Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Clemson’s MBA competition inspires Innovation at Work


Lauren McCarter saw an innovative opportunity for her young outsourcing employee solution company and seized on it. That foresight earned the Clemson University MBAe student first place in the graduate program’s annual Innovation at Work competition.

As a provider of staffing, security and janitorial services to primarily the automotive and textile industries, McCarter Services, like other businesses, struggles with the costs of workers’ compensation claims.

“Workers’ compensation is very costly to outsourcing solution companies,” said McCarter, CEO of the Columbia, S.C.-based company that during peak seasons employs 4,200 in 12 states. “We wanted to find a solution to a problem that costs a company like ours up to $5 million in insurance claims annually.”

Lauren McCarter, Innovation at Work
Lauren McCarter’s ‘smart belt’ business idea earned her first place.

The solution, and the 28-year-old’s winning idea for finding a solution to a real-life business issue, was a “smart belt” that monitors an employee’s workplace movements. The belt’s “black box,” which attaches to a pant loop, collects data on a worker’s bending, kneeling, sitting and other bodily movements.

“The belt can help create a safer work environment because it beeps when a worker makes an aggressive bending movement (60 degrees or more). But its data can also be used to help mitigate workers’ compensation claims,” McCarter said.

McCarter was among the cohorts graduating in August who presented their business-solutions in the competition, which also served as a capstone project for the innovation and entrepreneurship graduate degree program.

“Innovation at Work empowers the MBAe working professionals to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world problems in their businesses,” said Greg Pickett, senior associate dean in the College of Business and director of MBA programs. “The outcomes of the cohorts’ presentations ultimately validate that what we are teaching in the classroom brings the desired results when directed at a business issue.”

Placing second and third, respectively, in the Innovation at Work competition were Baird Montgomery, whose smartphone app “CarMe” provides car buyers with true dealer costs on a vehicle and Alix Shepard, who presented a child day-care business model. Grove Learning Center exceeds regulatory teacher and staff ratio standards, in addition to offering extended hours to better meet parents’ needs.

CarMe allows a consumer to scan a vehicle’s VIN number on a dealer lot and identify rebates, incentives and other discounts to determine bottom-line costs of the dealership.

“Given that more than 80 percent of consumers will purchase their next vehicle at the dealership, CarMe’s intuitive technology enables the consumer to potentially save thousands of dollars over competing services,” Montgomery said.

Grove Learning Center offers a proprietary curriculum developed by experienced professionals. The business model has been developed by day-care experts who have operated the business in New York for 20 years.

“In addition to providing a higher quality of care, we offer parents care options during non-traditional working hours, including periodic weekend care for parents wanting a night out,” Shepard said.

First-place winner McCarter said her company is working with an upstate firm that developed the smart belt. She is about to trial test the belts in some of McCarter Services’ higher-risk businesses.

“The technology has the potential to create a safer work environment, lower turnover and save on medical costs,” McCarter said. “With a safer work environment and an ability to mitigate workers’ compensation claims, we are able to provide a better value to our customers.”

McCarter, who received an undergraduate degree at Clemson in parks, recreation and tourism management in 2012, credited Clemson’s MBAe program with providing her a business background that she wouldn’t get from a “traditional” graduate program.

“The professors really make the program successful. Matt Klein, for example, was a great mentor to all of the cohorts,” McCarter said. In addition to delivering an excellent curriculum on entrepreneurial strategy, Matt connected many of us with people important to our businesses. The benefits of the program reach far beyond the classroom.”

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