Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Merrimack Valley Sandbox All Ideas Pitch Contest Recap

Lawrence City Hall
Lawrence's Christ United Methodist Church hosted the Merrimack Valley Sandbox All Ideas Pitch Contest on March 27. I love having these events in Lawrence, not just because it's easy for me to get to but also because it brings positive attention to an under-appreciated city.
I enjoyed chatting with Michele from Bhlue about resources for students who aren't planning on attending a 4-year college, but are aiming for a skilled professional career. This group is under-served by career guidance resources in the schools these days, yet there are important jobs to be had and money to be made in the skilled trades. Also, I liked her innovative spelling of "blue", playing on "blue collar".

The event drew a pretty good crowd.  I'm told there were around 70 people there. It seemed like slightly more than that. Oh, and  there's nothing like a camera to camera duel with Emil to liven up my crowd shots :-)
Belinda Orta of My Creative Learning  Center
The My Creative Learning Center early education program takes a hands on approach to learning.  Preparing children for kindergarten with creative experiences and individualized learning sounds like a great approach to early learning. Their pitch won 3rd place, so the judges must agree with me.
Donna of Seacoast Gift of Literacy
Donna Forcier came down from Hampton, NH to pitch her plan to provide free literacy tutoring for illiterate adults on an individual or small-group basis. Seacoast Gift of Literacy grew out of Donna's own experience with dyslexia and her strong belief in literacy as the key to employment. A recent issue of Seacoast Online has a great article about what Donna learned from her experience at the pitch contest.
Connecting with Gem Decorations
I remembered Gloria and Gem Decorations from a previous Sandbox event and was pleased to see lots of people connecting with her at her artfully decorated table. You can find Gloria on Twitter.

These Guys Are All Business
Had a great chat with Rob Busch from Moody, Familigietti & Andronico and Arturo Sedo from Experilance about how new grads can get the experience they need to get hired these days.
Rob was one of the judges.
David and Lianna Instructing the Judges

Leaf Canoe
Being in the travel app business, I enjoyed talking with Daijie Huang about Leaf Canoe, her idea for a social travel platform. I'm interested to see how her Beta goes.

Pesto Entrepreneur

Swiss Chard Pesto - Yum!
Evan Cotreau of Pure Pestos let us sample his innovative pesto recipes.  Swiss chard pesto is an idea whose time has come!

My Recovers - Official Cast Cover of BobbieC!
My Recovers had a table with cool walking boot and cast covers - also cookies. I like cookies. I remembered Kelly from Mass Innovation Nights and joked with her about how My Recovers provided the official cast cover of Bobbie Carlton.

Playing with Increment's ORings
It was great to see the team from Increment again and to get to see the ORings in action! The kids were instantly attracted to them and played freely and happily. I first met them a few weeks ago at the Sandbox Consumer Ideas Pitch Contest.

Mai of Savione
My personal favorite of the evening was Savione, a way to make shopping local easy. It wasn't only my favorite either. Savione won both Fan Favorite and 2nd prize.


Union Capital Boston (UCB) is onto something with their mobile-based loyalty program for low-income families. Basically, it provides social and financial service rewards in exchange for community involvement in schools, businesses, health centers, and civic programs.
Virtual Run
Virtual Run is a great new way to run or walk for charity. Can't make a specific real world event? Participate in a virtual event. Run anytime and anywhere as long as you run the set distance within the event timeline.
Yoga by Numbers
Of course I remembered Yoga by Numbers from #MIN60. They are making it easier for anybody to learn yoga and getting noticed for it. Elizabeth Morrow nailed the pitch and won the well-deserved 1st prize.

