Saturday, March 30, 2013

Merrimack Valley Sandbox Creative Economy Pitch Contest

Seems like everybody I ran into at Brew'd Awakening on Thursday afternoon was heading for the Merrimack Valley Sandbox pitch contest at UTEC later that day. And what could be a more fitting end to my "day of art" spent visiting galleries in Lowell with my friend from Worcester than the Creative Economy pitch contest.  This was especially true because Andy was one of the judges. Some days I think Brew'd Awakening is the creative economy.
The Crowd Begins Filling the UTEC Space
So I walked on over to UTEC. The crowd was already pretty good when I arrived, and by the time the pitches started the place was packed. I ran into so many people I know, that I almost didn't have time to talk to all of them, check out the tables, and do the all important networking with people I don't know.

Crowd - Lots of Pitching, Networking, and Just Plain Talk Going On
Checking out the tables, networking, taking pictures, having great conversations about all manner of creative economy topics and sampling the delicious food provided by the UTEC teens ... all kept me busy.
Meet the Judges
Not only do I know two of the judges -- Andy and Liz -- but two of the participating entrepreneurs are folks I met at Mass Innovation Nights. I remembered Emily and her Fashion Truck from Mass Innovation Night #MIN37. I remembered Veronica from Mass Innovation Night in January (#MIN46). It was great to see her again!
Emily from The Fashion Truck
My Crowning Jewel
First Place
Veronica from My Crowning Jewel won first place. Well deserved.  Not only are her head wraps exquisitely beautiful, but she has a solid business model and knows her market.

Marquis Victor of  Elevated Thought  Foundation made an excellent presentation. He won second place and also won the Fan Favorite voting. I think the Elevated Thought Foundation mural in the background helped a lot. ETP uses art to provide at-risk youth with the knowledge and skills to use their creativity to make positive changes in their lives and communities.The mural they did for UTEC is certainly inspiring.

Marquis with Mural as Backdrop

Second Place
I chatted a bit with Diane of the Cupcakory cupcake truck -- kind of a competitor to North Andover's own Pipedream Cupcakes (fortunately they never seem to end up at the same events). Her recipes use locally sourced and organic ingredients. She'd like to outfit her truck to serve coffee with her cupcakes.  Cupcakes are very popular and food trucks are very popular, and Diane is onto something.  Her third place winnings will help finance putting a generator in her truck.  Keep an eye out for the Cupcakory truck in Boston's Dewey Square.
Cupcakory - Third Place
 I had a great time talking with Peter Zimmerman about Mill City Glass Works, a glass blowing studio at Western Avenue Studios. Besides his hand-made glass gifts and jewelry, he plans to offer workshops for the public. Imagine making your own glass ornament and learning the craft of glass blowing. His pitch was good but the competition was tough.

Chhavy Sinuon of Style This Shindig designs amazing creations for events. Need a pulled-together look for a special event like a wedding? Style This Shindig designs the whole decor -- kind of like interior decorating but for events. I never thought about event styling as separate from event planning, so I learned something from her presentation. I checked out her table after the pitches. Her arrangements are definitely quite stylish.


New Vestures maker space is a great idea. It's a space for fashion designers and those who want to make cool stuff.  Diana's New Vestures venture offers space rentals for resident users and day visitors, classes in sewing, illustration, millinery, jewelry making, as well as modeling for 3D printing and even Arduino Lilly-pad programming. People want to make real stuff these days, and a maker space that provides tools and opportunities for learning the skills is an idea whose time has come.

New Vestures -- Great Looks and Best Hat!
Le Jus makes beverages with wonderful flavors that are not that familiar in the US. I especially liked sea-buckthorn. Actually, I loved the sea-buckthorn. I like that Julia thinks the greater Boston area is a good place to introduce unusual flavors.

Le Jus
I talked briefly with Jon  from the Humanitarian Film Workshop about his mini/micro documentaries. He teaches micro-documentary film making skills workshops where students document the work of humanitarian organizations, on location in  developing countries. I'd love to see some student filmmakers document the work of Engineers Without Borders in Obodan, Ghana or anywhere else that EWB is making a difference. 
Documentary Film Maker
Secret Spin Jam promotes the joy of hula hooping and whip cracking with beautiful hoops and whips. Definitely cool props.
Christine told me about her  school calendars that fit in lockers.

Locker Looks
One of my favorite conversations of the night was with Adrianna of Forgotten Charm. Her table full of vintage cameras definitely caught my eye. Turns out she is trying to bring back film photography.  She plans to sell vintage cameras, some of which she reconditions herself,  and accessories to ordinary photographers. Looking at the old Polaroid Land Cameras was a walk down memory lane. When I told her that my first camera was a Brownie, she pulled one out from under the table!

