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!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

do you need some reasons to come to Lawrence this weekend?

Lawrence City Hall
Labor Day weekend has long been a weekend of celebration in Lawrence. This weekend marks the 96th Feast of the Three Saints, the 45th Mahrajan at Saint Anthony's Maronite Church, and the 35th  Bread and Roses Heritage Festival. The whole city becomes a celebration, bringing together labor history, immigrant history and culture, music, and food in a vibrant city still very much the Immigrant City. You can celebrate Italian culture, Lebanese culture, and labor history from Friday evening through Monday. Celebrating in a city that actually celebrates labor on Labor Day is reason enough to be here, but in case you need more reasons, here are a few.

Feast of the Three Saints


From from Friday evening through Sunday, the feast celebrates three Catholic saints — St. Alfio, St. Filadelfo and St. Cirino, brothers who were martyred for their faith almost 1,800 years ago. They have been commemorated with a feast in Trescastagni, Sicily for centuries and Italian immigrants who came to Lawrence to work in the mills brought the tradition with them. Come feel the Lawrence history as you enjoy food, music, and the procession.
The Main Stage at Feast of the Three Saints
Come for the most famous Sicilian treat: crispelli. These perfect little dough balls, plain or filled with ricotta or anchovy continue to be a big draw even after the tradition of making them has been passed from the beloved Italian Kitchen to Crispelli USA. My brother-in-law, who grew up in Lawrence, swears by the anchovy ones. I prefer the plain ones with sugar on them.  Crispelli USA also serves up the delicious arancini (rice balls) and multiple flavors of Italian sausage. And don't forget to grab some cannoli from the tent in the parking lot of the Holy Rosary Church and check out the food vendors along Common Street before or after you take in the music on the main stage or the Tripoli stage.

Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening/night, and Sunday afternoon all feature entertainment on both stages. I'm most looking forward to hearing Mike Girard's Big Swinging Thing. This band is enough reason to come to Lawrence even if you don't live right next door. Seriously folks, you do not want to miss a rock and roll big band with lots of horns put together by the legendary Mike Girard and featuring a couple of other members of one of the greater Boston area's most beloved bands: The Fools! Yes, I'm told they will do some Fools classics as well as covering many rock and roll standards. Speaking of The Fools, they're doing a show with the Stompers at Boarding House Park in Lowell on Saturday night (8/31)  and that's not all that far from Lawrence.

Bread and Roses Heritage Festival

Come learn about and celebrate the history and legacy of the 1912 strike that changed labor history. Take a trolley tour or a walking tour of the historic sites and check out the Lawrence History Live! tent for discussions of labor, industrial heritage, education, and community issues with historians, writers, union representatives, and community activists. The discussions range from the role of the Lawrence Lithuanian community in the 1919 textile strike (yup, that other significant Lawrence strike) with Lithuanian folklorist and weaver/artist Jonas Stundzia to lessons from the Puerto Rico protests with singer/songwriter and activist Ani Cordero. And that's just the history tent! Cordero will also be performing her music on the Bernstein stage.

The music line-up for this year's festival looks great with lots of different traditions: folk-pop, rock and roll, Peruvian Andean music, neo-ranchera, Klezmer and lots more. Just take a look at the schedule and you're sure to find something that catches your interest. Besides Ani Cordero, I'm also looking forward to hearing Julie Rhodes belt out some roots music.

The Crowd on Campagnone Common for Bread and Roses
On Labor Day from 11:30 AM - 6:00PM Campagnone Common hosts an amazing array of activities:
  • Three stages featuring music, storytelling, and even magic and juggling
  • Bread and Puppet Theater taking on the nature of reality through giant puppets 
  • Pony rides, face painting, reptiles, the KidzZone (creative stuff for kids), and other kid-friendly activities
  • Getting your portrait drawn by noted illustrator Ed Bray
  • The food court featuring foods of many cultures
If that's not enough to do, you'll also find community organizations, political candidates, and labor organizations tabling along with various vendors. The common becomes a microcosm of Lawrence and the world.

Lebanese Mahrajan Festival


Fresh Homemade Felafel
Who can resist mammoul, graybeh, or baklava? Who can resist felafel? There's plenty of time to get a taste of Lebanese culture at St. Anthony's Maronite Church.  With three days of music, dancing, games, hookah, Arabic coffee, raffles, and even dancing and cooking lessons,  Saint Anthony's church parking lot turns into a wonderland. The food is all homemade and delicious, the pastry tent is up to three tables long, the music is great, and the parishioners are friendly. You'll feel right at home partaking in this great Merrimack Valley tradition. Stop by  Friday 6PM-Midnight,  Saturday 5PM- Midnight, and Sunday Noon-Midnight.

Just the Ordinary Extraordinary Coolness of Lawrence


Besides the festivals, there's plenty of stuff to do and see in Lawrence this weekend. Here are just a few of the cool things you can do:

You might want to check out poster collector Stephen Lewis' exhibit of international labor posters at the Lawrence Heritage State Park Visitor Center. It's on exhibit through September 28.

There's always a reason to grab a coffee, enjoy some good food, check out the current art exhibit, and maybe buy some books at El Taller, a buzzing hub of community in downtown Lawrence.

