• Next Big Idea Contest

    Worcester State University’s annual Next Big Idea Contest offers aspiring entrepreneurial students the opportunity to present their ideas for a new business to a group of experienced professionals and the chance to earn cash prizes to start or grow that business. It’s named for, and financially supported by, Class of 1958 alumnus Robert K. O'Brien, who has a long and distinguished career in business and 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."

    WSU students who have a dream to make a difference in the world can participate in this contest by preparing a formal proposal defining the “Next Big Idea” for a business, a service, or product.

    2017 Contest Dates

    • December 2017 (More details will be announced at the start of the fall semester.)
  • Submission Guidelines

    A complete proposal for the Next Big Idea Contest 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?
    • What is the market that you are targeting?
    • Why is your business different or better in some way than other similar businesses?
    • What is your competitive advantage?
    • Where will your business be located? (This might be or include the Internet)
    • How much will your business make by specific dates?
    • What are your financial goals?
    Faculty Mentors

    Elizabeth Siler is an associate professor in the Business Administration and Economics Department. She holds a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an M.B.A. from Simmons College, and a B.A. from Boston University. She teaches strategy, organizational behavior, and management electives, including business consulting and leadership. 

    Mim Plavin-Masterman is an assistant professor in our Business Administration and Economics Department. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University, an M.B.A. from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College, and a B.S. in Industrial Relations from Cornell University. Her areas of expertise include strategy, organizational behavior, organizational theory, and entrepreneurship.

    Spyridon "Ross" Tsakas is a visiting instructor in Business Administration and Economics. He is completing his Ph.D. in Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh and is an accomplished serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he gained funding and endorsement from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Health Organization, Royal Society of Edinburgh, and HRH Prince Charles, among others.

    Robert K. O’Brien ’58
    Robert K. O’Brien is the founder of the Next Big Idea competition and with his late wife Barbara has endowed a total of six scholarships for Worcester State University students. Mr. O’Brien whose parents sent an example of integrity and hard work started his own business career as a newspaper boy at the age of nine. By the time he graduated from Worcester State Teachers College in 1958 had been working full time since high school. He began his post college career at State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America which is now known as Hanover Insurance and retired as Vice President of Reinsurance in 1989 the next year he went on to found a reinsurance management company, Health Reinsurance Management Inc. which employed over 300 people. Now, “semi-retired” Mr. O’Brien remains active on many board of directors and is involved in venture capital support of many start up business. One of Worcester State’s most generous and committed alumni, Mr. O’Brien is constantly seeking ways he can support and encourage the most industrious and hardworking students at WSU.

    Craig Bovaird ’77
    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.

    Renee King ’12
    Renee King is the owner and founder of The Queen’s Cups Bakery in Worcester. After graduating from Worcester State University with a degree in Psychology Renee had planned to become a teacher. However her recreational talent for cupcake making that had previously only been a hobby became the basis of a hugely successful niche bakery. She opened her bakery in 2012 on a whim when a commercial space near her home became available and her sweet treats have been drawing accolades ever since.

    Dulcie Madden
    Dulcie Madden is the CEO and a co-founder of Rest Devices, Inc., the company behind Mimo. Mimo is building the first connected nursery, and they launched with their first product, the Mimo Baby Monitor, in February 2014 at the Intel keynote with Brian Krzanich, winning the Engadget 2014 Best of CES award. Mimo is the first wearable baby monitor, and has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, the Today Show, CNN, Bloomberg, and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine. Rest has raised $3.3M to date, and Dulcie leads a team of 11 people. Prior to Rest, Dulcie lived and worked for 4 years in India, where she lead management, operations and program development for the Deshpande Foundation. She has a BS in Biology from Georgetown University, an MPH from Boston University, and 1/2 and MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.