In developing a safer way to cross the street, Sandy Perilli found herself coming home.
To Stevens Institute of Technology.
Perilli M.S. ’03 engaged a team of MBA students in the School of Business to help her build a business plan for her startup concept — an extendable arm that allows a parent to walk alongside, rather than behind, a stroller, improving pedestrian visibility and safety.
With the help of the student team, Perilli fleshed out the plan for her company, got valuable feedback on the product and her target audience, and in December launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Stroller Controller.
“The atmosphere at Stevens is so welcoming. It feels like coming home,” said Perilli, owner of Safe BeeSide Me. “Working with Stevens brought my project to entirely new levels.”
'Second nature' for Stevens MBAs
The MBA students became involved in the project through the Industry Capstone Program at Stevens. This capstone course challenges students to apply what they learn in the MBA curriculum to a real problem faced by a company.
Perilli, who has a master’s in Information Systems from Stevens, has plenty of experience in business, including a project leadership role at Wyeth (now Pfizer). She looked to the student team to bring a fresh perspective to her idea.
“The biggest surprise about working with this group was how much they already knew,” she said. “These are big, advanced concepts, and these three just took it on as though it were second nature.”
For Zichun Piao, an Analytics MBA student, the experience restored confidence she felt she'd lost in coming to the United States as she struggled to overcome language and cultural barriers.
“This course, and our professor, helped me again become confident in myself,” she said. “We were given a lot of space to explore different ideas, and Sandy always gave our insights a lot of respect.”
Perilli’s inspiration for the Stroller Controller came from seeing near-accidents involving drivers and pedestrians. It’s a growing problem, with urban areas becoming more dense and drivers facing more distractions behind the wheel. A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 2018 the most dangerous year for pedestrians and cyclists since 1990.
A plan for success
In the team’s final report, delivered to Perilli on the Stevens campus, the students presented their business plan, including recommendations on diversification and differentiation of the brand, as well as engagement with influencers. The plan was informed by interviews with prospective customers, research on angel investors, exploring new social media strategies and figuring out which crowdfunding platform was likely to generate the greatest return.
MBA student Suyang Wang said the Industry Capstone Program was a fitting test of the professional skills, like communication, presentation and collaboration, honed throughout her time at Stevens.
“We all had different ideas about the direction to take the project in,” Wang said. “Being able to communicate effectively was important to our success.”
For Analytics MBA student Yang Lin, the experience was especially helpful, as he hopes to start his own business after graduating.
“This course just feels more personal than other courses we take,” he said. “We’re part of a team, we’re all working on the same problem. I really enjoyed the time working with the team and seeing how we came up with different ideas, working together and working with Sandy.”
For Professor Mike Parfett, the success the students enjoyed was a result of their education and hard work, but also Perilli’s enthusiasm.
“Sandy was all in on this project,” he said. “The students have ideas at all hours, they send emails to each other in the middle of the night. Sandy got into the habit. She gave the students full access, any time of day or night, and that added so much to this project.”
Perilli is continuing her Kickstarter campaign while increasing her outreach to hospitals and police departments. If she raises the funds required to begin manufacturing, she said, part of her success will be owed to her work with the School of Business.
“At Stevens, you have this young perspective and a legendary perspective” — Parfett — “all in one place,” she said. “It’s unlike anywhere else. These students will be successful in whatever they put their minds to in the future.”