Hometown: Sherman, Conn.
Major: Business Administration
WCSU Degree: Master of Business Administration
Activities: Boy Scouts of America committee member, self-employed small business owner
Honors and Awards: 3.6 GPA; first place, 2012 Connecticut Business Model Competition sponsored by Entrepreneurship Foundation of Connecticut; Grand prize winner, Giants Entrepreneurship Challenge; invited speaker, WCSU Entrepreneurship lecture
Michael Carpanzano is a 32-year-old small business owner, single father and man with a vision — and the determination to see it through. He graduated from the University of Vermont in 2003 with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship and a minor in environmental studies. Ten years later, the construction company owner is about to earn his M.B.A. at Western and capitalize on his entrepreneurial dreams.
Carpanzano is the inventor of nuplug, a surge-protected extension cord that can be attached to furniture — making it more convenient and comfortable to use a smart device while it is being charged. Nuplug comes with a 10-foot cord that allows the user to plug it into an outlet behind a couch or other furniture to bring power to where it is needed in the form of two AC-power outlets and two USB plugs.
Carpanzano was able to formulate a business plan for his product as part of a student-directed study within the M.B.A. curriculum at Western. He says the opportunity to develop the study was invaluable because it gave him the opportunity to fine-tune his ideas and enter his invention in both the Connecticut Business Model Competition and the Giants Entrepreneurship Challenge. In the statewide contest, Carpanzano competed against 10 finalists representing Yale, Quinnipiac and other Connecticut universities. His first-place prize included a trophy for WCSU and $1,000 for himself. His faculty mentor, Associate Professor of Management Fred Maidment, encouraged Carpanzano to take it to the next level, and that was good advice. Carpanzano won the grand prize and $5,000 at the Giants Entrepreneurship Challenge in Grand Forks, N.D., beating out competing teams from the University of British Columbia, the University of Texas at Austin, Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Carpanzano was the only one-person team in the competition. "I want to give special thanks to Fred Maidment for allowing me to develop the study, because without him, none of this would have been possible."
Pursuing his M.B.A. at Western was the result of several factors, Carpanzano says. One was timing. "Because it had been less than 10 years since I received my B.B.A., I didn't have to take many of the core requirements for the M.B.A.," he says. "The proximity to home and work made a difference, too, since I am a single father who owns a business. That made WCSU the only choice."
Asked what he will remember most about his Western experience, Carpanzano says, "Taking my idea from concept to business plan and entering it into these competitions — and winning — is something I won't forget."
Carpanzano plans to launch a Kickstarter.com campaign to raise funds, start producing his product and turn it into a viable business. The campaign will raise money to begin manufacturing the product via crowd-sourcing. "It's the inverse of the conventional model," Carpanzano says. "Instead of having one major investor, you obtain small amounts of money from many people. For example, a $29 investment in the Kickstarter campaign will result in delivery of a nuplug when they begin shipping in the fall. So fundraising, marketing and pre-sale are all taking place at the same time." To view the campaign, visit www.supportnuplug.com.
Carpanzano’s advice to new students entering WCSU is: "Use the tools and the resources that are available to you now and use them as much as you possibly can because there are people here at the school who want you to succeed. They want to help you and they want you to reach out to them so they can. When you’re out in the workforce, that doesn’t exist nearly as much in as centralized a magnitude. Take advantage of what you have because it only lasts for a few years. If you actually have a direction and know what it is that you want to do, don’t wait until you get out into the workforce; start working on it now because people are much more likely to help you and open doors for you when you’re a student. If you’re just another person in the workforce, it is so much more difficult to be differentiated. If you have an idea, if you have a direction, if you want to pursue an opportunity, do it now — don’t wait."