  • Splitz, an app that easily divides expenses for group online orders. 
  • VapeEscape, nicotine patch therapies in fun shapes and colors to encourage young adults to quit vaping without the stigma. 
  • UniBite, an app to aid college students in maintaining healthy and nutritious diets.

After deliberating, the panel announced the winning teams.  Second Place went to Team UniBite comprised of Devyn Gianino ‘25, JP McCarthy ‘24, Ashley Bunici ‘26, and Nico Corporan ‘26.  First Place went to team VapeEscape comprised of Eileen Evans ‘25, Mikey Rufino ‘24, and Mary Pat Sayre ‘24.  

First Place Team

To close the event, Cassie Gevry, Associate Director of Business Certificate Programs for the Ciocca Center at Holy Cross, shared the dates for upcoming spring events such as CrossTank, the annual Holy Cross spring pitch competition, to be held on March 25, 2024. She also announced that the city of Worcester will hold the inaugural WooTank Intercollegiate Showdown on April 2, 2024 where winning teams from their respective college competitions will compete for capital from real sharks. This year, competing colleges include Holy Cross, WPI, Clark University and Nichols College. Students from the Entrepreneurship course were encouraged to compete. 

2023 Innovation Challenge – Recap

Brendan Candon '10 speaking

The Ciocca Center, in partnership with HC Launch, hosted the annual Innovation Challenge yesterday afternoon. Yesterday’s competition revolved around business solutions for SidelineSwap, the premier marketplace dedicated to connecting athletes and sports enthusiasts in the dynamic world of sports gear selling. Founded by Brendan Candon ’10 in 2015, SidelineSwap has a remarkable track record of facilitating transactions exceeding $250 million and has earned its place among the fastest-growing global marketplaces, as recognized by the esteemed Andreessen Horowitz A16z Top 100 list. Backed by influential investors, including strategic partners such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and eBay, SidelineSwap is not only a platform for buying and selling sports equipment but a community-driven hub that empowers athletes to access quality gear affordably. The recent addition of the Trade-in Platform further exemplifies SidelineSwap’s commitment to innovation, enabling retail partners to create circular shopping experiences and fostering a sustainable and accessible marketplace for sports enthusiasts worldwide.

Students were tasked with pitching one of three solutions proposed by the CEO himself: 

Identifying Potential Sales Opportunity:

Identify a sport with over $10 million annual secondhand gear sales potential, requiring research on market size and characteristics for a successful second-hand marketplace.

Creating a User Experience Using AI:

Design an AI-driven user experience to address user problems and drive positive outcomes for SidelineSwap.

Designing a Solution For Cleaning Bats and Clubs in Bulk:

Propose solutions for efficiently cleaning baseball bats, softball bats, and golf clubs in bulk before listing on SidelineSwap.

Integrating AI into the UI: Securing 1st place, API-tizer tackled the challenge by suggesting an innovative incorporation of AI into SidelineSwap’s user interface. Rather than taking the conventional route of directly enhancing the user experience, API-tizer put forth a groundbreaking proposal to integrate AI seamlessly into SidelineSwap’s UI. This integration, facilitated through an API, was specifically aimed at photo verification and data-related processes for enhanced verification. The team not only addressed the prompt but also demonstrated forward-thinking by devising cost-effective strategies for the smooth integration of this advanced tool. Their pitch underscored a profound understanding of how strategically deploying AI could fortify user trust and elevate the overall credibility of the platform.

Savvy Sam: Claiming the 2nd place position, Team Sam directed their focus toward creating a more personalized and efficient user experience. Their innovative solution involved introducing a virtual chat assistant, named Sam, to SidelineSwap’s website. This AI-powered assistant was conceptualized to facilitate personalized user interactions, streamlining the process for users to find customized sports gear more efficiently. Team Sam’s approach emphasized the importance of user-centric design and showcased a commitment to enhancing the overall journey for SidelineSwap users, aligning with the prompt’s objective of using AI to drive positive outcomes for the business.

Squeaky Clean Solutions: The Clean Team, securing 3rd place, devised a meticulous solution aimed at optimizing the cleaning process for SidelineSwap. Acknowledging the operational challenge of managing thousands of sports products, especially baseball bats, softball bats, and golf clubs, the team presented an innovative proposal. Their approach involved implementing ultrasonic cleaners for golf clubs, demonstrating a practical and cost-effective strategy to enhance efficiency and reduce costs in the cleaning process. The Clean Team’s pitch showcased a thorough understanding of the operational intricacies within SidelineSwap’s warehouses, highlighting the significance of maintaining product quality through streamlined cleaning procedures.

