Thursday, February 27, 2020

Recapping EforAll Lowell Lawrence Winter 2020 All Ideas Pitch Contest

Lawrence Community Works Hosted EforAll
Lawrence Community Works hosted an EforAll Lowell Lawrence pitch contest on Thursday, February 20th. The theme was All Ideas, and indeed the ideas were diverse: ranging from estate planning services and dating coaching to cricket protein and a literary magazine.  There was a good crowd there when I arrived and it grew right up until time for the pitches.

Crowd Checking out the Tables
The scheduled pitchers were:
  • Estate Planning -- Marilenin Vasquez
  • Magic and Color Co. -- Alicia Tucker
  • One Wish Project -- Hannah Finn
  • Salon KrySTYLE -- Krystal Linton
  • Social Matrix -- Armin Asadishad
  • Sustainable Food Solutions -- Ken Furuyama
I made my way to as many of the tables as possible and so many of them were of interest to me that I used up my three "Table Favorite" voting stickers really quickly. It is genuinely fun to hear about so many different ideas. Oh, and there was Tripoli pizza too to make it a really fun night.

Salon KrySTYLE
Salon KrySTYLE offers a unique salon experience. Krystal is expert at styling all kinds of textures and cultural/ethnic hair types, for a customized look unique to you. What really differentiates 
Salon KrySTYLE from other salons is specialized support for people with special needs, especially working with people who have autism or dementia -- they'll even come to you if you can't get to the salon.
Assemble-and-Match 3D Printed Molecular Models
Assemble-and-Match caught my eye immediately with their table full of 3D-printed molecules.  When I got to talk to them, I got even more excited. Their "Assemble-and-Match" tool combines physical and computer-aided modeling techniques in one tool for finding effective drug molecules, making the drug discovery process more systematic and streamlined. I couldn't wait to tell my  biochemist niece about it.
Magic and Color Co.
Magic and Color is a both a retail shop and  a community for mothers of young children.  I like the idea of a store with activities for moms and kids.
Sustainable Food Solutions
Sustainable Food Solutions aims to change the way people eat by producing high quality insect protein with a small ecological footprint. It was enlightening to hear the relationship between eating cricket protein and conserving the planet. I admit I didn't try the sample cricket protein snack, but many folks did try and like them. You can find more information on the Bug Bite Farm Facebook page.
Nvestment NU -- Gary Haywood Motivational Speaker
I enjoyed talking with Gary Haywood about what he offers as a motivational speaker based on the experiences and changes he's made in his own life. I would have liked to hear him pitch. I did give him one of my table favorite stickers.

One Wish Project
One Wish Project provides a custom homemade birthday cake, party decorations and presents to create memorable birthday celebrations for kids living in homeless shelters.  Hannah said that her Mom always made sure she and her siblings felt special on their birthdays and she wants to make birthdays feel special for these kids too, despite their living situation.

Exposed Brick Literary Magazine
What a thrill to encounter the folks from Exposed Brick Literary Magazine -- Lawrence's newest literary venture based at El Taller. They won the table favorite voting.  I can't wait to see the first issue!
Twilight got the wild card slot to pitch their planning services working with young people to get their financial future off to a good start.
Social Matrix -- Dating Coach
Social Matrix coaches men on how to use online dating services/apps in a healthy manner to find the right match.
Espresso Cafe's table offered samples of his delicious baked goods and displayed a cardboard model of the proposed cafe.

Marilenin Vasquez -- Estate Planning
I didn't chat with Marilenin Vasquez when I made my table rounds, but I really enjoyed her pitch. There definitely needs to be more emphasis on estate planning.   She was first up to pitch and her pitch was well-received by audience and judges.

Attentive Crowd Listening to the Pitches
The judges this time were:
  • Matt Fates -- Founder and General Partner Pulse Ventures
  • Michele Popham -- District Executive of Northern Mass Santander Bank
  • Daryl Swanson -- Director of Marketing ALKU Consulting
  • Arleen Zorrilla -- IDA Coordinator at Lawrence Community Works
  • Grecin Martinez -- La Mega Radio
Salon KrySTYLE Pitch
After the pitches, the judges went off to another room to deliberate and the audience voted on the fan favorite.

