Iona College students deliver recommendations to support minority- and women-owned businesses in Mount Vernon

Student Achievements, Academics

NEW ROCHELLE, NY – Students at Iona College’s Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation have developed ideas on how the City of Mount Vernon can improve its support for minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs).

The students presented the results from their design thinking innovation project on May 2 after a monthlong analysis of feedback they received from Mount Vernon business owners about the challenges of winning government contracts. The students’ recommendations to Mount Vernon officials included appointing a small-business ambassador; organizing more workshops on how to bid for government contracts; and creating a database of all MWBEs in the city.

“You’ve started something new in Mount Vernon,” Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard told the students. “In order to partner with someone who’s offering you a service, we really need to know and understand what we need, and you are helping us to answer those questions.”

The partnership between the Hynes students and Mount Vernon was facilitated by the Business Council of Westchester’s Westchester Innovation Network (WIN), which is focused on innovation as the underpinning for the future economic growth of Westchester.

Iona President Seamus Carey, Ph.D., told students that their hard work both inside and outside of the classroom is vitally important, and that Mount Vernon has unlimited potential.

“I am so proud of the work you are doing to help foster the success of both the business community and of the city itself,” Carey said. “This kind of work stems from the core of our mission at Iona.”

Iona University and members from Mount Vernon and the Business Council of Westchester’s Westchester Innovation Network (WIN).

WIN’s Practical Innovation Project began on April 4 in Mount Vernon, where Iona students kicked off their work by meeting with owners of MWBEs. The entrepreneurs explained their struggles finding government requests for proposals, bidding on government contracts and tolerating government contracts’ payment schedules.

Rob Kissner, designer-in-residence at the Hynes Institute, said the collaboration with Mount Vernon was a valuable opportunity for Iona’s students to apply their learning beyond the classroom.

“We’ve been able to go out and actually meet with stakeholders from the community to solve real-world problems,” said Kissner. “All the problems we’re solving in class are real, but it’s very different when it’s something you observe in class versus the issues that we faced in this project looking to support MWBEs and increasing the number of contracts they win.”

Mayor Patterson Howard asked the Hynes students to continue their work with the city, and she invited them to upcoming events focusing on Mount Vernon’s small businesses. Establishing long-term relationships and new avenues for ideas are part of the WIN program’s goal, said Dr. Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester.

“The students’ recommendations are just the beginning,” said Gordon. “I look forward to what the students and Mount Vernon officials can accomplish later this year as they move to implement some of their ideas.”