Thank you to our judges, Tom Brennan ’86, Terry Waters ’81, and Brendan Candon ’10 for their invaluable time, expertise, and thoughtful evaluation during the SidelineSwap Innovation Challenge.

Winners:

First Place team

API-tizers (Meggan Fourie ’25, Maura Switzer ’25, Ivor Teagle ’25)

1st Place – $1,000:  API-tizers (Meggan Fourie ’25, Ivor Teagle ’25, Maura Switzer ’25)

2nd Place – $500: Team Sam (Nico Corporon ’26, Sean Doyle ’26)

3rd Place – $250: Clean Team (Briana Sullivan ’24, Nico Popeleski ’26, Maya Kryzwda ’24)

Written by Liz Garfield ‘24 

From Liberal Arts to Co-founder and CEO: A Conversation with Brendan Candon ’10

Alumni Highlight Picture

The Innovation Challenge provides students with a unique opportunity to collaborate with local businesses or non-profits, addressing real-world issues and presenting innovative solutions. This year, the challenges are focused on SidelineSwap, an online marketplace for sporting equipment co-founded by Holy Cross alumnus Brendan Candon ’10. In a recent interview with Maeley Nakamura ’26, Brendan shared his journey from a political science major at a liberal arts school to becoming the CEO of SidelineSwap and how his experiences at Holy Cross shaped his entrepreneurial success.

MN: As a political science major at Holy Cross, how did your liberal arts education contribute to your entrepreneurial success?

BC: “As an entrepreneur, there’s no blueprint. You’re constantly problem-solving and learning across a broad surface area. And the learning is often self-directed. There’s no better foundation for entrepreneurship than liberal arts because you learn how to learn and you have an opportunity to study a broad range of subjects – from economics and accounting to political science and psychology. 

Majoring in political science helped prepare me for an environment where the right answer is often far from obvious. I learned to think critically, consider multiple perspectives, understand multiplayer strategy, and communicate persuasively. 

In both politics and business, it’s up to the leader to ask the right questions, distill the information at hand, make the best decision possible and influence their teams to pursue that plan of action. As a political science major and history minor, I had an opportunity to study these dynamics through history’s most challenging conflicts and greatest leaders, and I think that prepared me well for life as an entrepreneur.” 

Long before Brendan founded SidelineSwap, he had a history of starting businesses and talks about his successes and failures along the way, and the story of how SidelineSwap started. 

MN: Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Continue reading “From Liberal Arts to Co-founder and CEO: A Conversation with Brendan Candon ’10”

Student Incubator Success

Wilox, a student startup focused on making the world a cleaner place, is part of the Holy Cross student-run incubator.  Earlier this month (11/13/18) they competed at the Beantown Throwdown (part of Global Entrepreneurship week) pitch contest hosted at LogMeIn, sponsored by Nutter/John Loughnane ’87 P19.  The student team placed second, beating teams from MIT, Harvard, BC, BU, Tufts, McGill, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health, Wentworth, Brandeis, and Berklee.

Congratulations to the Wilox team!

Pictured from left to right: Joe Egan ’19: Business Development, Mike Brown ’19: Director of Sales, Luke Knox ’22: Co-Founder/CEO,  Mary Anne Wiley ’22: COO, Paul Wiley ’20: President/Founder, Eric Lane ’21: Product Manager, John Bowen ’22: User Research, and Nolan Howard ’19: Market Research

“Tremendous job by the student team in competing so effectively! Congratulations to all involved! Great job too by the entire team from the Ciocca center for Business, Ethics, and Society at the College including Director David Chu and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Ja-Naé Duane.”  – John Loughnane ’87 P19: Partner, Nutter


The Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program, led by Ja-Nae Duane, provides students the opportunity to utilize and build upon their liberal arts education while learning the fundamentals of starting a venture and keeping a company relevant in this fast-changing world.  The new Certificate of Entrepreneurship offered through the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society provides students with comprehensive and structured programming to acquire technical business skills and experiences.

The Incubator started in 2018 with two student entrepreneurs, Paul Wiley ’20 and Joe Egan ’19. They currently have over 40 members and work with 4 different student ventures. Their goal is to teach the entrepreneurial method across campus which in turn will allow students to make their business dreams a reality as a part of the E&I programming.