Great products, great people, great event. Can't wait for the next one.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#MIN61 - Mass Innovation Nights Meets Merrimack Valley Sandbox

Canal Looking Great Today
On April 9, the Merrimack Valley Sandbox hosted Mass Innovation Nights #MIN61 at their wonderful space in the Wannalancit Mill in Lowell. A sunny spring evening brought out the beauty of the mills and canals brilliantly. Having two such great entrepreneurship-boosting organizations together in a city symbolic of American entrepreneurship gave the event a special feeling. To make it even more special,  Mass Innovation Nights was celebrating their 5th anniversary.
Wannalancit Mill - Home of Merrimack Valley Sandbox
A walk along the North Canal proved a great way to loosen up for the evening. There was plenty of urban beauty to photograph.
Megaphone Meets Sandbox
People began arriving early, while people were still setting up their demo tables. Our hosts provided snacks, which included wonderful (and wildly popular) egg rolls. Much networking took place over the egg rolls. :-)

Early Arrivals
The diversity of products at both MIN and Sandbox events always amazes me. This one was no exception. There were all kinds of products from games, songs, and stories to knives, grilling supplies, and apps.
Pleasant Dreams
One of the more intriguing products was Pleasant Dreams: A Card Game of Nightmares,  a 1 or 2 player card game in which the players are in a dreamworld where they try to prevent their dreams from becoming nightmares.
Anyone can be a designer at ShopRagHouse. Members vote for their favorite designs and ShopRagHouse makes the winning designs into samples for crowd funding. When the crowd funding goal is met, they produce the designs.
Parker River Knife
Parker River Knife produces personalized pocket knives.Their first model is the Parker River "Classic", inspired by the knives our grandfathers carried years ago. With the classic styling and the personalization options, this is the perfect gift for outdoors people. The shop is located in Newbury along the banks of the Parker River.
Best Costume and Cool Product
The product that really had everybody talking was Grill Easy™ Natural Lump Charcoal. Imagine firing up your grill without all the mess and the charcoal lighter fluid. The solution is simple. It's a single use, recycled cardboard container with an internal vent system. Just place the container into the grill and light the wick. The container burns off while igniting the charcoal and it's ready to use in under 15 minutes.
It was great to see Susu Wong of Tomo360 again. Tomo360 provides customized marketing campaigns and online strategies to help companies generate new business, specializing in meeting the marketing needs of the health care industry.
Story to Song
I had a great time talking with Marieke Slovin about stories. Story to Song is another one of those perfect gifts. How about turning a great family story into a song? Marieke works with individuals to compose songs from the stories of their lives. She also leads songwriting workshops for youth and adults.
HubEngage is the latest product from Mobinett. HubEngage helps brands increase sales and  loyalty through gamification and customized rewards. The cool thing is that it rewards both your customers and your employees for increasing engagement.

Who hasn't longed for a simple alternative to exchanging printed business cards? Inigo is a product that is definitely overdue, an interactive business card that completely replaces paper.  It's a free app that allows users to create online "cards"  linking new acquaintances to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, websites, resumes, videos, or anything the user can find online. Not only that, the people you meet don't have to download anything. The cards you send are web based URLs and can be opened from anywhere. The only thing that stopped me from using this app immediately is that it's currently Android-only. The iPhone version is still in development.
Mill City Glass
It's always great to run into Peter Zimmerman of Mill City Glass Works, whether it's at Mass Innovation Night, a Sandbox event, or an arts event. Peter and Aaron had some beautiful work on display. That purple fish really caught my eye.

Packed House
By the time presentations were ready to start, quite a crowd had assembled. It was great to see people who had never been to a Mass Innovation Nights event or a Sandbox event. I even met some people who hadn't been to Lowell before.
David Parker Welcomes Us to the Sandbox

Indigo Pixies Tells Us about the Paci Pixie
The presentations were excellent as usual. The Indigo Pixies customer story about a child's experience with the Paci Pixie was quite moving.
Sierra Look-alikes
There were attendees of all ages. It's great when young people come to these events. It was fun to meet Christine's daughter, Abby, who looks exactly like Christine.

MIN 5 Years!

BobbieC with Cake!
No 5 year anniversary celebration is complete without cake, so of course there was cake. BobbieC did the ceremonial cake cutting and attendees enjoyed the cake at least as much as the egg rolls.

And no MIN blog post is complete without an "Expert Looking Expert" and Jeremy fit the bill. If you need to add video to your social media presence, Jeremy is your go to guy. Nobody knows how to make the most of Vine better than Jeremy.
Expert Looking Expert - Jeremy