Vintage Polaroid Camera
Anthony of Mizizi Design sells beautiful Kenyan crafts.

Mizizi Design
MHM Studios Printmaking is a fully equipped printmaking studio for custom printing as well as workshops and plate-making instruction for artists.
A highly productive and thought-provoking evening. I had lots of great conversations about creativity, making stuff, and making a difference with so many great people.

Friday, March 15, 2013

the #MIN48 epic

View of Boston from Holt Hill in Andover
Did you know you can see Boston from Andover? You can. It looks pretty good on a fine spring (sort of) day too. Though I was enjoying the view and the bluebirds at Ward Reservation I cut my walk short so I could attend the 48th instance of Mass Innovation Night. Think of it: 48 great events over 4 years. That's an achievement. Congrats to Bobbie C and her awesome team and thanks to all the sponsors over the past 4 years!

Fenway Park
Even before the awesomeness that is Fenway Park was built, Boston was a hub of innovation. Your assignment, dear reader, is to check out Steven Puleo's A City So Grand.  Boston was a happening place in 1860. So it was definitely fitting that MIN celebrated 4 years of great product launches in the very heart of Boston in the shadow of Fenway Park at the Landsdowne Pub. Thanks to Landsdowne Pub for hosting.

The New MIN Sign
I started encountering MIN regulars before I even got inside the Landsdowne. MIN regular and all around awesome dude, William Toll, stopped to take a pic of the MIN megaphone banner at the same time I did.  Actually, the sign was probably the best photo I got all night. The dark pub and small alcoves for the demo tables made for a challenge. I decided to try going with a very high ISO rating (6400) to get that watercolorish artistic look instead of crisp and business-like -- with mixed results but I just had to try. I even used the watercolor effect filter in Photoshop to bring out the flatness a little more.
The #MIN48 Crowd As Watercolor
So now, on to the cool products. I very much enjoyed talking with Jeff from Mortgage Auction even though I am not in the market for a mortgage. I like the idea of the lenders bidding to produce the best quote for the borrower. I also thought Mortgage Auction nailed the presentation with great slides and a real live customer describing his experience. Kudos to Mortgage Auction.

The Dark Alley of Mortgage Shopping Today -- No Wonder We Need Mortgage Auction

The most unexpectedly cool product I encountered was Shelldhwani Speakers. The visual beauty and the acoustic properties of natural sea shells combine with Shelldhwani's technology to enhance the pleasure of listening to your audio devices -- way cooler than any of the external speakers I've tried with my iPod.

Shell Speaker
The ThinkerDeck demo reminded me of how the traditional model  of index cards that you can shuffle and color code, etc. really helps with organizing information. ThinkerDeck is an iPad app for capturing, storing, and managing notes, ideas, and inspiration. Simple, elegant, and so useful.

Innovation in water? You bet! Saka Natural Alkaline Water is refreshing, bottled at source without any additives, has a pH of 8.2 and lots of minerals, and comes in collapsible, BPA-free, phthalate free bottles. It tasted great and quenched my thirst. And I love that they're a global brand based in Charlestown.

Saka Water
Lots of MIN regulars spend lots of time in airports (when they're not at MIN :-)) and they got very excited about Tripchi.  Bored at the airport during your flight delay? Imagine customized recommendations of things to do in the airport based on your personality, interests and flight info. Imagine exclusive deals on food, beverages, and shopping. Imagine detailed content for exploring the airport. I predict that lots of folks who attended #MIN48 immediately signed up for the Tripchi Beta.


HelpAroundTown is another innovation on an old idea: hiring your neighbors to do tasks for you. Remember  your early entrepreneurship experience mowing neighbors' lawns and shoveling their driveways? Imagine a job board that connects people needing help with neighbors seeking work!

As someone who frequently drops iDevices, I liked  the OnGuard Vertex iPhone and iPad cases with stands that work both horizontally and vertically.

OnGuard Vertex

Chatting with the regulars and the first time attendees, checking out as many products as I could, talking with the experts, playing with my camera ... is all so much I couldn't possibly write a complete account of the evening. There were all kinds of terrific people so I got to practice my portrait photography. Kash posed for me as did all of the experts and many of the regulars.

The experts all looked very expert and they had a great corner near the entrance so got lots of visitors early on. Chris looked particularly expert, so he gets to be the traditional "expert looking expert" image.
Chris Looking Expert