Thanks for reading! Cassie

Cassie Gevry, Associate Director of Student Engagement
Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society

The Great Balancing Act

Cara Gontarz Hume ’03
Senior HR Leader, General Electric Finance
Major: Political Science

It seems as though achieving a healthy work-life balance in today’s society is unattainable. Finding harmony between a demanding work schedule and a role as a mother, or juggling classwork, a social life and sleep as a student is exhausting. As highly motivated women with many goals, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

Meet Cara Gontarz Hume, one of our fellow female Crusaders, who has created a balance between her career and family that works for her. Hume is the Senior Human Resources Leader for General Electric Finance and has three children all under the age of five-years-old. With an executive career and three young kids, she asks herself a question that many struggle with, “Can I still work and be a great mom?” For Hume, the answer is yes. She has managed to be present as a mother while simultaneously progressing her career. She remembers going on maternity leave for the first time and how worrisome it was balancing her career with the vision of what it means to be a mom. However, when she sat down with her manager and explained her situation, he gave her the life changing advice of, “just leave early.” In that moment, Hume discovered that the keys to balancing her home life with her work life were setting priorities and not keeping her two lives separate from each other.

Hume recalls the once defined line between work and personal life: “I was taught, you keep work at work and home at home.” However, throughout her career, she has seen a change in this attitude to which she attributes much of her success. She explains that she brings her full self to work not hiding that she is a working mother with three young kids. She explains, “I will be there and deliver but I do carve out time for kids. I do not use them as an excuse or a limiting factor, just part of who I am.”

As a student at Holy Cross, she was able to develop her time management skills. Like many students on the Hill, she managed a schedule of rigorous courses, a competitive athletic schedule and a variety of other campus activities. The ingrained concept of Cura Personalis, or “care of the whole person,” is a mentality promoted at Holy Cross that has contributed to much of her success. Hume says she draws upon these ideas of caring for the mind, body, and soul as a foundation of her whole-self resulting in a better self.

Multiple priorities are hard to balance and this difficulty will never go away. Hume emphasizes the importance of setting parameters around prioritizing personal time. She says, “If you don’t set a framework for personal time you will burn out. And no one will set it for you.” Everyone has their own tips and tricks on how to balance commitments, but what has worked for Hume is making a habit of taking personal time. She advises, “Make an actual plan. Mark it on your calendar and block it off.” Mark off family dinner or gym time. Put drinks with friends in your calendar and stick with the designated schedule. Having personal time marked into the calendar will make it part of your routine, making it harder to let your personal time go by the way side. Additionally, she warns, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew and avoid the extremes.” Hume also recommends constantly turning inward for personal assessments. Nobody’s fulfillment plan will be the same so it is important to check in with yourself to make sure you are happy with the way life is going.

With the school year starting up soon and new projects beginning at work, try using Hume’s trick and mark your calendar with consistent “me time” to care for yourself. Happy balancing!

Continue reading “The Great Balancing Act”

Weekly Wednesday Workshops

The Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Ja-Naé Duane, is working with the student club HCEG (Holy Cross Entrepreneurs Group) to offer a series of workshops designed to help you make your idea a reality!  Get involved and compete in the annual spring Shark Tank competition.

Each Wednesday meeting is held from 6:30pm-8pm in Hogan 402/403.  See you there!

> Wed., October 18th: Pitch Night!
Have a project or an idea you are working on? Could you use a little money to work on it? Come to this open mic and tell us about your idea or project and why you could use some financial help. Then your peers will decide. No slides. No suits. Two-three minute pitch. Just you and your idea. That’s it!

> Wed., October 25th: Rapid Prototyping
When you have an idea sometimes you just need to put together a prototype for people to see. Within this session, we will go through the different types of prototypes you can create, how to do paper prototypes, as well as digital prototypes.

> Wed., November 1st: Find a Co-Founder Networking Event
Want to do a startup, but need a co-founder or to build out your team. Come to this networking event and meet like-minded individuals who might have an interest in teaming up with you and doing something great.

> Wed., November 15th: Pitch Night!
Have a project or an idea you are working on? Could you use a little money to work on it? Come to this open mic and tell us about your idea or project and why you could use some financial help. Then your peers will decide. No slides. No suits. Two-three minute pitch. Just you and your idea. That’s it!