The winners are:
  • Fan Favorite: Twilight
  • 3rd Prize: Sustainable Food Solutions
  • 2nd Prize: One Wish
  • 1st Prize: Estate Planning
Congratulations to all!
Twilight -- Fan Favorite

Sustainable Food Solutions -- Third Place

One Wish -- Second Place

Estate Planning -- First Place
The next pitch contest is coming up in April with a "Main Street" theme. Check out the event details  on the EforAll Lowell Lawrence web site.

Monday, September 23, 2019

#MIN126 Recap

Entrepreneurs, innovators, networkers, experts, and all kinds of people converged on UMass Lowell Innovation Hub (iHub) Haverhill on Wednesday night September 18th for Mass Innovation Nights'  #MIN126 event.  Sponsors in addition to UML were the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and Lightspeed Manufacturing.
View of Basiliere Bridge and Merrimack River from iHub Haverhill
The four presenters chosen for the night by online voting ahead of the event were: 
  • The Laughing Tree Organics
  • Spirit Box
  • Our Cards
  • Personal Remedies
The product showcase was spread out over two rooms and people were buzzing around both rooms checking out the tables. It was a great atmosphere for chatting with the entrepreneurs. Many of the attendees I talked to were from the greater Haverhill/Merrimack Valley area and it felt good to see so much local support. The event drew from all over though -- I talked to one man who had driven up from Foxborough spending 2 hours in traffic.
Crowd Checking out the Product Showcase
Several of the entrepreneurs were people I'd already met either at previous Mass Innovation Nights events or through EforAll. There was a great EforAll presence with alums from several different of cohorts and people I remembered from pitch contests. Keysie, Our Cards, and Spirit Box are all EforAll alums from different  accelerator cohorts. It's great to see progress, whether I last saw someone last week or last year.

It was great to see Karen Kearsley, the creator of Keysie, again with her latest product. Key-Shirt is a customized mouth guard holder to help prevent student athletes keep their mouth guards from getting dirty and growing bacteria when stashed at the bottom of their sports bags.  Key-Shirt keeps the mouth guard in a convenient container that clips onto the bag. Customized with the team logo, it helps promote team spirit and offers a cool opportunity for a fundraiser.  It also provides a convenient place for emergency contact numbers.
Key-Shirt Clips Right Onto your Bag

Personal Remedies has presented at Mass Innovation Nights several times, going back into the distant mists of time. Founder Mory Bahar demonstrated the knowledge base of  food interactions with chronic diseases. It uses AI and the latest science on nutrition and health to automate personalized dietary guidance.
Personal Remedies Table

Presenting Personal Remedies
Obaggo makes it possible to recycle your plastic bags with your curbside recycling. It's a kitchen appliance that takes the plastic bags and other packaging like bread bags and cereal box liners and makes them into a shape that will not clog up the recycling machinery -- the main thing that keeps plastic bags from being recycled.
Talking Recycling with Obaggo
Spirit Box  is more than a gift box subscription it's a way of sharing inspiration. A community of young girls and teens come together around love of a trendy subscription box celebrating positivity and social good. It's a way of bringing moms and daughters together, building more confident young women, and spreading inspiration in the wider community. It was great to see Spirit Box again and to see the new logo and color scheme.

Spirit Box
New Branding for Spirit Box
IT Squared showcased an application that provides analytics and visualizations of the data collected by Splunk AppInternals, making it easier to manage and make decisions based on all the monitoring data collected for all the systems and devices your IT department is managing.

IT Squared is a monitoring system for facilities management. It collects real-time data from small inexpensive sensors (those little white things on the table in the photo) and makes the information available to the landlords and building managers, to the tenants, and to service providers.  This makes it really easy to keep commercial real estate comfortable and reduce operating costs. Trust me, this is cooler than it sounds.
The Laughing Tree Organics offers skin and hair care products that are made from organic, plant-based extracts, herbs and oils that are biodegradable, and sustainably sourced. They're made without all those harmful preservatives, artificial fragrances, sulfates and other disruptive chemicals.
These lip balms, botanical shampoo bars, moisturizers, cleansers and scrubs are available in a variety of natural fragrances. I have to say their table smelled delightfully of lavender and I left with a wonderful sample of lemon lip balm.
The Laughing Tree Organics
OurCards is another EforAll alum, which I mentioned in my previous blog post. We'd just seen each other less than a week ago, but it was still great to get together again. I love how Our Cards lets you create a customized deck of playing cards featuring your family members. One of the coolest things about it is you can download information from genealogy websites and feature your ancestors in your deck! It's a great way to get the family to relate to each other, learn a bit about their ancestors, and have a great time playing cards. Whether you're playing Go Fish, Gin, or 45s (only Merrimack Valley denizens will know what 45s is)  who wouldn't want to play with such a fun deck. I've been fantasizing about my great aunt as the Queen of Hearts ...
Our Cards
The PhoneSafe System from Live Undistracted is definitely an idea whose time has come. It's an app to help commercial fleets reduce costly accidents caused by phone-related distracted driving. It makes it easy for fleet managers to enforce their phone policies, promote good driving habits and eliminate the phone as a safety hazard for their drivers. PhoneSafe automatically knows when the vehicle is taken out of and put back into Park so it can turn on a SafeMode and it can notify the fleet manager when a driver is violating the company's phone policy while still preserving the driver's privacy and not interfering with performance.
PhoneSafe (right)
Congratulations to the Audience Choice winners:  
  • Personal Remedies
  • Microshare
  • Spirit Box
  • Obaggo -- Grand Prize

