MCLA Community Invited to Vote on 2021 Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge

April 29, 2021

NORTH ADAMS, MA—The MCLA community is invited to view and vote on MCLA senior business plan pitches during the College’s virtual 2021 Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge (IEC). Voting is open from 5 p.m. on Monday, May 3 to 8 a.m. on Friday, May 7, and any member of the MCLA community (student, faculty, staff, alumni, or general community member) is eligible to vote once during that time.  

To watch and vote, visit 

Students began their projects with an idea, laid out a plan, and researched customer demand to determine viability. Each senior will present their business plan in a recorded eight-minute pitch. This year’s participants are: Lorenzo Cristofolini ’21, Cristo’s Consulting; Jake Ferrara ’21, Ferrara Lawn Care; Latisha Hargrett ’21, Strong Shoulders; Austin Miller ’21, Get Hooked Bait & Tackle; Andrew Nygard ’21, Wheels Now!; and Jakob Tuponce ’21, $ The Dough Place $. 

Afterwards, judges will deliberate and the community votes will be tallied to determine the winners. The first-place project will be awarded $7,500, second place $5,000, and third place $2,500 toward start-up funding to cover inventory, equipment, and marketing for the business.  

This year’s judges include North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard and Bruce Lessels, founder of Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, Massachusetts.    

All IEC participants will continue to be assisted by the Entrepreneur-in-Residence as they pursue their businesses. The IEC has launched several businesses that continue to grow. For more information, contact Entrepreneur-in-Residence Amy Shapiro at 

The winners will be announced at 5 p.m. on May 7 at 

For more information about the Challenge, visit 

About the judges: 

Tom W. Bernard was elected mayor of the City of North Adams in November 2017 and began his term in January 2018. He currently serves as chair of the school committee in the North Adams Public Schools, and is a member of the Berkshire Compact for Education, the Berkshire County Education Task Force’s governance subcommittee, the Berkshire Blueprint steering committee, and the Berkshire Leadership Impact Council. Mayor Bernard is a graduate of Drury High School, Williams College, and Westfield State University.  

Bruce Lessels retired in 2000 as president and founder of Zoar Outdoor, the first raft company on the Deerfield River. He is also a past board member of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, The Academy at Charlemont, and Double Edge Theatre. He is presently enjoying frequent bike rides and pursuing other interests.