Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Merrimack Valley Sandbox Social Impact Pitch Contest

Last night eight entrepreneurs pitched their social impact ideas for big cash prizes in front of the judges and the audience  at the Merrimack Valley Sandbox  in Lowell.  This was my first visit to the Sandbox's new space on the 6th floor of the Lowell Community Health Center. What a great space!

See those cool windows on the top floor? That's the place.
The crowd, about 70 or more, was very enthusiastic.
Crowd Checking Out The Tables And Networking

For a second, I thought I'd stumbled into #MINFoodie5 a day early, because the first entrepreneur I talked to was Christina Hamilton of Delightful Surprise Sweets.  Not only are the sweet treats delicious and customized, but the business provides opportunity for people with developmental disabilities.
Delightful Surprises

As I do at Mass Innovation Nights, I tried to check out all the projects/products before the pitches.  I talked to so many amazing people, that my head is still buzzing the next day. And I took so many photos, I should probably do a photo album in addition to a blog entry.

For me, the most amazing thing was the diversity of the ideas. Professional development for nannies, textile recycling, drumming circles for nursing homes, anti-bullying programs, and so much more.

Soon enough , it was time for the pitch contest. The judges for the competition were:
I learned more about the professional life of nannies from Helen Adeosun's pitch than I ever knew before. SitterCycle is an online learning platform that delivers professional development for nannies so they can give better care and improve their wage and occupational outcomes. SitterCycle won third prize with an truly excellent pitch.

Helen Adeosun -- SitterCycle
Angie Estevez's pitch for  Casa Shalom took me back to my roots in social activism, thinking of all the amazing stuff my mother has accomplished in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable coming out of a faith-based tradition long before tools and resources like Casa Shalom.

Angie Estevez - Casa Shalom

Monique Morimoto, Stephen Whitney, and Cornell Coley  are the first presenters I ever heard with an accompanying beat. They took turns describing  their Visionary Drumming project to provide group drumming classes to promote healing, empowerment and community building in places like nursing homes. While one spoke, the other two kept up the beat with shakers. Very cool.  They won second prize and I almost voted for them for fan favorite.

Visionary Drumming Keeping Up the Beat
Joy Mosenfelder of the Merrimack Valley Time Exchange has really polished up her pitch since I spoke with her at the Sandbox Summit in June.  It's such a great idea. Basically members earn and spend time based on their time spent providing and receiving services. Members  exchange services, skills, and resources, all without money. An hour is an hour, regardless of what kind of service. It's a great community building project. This got my vote for the fan favorite.
Merrimack Valley Time Exchange -- Joy Mosenfelder
I enjoyed talking with Carolyn Ruf about Be a Buddy Not a Bully,  an initiative aimed at making schools safer by empowering students with a fun and engaging anti-bullying curriculum. I'd like to see this as part of every school curriculum.
Be A Buddy Not A Bully -- Carolyn Ruf
Textile recycling seems to be a big theme lately, and it should be. Way too much goes to waste. Lallitara upcycles Indian saris into beautiful clothing. What I loved about Bijal Shah's pitch is the global reach, bringing together the informal textile recyclers in India and manufacturing jobs in Lawrence. She won first prize AND the fan favorite voting. Well-deserved.
Bijal Shah of lallitara Talking Textile Recycling with Raj Meiville

Bijal Shah Making Her Winning Pitch -- Wearing A Top Made From Upcycled Saris
It took me awhile to remember where I'd heard Reem Yared's pitch before. It was back at the epic #MIN48 in March! Remember  your early entrepreneurship experience mowing neighbors' lawns and shoveling their driveways? Help Around Town is a modern spin on that idea: an online platform creating local jobs by connecting people needing help with people needing work. Still an awesome idea.

Judges Listening to Reem Yared of Help Around Town
Wild card presenter Jessica Marchand pitched AddressSlavery, a project that takes donations of  high-quality upscale clothing and accessories and then sells them to use the proceeds for  projects seeking to prevent modern slavery.

Jessica Listening to the Judge's Question
So many great ideas, so much energy and enthusiasm for solving real problems creatively, so many great people... what a great night in a beautiful city!

Great Night - Beautiful City

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