Monday, March 21, 2016

EforAll Winter Accelerator Awards Recap

Welcome to E for All
Last Wednesday night, the Everett Mill hosted the festivities celebrating the latest class of entrepreneurs to complete EforAll's accelerator program. It was a good crowd (I'm told there were over 100 people in attendance).  Thank you to Everett Mills Real Estate for welcoming entrepreneurs to this historic space and thank you to all the local businesses who provided delicious food.
History -- Yup, this is the place.
The EforAll accelerator is a 12-week intensive program where entrepreneurs work with mentors, attend workshops, network with experts, and compete for cash prizes to bring their business or non-profit ventures to the next level.  Passion for their ideas is a requirement for participation in the accelerator, and that passion was definitely on display with all of the entrepreneurs at the event.
Lawrence at Dusk through the Window
The variety of ideas/businesses amazed me: robots,  LGBTQ history content, quilting kits for the visually impaired, legal services, websites for conservation trusts, bread baking, personal styling, and more and more and more.

I really enjoyed meeting the founders of History UnErased, whose mission is to "unerase" the stories and history of LGBTQ people by providing educational content and training for educators so that young people in grades K-12 will have a more positive and inclusive experience of history.  They got my vote for fan favorite.

History UnErased
Mitsy Kit's sewing and quilting kit impressed me with clever adaptations that enable blind people to sew and quilt using their sense of touch. The creative use of burlap to help blind people locate the edges of quilt squares struck me as brilliant.
Mitsy Kit
I chatted with Nicole of Lynx Investigations about support services for attorneys, private investigators, corporations, and ordinary people involved in legal issues. She works with locating and retrieving documents from all the relevant databases quickly and accurately, whether it's government documents, court records, or other things.
Lynx Investigations
Franklin Robotics develops robots for agriculture so I was eager to check it out. Rory had worked at Harvest Robotics, but it turns out he didn't know my girl scientist nieces. I guess his time there didn't overlap with either of theirs, but it was still cool to share stories.  Franklin's weeding robot is intended for home gardens. It takes care of the unpleasant part of keeping your garden weed-free. It’s solar powered too. Anything that relieves gardening of back-breaking weed-pulling and/or spraying nasty herbicides, is a great innovation.
Franklin Robotics
Purple Carrot Bread Co.  bakes high quality artisan breads and sells them at the Farm Market at Mill No. 5 in Lowell and other farmer's markets.  Their goal is to have their own storefront that serves lunch featuring their high quality breads made from scratch.
Purple Carrot
Trail Websites does web design, development, hosting, and other services for Conservation and Land Trusts needing to boost their engagement with the public, and thus improve fundraising, with better websites. We had a great chat about some of the local trails and organizations and how few people know there are over 100 miles of trails in Boxford alone (hey, Boxford is not that far from Lawrence at all, check it out).

Trail Websites
Milling around in the crowd, sampling delicious sandwiches from Purple Carrot, networking, and tweeting frequently in hopes of winning the social media prize (a signed copy of Desh Deshpande's book) meant I didn't get to photograph every entrepreneur at his or her table before the speeches, pitches, and awards.

Mayor Dan Rivera welcomed us to Lawrence and inspired us with his story of a mayoral campaign as startup. I always get inspired listening to Mayor Rivera. This man clearly loves Lawrence.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera
Raj Melville, Executive Director of the Deshpande Foundation, filled in for Desh Deshpande who was unable to give the keynote because of illness. Raj told us about EforAll, about this accelerator class, about the challenges of entrepreneurship and about the importance of local entrepreneurs in stimulating the economy.
Raj Melville Filling in for Desh Deshpande
Class speaker Cristina Pimentel of The Fuschia Files spoke about her experience of the accelerator and her vision for personalizing style. After Cristina's talk, each of the entrepreneurs in the class gave a 1-minute pitch and the audience texted in their votes for their favorite.
Cristina Pimentel
Time for the One Minute Pitches
With a prize pool of $15,500 to be handed out and so many talented entrepreneurs in this class, there was plenty of excitement in the room as the prizes were awarded. The Christina Hamilton Award for grit and overcoming obstacles went to Lynx Investigations. The fan favorite voting ended in a tie between Jerez Electronics and Franklin Robotics, who each got $250.

The winners in order by prize money were:
  • Mitsy Kit $5,000
  • History UnErased $3,000
  • Purple Carrot Bread Co. $2,500
  • Cognate $2,000
  • Jerez Electronics $1,500
  • The Fuschia Files $750
  • Lynx Investigations $500

Lynx Investigations Won the Christina Hamilton Award
Congratulations to everyone who participated in the Winter 2016 Accelerator Class! Continue with the passion for your enterprises!

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