CONTACT: Ja-Naé Duane, Entrepreneur-in-Residence & Lecturer at the College. Stop by her office to say hello in Stein 129C and check out the new co-working space.

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2017 Women in Business Conference – REGISTRATION OPEN!

As a student at College of the Holy Cross, homework, sports practice, club meetings and the job search can be overwhelming. How can a student at Holy Cross possibly manage to build their network while also meeting deadlines?

Answer: The Women in Business Conference.

Every November, the Women in Business Committee brings upwards of 200 student and alumnae together to meet, chat about life on the Hill and learn about life in the real world in Hogan Ballroom. The all day event includes FOOD, FUN and NETWORKING! What more could you want from a Saturday on the Hill? The alumnae that travel back to their alma mater are here to talk with student, dish out great advice and if you’re lucky, hand you their business cards for the next time you’re in their area.

This year on Saturday, November 11, Chief Communications Officer of GE, Deirdre Latour is coming to talk about her life at Holy Cross as a History major and how she became the awesome, powerful, inspiring woman she is today! Check out the agenda, panels and alumnae on the website.  Be sure to register while you are there!

This year’s sponsors include: GE, PepsiCo, Deloitte and Eaton Vance. In addition to sponsoring this incredible event, GE and PepsiCo will also be sending alumnae representatives to the college to have recruiting lunches. This of course is by application ONLY, so be sure to get your resumes in early to have a little extra face to face time with these two fantastic companies! How do you apply? 1) Register for the conference 2) Send your resume to prebusiness@holycross.edu


If you’re missing out on the Women in Business Conference, your missing out on networking with some of the most fun, charismatic and passionate women in the world of business. Be sure to register for your spot now!

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Thank you to Casey Carty ’18, WIB Student Committee Member, for this great write up.  Hope to see you at the conference on Saturday, November 11, 2017! #HCWIB #HCWomeninBiz

Meet Riley Benner ’20: Founder of Phoenix Haberdashey

Riley Benner’ 20
Summer Assistant, Prebusiness Office
Founder, Phoenix Haberdashery

“I wanted to take subjects that I truly enjoy like philosophy and political science, but still gain the technical skills to be successful following graduation. That is exactly what Holy Cross has offered me: the ability to pair a liberal arts education with a professional business understanding.”

1) Why did you choose Holy Cross?
At the time I was applying to schools I was looking for a small college with a Jesuit identity. There was no better fit than HC. I wanted to learn more about the business world, but I didn’t want my whole schedule taken up by accounting, economics, and management classes. I wanted to take subjects that I truly enjoy, like philosophy and political science, but still gain the technical skills to be successful following graduation. That is exactly what Holy Cross has offered me: the ability to pair a liberal arts education with a professional business understanding.

2) What has been your favorite aspect of Holy Cross?
Hands down… the people. You hear that the Holy Cross network is incredible. They aren’t lying. The Prebusiness Office has been especially supportive with my startup. Every member of the HC community – professors, staff, alumni, and even students – truly want to see their fellow crusaders succeed.

3) Tell me more about your startup.
Junior year of high school I started a company called Phoenix Haberdashery, a high-end mens’ accessory brand known for its line of reversible, double-sided neckties.  All of our employees are refugees who came to America to escape violence and tyranny. For most of them working with us was their first job, which is why we use the Phoenix to represent the brand- it symbolizes rebirth and new opportunities. Each tie purchased will tell the story of the sewer who made it, a powerful way to show our customers that not only was their tie handmade and carefully constructed, but it was done by someone with an incredible story.  Keep up with these stories on Instagram.

4) How have you been involved with the Entrepreneurial Studies & Prebusiness Office?
When I decided halfway through the second semester of my freshmen year to resume my company, I knew that the first place to go would be the Office of Entrepreneurial Studies. I met with Professor Chu and two other faculty to learn about (and later receive) the Ignite Fund, a grant that allows students to gain capital and jumpstart their ideas. Professor Chu also invited me to an alumni networking event in Boston for entrepreneurs. I went, pitched my idea, and met several alumni who have been incredibly helpful in Phoenix Haberdashery’s early development. I decided to stay in Worcester over the summer and was hired to work in the Prebusiness Office. While here, I’ve been learning about business administration and getting tips on how to successfully scale my startup.

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If you want to learn more about the Entrepreneurial Studies & Prebusiness Office, check out our website and follow us on Instagram. Thank you Riley, for sharing your story – we look forward to seeing your business grow!

 

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