The Audience Choice Winners
For the traditional Expert Looking Expert photo, here is Karen Hamlin of UMass Lowell's Core Research Facilities looking very expert.
Expert Looking Expert
The next Mass Innovation Nights event is the 6th annual Women Founders Event ( #MIN127)  kicking off WEBOS Week on October 7 at 6PM at District Hall in the Boston Seaport District.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Recapping the EforAll Summer Accelerator Awards Celebration

The 2019 Summer Accelerator Cohort
Last Thursday UMl iHub in Lowell hosted a celebration for the entrepreneurs who just completed the EforAll Lowell Lawrence 2019 Summer Accelerator. It was a pleasure to join in celebrating their accomplishments and the great things to come.
Folks Checking Out the Product Showcase
 A product showcase, speeches, food catered by EforAll alum Woodland Catering, and the awarding of big checks made up the agenda for evening. Because this cohort featured several food entrepreneurs, ranging from chocolate truffles to microgreens, there were many delicious tastes to experience. Checking out the product showcase was even more fun than usual.
Keynote Speaker Lydia Blanchard
The keynote speaker was Lydia Blanchard of Sweet Lydia's who gave a great talk about her entrepreneurial journey and about the parallels between entrepreneurship and motherhood. She was full of insight and humor.
Class Speaker
Jennifer Flores -- The Traveling Stylist
Class speaker Jennifer Flores, The Traveling Stylist, inspired us with her story and gave us a glimpse into what it was like to be part of this cohort.
Milk + Sugar Chocolates
The Brazilian chocolate truffles from Milk + Sugar Chocolates were absolutely delicious. I loved the salted caramel!
Chocolates -- Even More Delicious than They Look
There was just so much inspiration and so many good flavors, that the whole evening felt wonderful and I didn't even get to taste everything or photograph everything.

A Youngster Asking Questions About Neighbor's Acre Microgreens

Micro Beet Greens from Neighbor's Acre
The playlist provided by Trend Media added to the fun atmosphere. Seems like this cohort of entrepreneurs had a little of everything you need to feel good and inspired.

Trend Media

Simply Biscotti

Besides food, there were custom playing cards, fashionable accessories, traveling beauty services for folks who are home-bound, and personal coaching for mental and physical health.
Scarab Studios
The Traveling Stylist

Our Cards
The room was buzzing with positive energy the whole time. It was great to see Our Best Year Ever and Neighbor's Acre getting lots of attention.
Loads of Positive Energy in this Crowd (Left: Our Best Year Ever; Right: Neighbor's Acre)
The money was awarded as follows:
  • $1,000 The Christina Hamilton Award  to Sing Thanousith of Hop Sing In Town,  a Lowell-based food pop-up shop/food truck serving a varied menu of tasty and healthy fast food including chicken wings, rice, and stir-fried vegetables.
  • $1,000.00 to Karen Vasso of Neighbor's Acre, locally grown microgreens. Her microgreens are sold in local farmer’s markets and by subscription.
  • $2,000.00 to Natalie Garcia, of Our Best Year Ever, a lifestyle coaching program for mothers, promoting mental health and overall wellness.
  • $2,000.00 to Jennifer Castro-Flores, of The Traveling Stylist LLC , a service that brings salon/beauty services to your home. 
  •  $3,500.00 to Amanda Campos, of Milk + Sugar, a chocolate company specializing in brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolate truffles).
Neighbor's Acre

Our Best Year Ever

The Traveling Stylist

Milk + Sugar
Congratulations to all!