Speaking of eating good food, I've heard that Chef Antonio at Cafe Azteca is cooking up a new special this weekend: chicken and shrimp in salsa de cacahuate. That salsa sounds amazing: roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic, morita, and peanuts.  (Hope I got that right.) 

Take a walk in search of some of the gorgeous murals painted by the Elevated Thought Foundation and local artists.

Just come to Lawrence and enjoy the city during its most festive weekend!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Recap: EforAll Lowell Lawrence Change the World Pitch Contest

On Thursday, August 22, Lowell's Kerouac Park hosted an EforAll Lowell-Lawrence pitch contest. What gorgeous night for an outdoor pitch contest! Mother Nature cooperated with comfortable temperatures and no more thunderstorms.
Perfect Night for a Pitch Contest
The theme for this contest was Change the World and it attracted a wide variety of ideas from mitigating climate change with Biochar to gourmet African hot sauce and everything in between. There was a decent-sized and lively crowd of entrepreneurs and their supporters. I checked out the tables, cast my table favorite votes, took photos, grabbed some delicious food from Empanada Dada (an EforAll Lowell-Lawrence Accelerator alum), and spent some time just enjoying the beautiful evening in the park.
Swan Patisserie Table
Another EforAll Lowell-Lawrence Accelerator alum,  Swan Patisserie, LLC, had a table selling their delicious pastry treats, but I was so full of tasty empanadas I had no room left for pastry.

Assertiv Table
Assertiv is a consulting service that helps people in business, government and education improve their public speaking skills through coaching, workshops and an app.  I enjoyed talking with Nathalie and practicing her PREP method of presenting a point. Once I made the rounds of the tables, I went back to make sure I gave her a vote to present. I was happy to see that she won the Table Favorite vote and got to present and that she won second prize.
Biochar Table
Urban Biochar is a new take on improving soil health and stormwater filtration with a type of carbonized biomass that differs from charcoal in the way it's created and in its filtering properties. The production process and the incorporation into the soil combine to make it carbon negative, which is definitely something we need. Do check out the link.
Weather Hazard Planning Workshop Table
Jerry is a weather strategist  who was pitching his weather hazard planning workshop. I think a lot of people were aware of needing a weather hazard plan after Wednesday's multiple tornado warnings. I was full of weather questions and enjoyed talking with him. We're going to need a lot more weather hazard planning around here as the climate changes and sea level rises.
A Couple of the Judges Checking out the UNIFIT Table
UNiFIT makes creative use of augmented reality to make it a whole lot easier to order clothes online that actually fit you.
Grass is Greener Table
Grass is Greener  is a YouTube vlog with a positive outlook. Chris was selling merch with the cool Grass is Greener logo to raise funds to support the vlogging effort. We chatted a bit about cameras before I took his picture.
USe Cart Table -- Part of the USe Cart Team
USe Cart pitched a smart shopping cart that takes self-checkout to new level -- not just reducing the long checkout lines but eliminating them -- and makes it work for small businesses too (not just the Amazons of the world). USe Cart, a UML DifferenceMaker, won the 2019 Rist Innovative Technology prize and was enormously popular at the pitch contest. It was no surprise that they won the Fan Favorite voting.
ArcLive Table
ArcLive  gives you access to research archives -- even stuff that's not digitized -- so you don't have to travel to do your historical or genealogical research.  I love the idea of reducing travel cost for scholars while making archives available.
Afro Gourmet Table
Afro Gourmet Specialist aims to bring the taste of Africa to your table. Tried some and loved it! Check her Facebook page (TroPical Spoon) to find where you can buy it. I hope to see it available in more places soon.
Sporvo Table
Sporvo is a mentorship program for former student athletes to mentor current student athletes in high school and middle school.
Needle Net Table
Needle Net keeps the area under and around the Christmas Tree neat and makes cleanup easy and environmentally friendly.  You attach it to the trunk of your real tree before it goes into the tree stand. It turns into a tree skirt and lets you just bag it up while the tree is still in the stand, and dispose of the shed needles and the skirt when you dispose of the tree.
Waist Beads Table
Waist Beads are a traditional African accessory that consist of small glass beads on a string or wire worn around the waist or hips. They can help you with body awareness and they just look cool.  Rita Ofori-Frimpong had a table full of gorgeous waist beads in different colors and shapes.
Revolutionary Creatives Table
Revolutionary Creatives is on a mission to nurture and connect the creative community.

The Judges
The judges for the evening were:
Mayor Bill Samaras welcomed us all to Lowell with a short speech to kick off the presentations.
Mayor Bill Samaras
Our EforAll Lowell-Lawrence masters of ceremonies were (as usual :-) ) Lianna Kushi and Joey Banh.
Lianna and Joy Introducing the Pitchers
The scheduled pitchers were ArcLive, Sporvo, UNiFIT, Afro Gourmet Specialist, Revolutionary Creatives, and USe Cart. Assertiv won the Table Favorite slot and Biochar got the wild card. There was an additional pitch from guest entrepreneur Caitlin McNamara, a rising entrepreneur at Lowell High, who pitched her Spritz Away stress-relieving scented spray.
Caitlin Pitching Spritz Away
The winners for the night were:
  • 1st Place: Afro Gourmet Specialist
  • 2nd Place: Assertiv
  • Third Place: Sporvo
  • Fan Favorite: Difference Maker Team: USe Cart
The Winners with their Huge Cardboard Checks