Thursday, September 11, 2014

Entrepreneurship for All Summer Accelerator Awards Recap

A Logo and a Mission Statement in One
Tuesday night's celebration of the summer accelerator program participants was also the official announcement of the name change from Merrimack Valley Sandbox to Entrepreneurship for All so it was a doubly exciting event. The product showcase was a great opportunity to catch up with all the finalists, most of whom I have seen at more than one pitch contest or event. I'm truly impressed with how all of the finalists have benefited from the program and taken their products and their pitches to the next level.

Huge Crowd
There was a huge crowd at the Everett Mill for the event and things were bustling around the product showcase tables and the food table. BTW, the stuffed mushrooms were delicious.

Delicious Appetizers
The new name and logo was everywhere, so by the time David Parker began the opening remarks, he could be sure everyone already knew what the highly anticipated "big announcement" was.  It's an exciting change that really puts the organization's mission and philosophy front and center. Entrepreneurship for All is the heart and soul of what drives the organization.

David Parker Welcoming Us
Marianne Paley, the owner of Everett Mills, welcomed us to the historic building, now a growing business center right in the heart of downtown Lawrence. If the name Everett Mills sounds familiar to you, it's because something really important happened here in 1912. In fact we just had a festival on Campagnone Common on Labor Day to commemorate that event.  It's kind of amazing to think of the changes this old building has witnessed.

Our Host Marianne Paley, Owner of Everett Mills
Deshpande Foundation co-founder, Desh Deshpande, congratulated the finalists and  introduced the keynote speaker, Gerald Chertavian. Deshpande is always inspiring even in short introductory remarks.

Desh Deshpande
Gerald Chertavian spoke passionately about the importance of entrepreneurship to job creation and of social enterprise and shared responsibility. Chertavian grew up in Lowell, graduated from Harvard Business School, and made a career on Wall Street before turning his attention to addressing America's opportunity gap by founding Year Up. Year Up teaches young people the skills they need to move into the professional work force. Poverty to professional career in a year!

Keynote Speaker - Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO of Year UP
Veronica Chapman of My Crowning Jewel gave the class address. I'm starting to feel like Veronica is becoming an old friend because I've watched her pitch her stunning head wraps at various events since #MIN46 (that was like 20 Mass Innovation Nights ago!)

Veronica Chapman
Each of the finalists got to do a 1-minute pitch and it was amazing to hear the diversity of their enterprises and the polish of the their pitches. Well done!

EforAll Finalists
This awards celebration featured the first Christina Hamilton Award. I started to tear up when Christina's family came forward to present the award to Michael Bertrand of Edible Land Designs. Christina was the Founder of Delightful Surprise Sweets, a Lowell-based venture that sold delicious fudge in many different flavors. Christina was a participant in the 2014 winter accelerator program , who passed away suddenly in February. Christina was one of the most determined and inspiring entrepreneurs I have met, and it is a wonderful thing that EforAll has established this award in her memory. The Christina Hamilton Award will be presented to one participant in every future accelerator class who exemplifies her characteristics of grit and determination. You can read a bit more about Christina and this award on the EforAll website.

Christina Hamilton's Family Ready to Present the Christina Hamilton Award in Her Memory
Besides giving an inspiring speech, Veronica Chapman was one of the $5000 award winners.

Veronica Chapman
Other winners were Leanne Tremblay of Loomination, Nkese Applewhite of Oshun Undies,  Nareth Muong of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association's (CMAA) translation service,  the UMass Lowell Support our Students program, and Brian Dutton from Asinine Games who won the $1000 MassDiGi award.

Nareth Muong
Mai Le Libman  and Sagi Yaacoby of Savione, a platform that makes it easy to shop local, won the largest prize, $7000.  I remember being impressed with Savione back in April at the all ideas pitch contest.

Mai Le of Savione
It was great to see Sovanna Pouv, the new Executive Director of CMAA and long time supporter of  Entrepreneurship for All. Sovanna and Visal posed with Nareth and his big check.

I ran into so many people I know at this event that I am truly beginning to believe I'm not that bad at networking after all. :-)

Oh, and the moon peeked out from behind the clouds briefly just as I left the Everett Mill. Nice night.

Moon Peeking Through the Clouds over Lawrence

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