Monday, March 20, 2017

EforAll Winter Accelerator Awards 2017 Recap

Lawrence from the Sixth Floor of the Everett Mill
Everett Mills hosted the awards celebration for EforAll Lowell Lawrence's latest accelerator class on Thursday night, March 16. Thank you to Marianne Nadel, owner of Everett Realty, for welcoming us all to this historic space. It's wonderful to see all this entrepreneurial energy gathered in the heart of Lawrence.
The Crowd Checking out the Showcase Tables
There was a good crowd including not just the entrepreneurs and their mentors, but family, friends, supporters, random public officials, and other interested people. Bell Tower Cafe did a great catering job with delicious food and juices. Angel Bella Bakery, one of the accelerator finalists, added to the flavor with jack fruit and also hot and sour soup. There was even a cake featuring a photo of the accelerator finalists.
Tables around the room showcased the diverse products/businesses. This gave everybody an opportunity to meet the entrepreneurs and ask questions. I got to catch up with entrepreneurs I already know from the pitch contests, meet people's families, and do my photographing entrepreneurs thing.
Andreina Viera -- Viera Admin Solutions -- With Her Grandmother
It was great catching up with Andreina Viera of Viera Admin Solutions, as I hadn't had much chance to talk with her at the last event. Plus, I got to meet her grandmother, who is both inspirational and stylish. Viera Admin Solutions is the type of business that plays a really important role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. By taking care of the administrative and event services for the businesses, they free up time for the entrepreneur to concentrate on the actual money-generating activities of the business -- think making pizza or robots instead of paperwork.
Al Machado -- Phoenix Rising Pizza
The Machado family's  Phoenix Rising Pizza serves up traditional wood-fired Neapolitan pizza from a mobile pizza oven. I've encountered them at Winterfest and at Mill No. 5 events, so I can vouch for the fact that they're everywhere and the pizza is good.

Not the Real Wood-Fired Pizza Oven -- Definitely Real Wood Though
The Welcome Immigrant Network is working on creating a place to welcome, include and connect recently arrived immigrants to their local community.  The idea is to give people a jump start on becoming actively engaged in civic and economic life here. Our discussion especially resonated for me on the eve of  Saint Patrick's Day as I was thinking of my grandmother and how if she had not come from Athlone (in central Ireland) to Boston, I wouldn't be here.
Elsabel Rincon and Daughter --The Welcome Immigrant Network
Rajia and Ray showcased their Invisawear smart jewelry that enables the wearer to contact police and/or  family and  friends  in an emergency.  They had the prototype mentioned in my last blog post with them. Great to see them both again and to hear how the accelerator has helped them progress. I'll definitely be keeping up with them as they continue to get their device into production.

Rajia and Ray -- Invisawear
I had another great chat with Olu Ibrahim about Kids in Tech and about learning how to be flexible as an entrepreneur. We could have chatted all evening. As a techie from ancient days, this is a project close to my heart.
Olu Ibrahim -- Kids in Tech
VibraTours offers two types of tours: 1) group tours to two prime destinations, Cuba and Peru, with English and Spanish speaking guides, and 2)  day trips and stay-cations around New England for Spanish-speaking communities. The New England tours in Spanish are a niche that's been waiting to be filled for some time.
Vibra Tours Had the Most Colorful Table

Maryelle Artistry provides professional makeup and hair services for celebrities, commercial photo-shoots, VIPs, and wedding parties. Maryelle's artists have worked with clients ranging from VP Joe Biden to Shonda Rhimes. Just looking at the photos on her table was a treat.
Maryelle Artistry's Table Showcased Beautifully Made-up Clients
Also in the makeup space, but in a totally different business, is Make Me Over a makeup class to empower women with knowledge of the right makeup techniques for them and the confidence to do it on their own.
Make Me Over by Barbara Rodriguez
Desh Deshpande spoke about how these days what the economy needs is a culture of individual initiative. The quote that stuck with me is “We need job makers, not just job seekers." These entrepreneurs and the accelerator classes before them are indeed job makers. According to EforAll CEO David Parker, the program's graduates have generated 271 jobs (full and part time) and  83 percent of the enterprises that have participated in EforAll's programs are still around.

Desh Deshpande  - Reminding us how important it is to be job makers
Keynote speaker Gail Goodman, former CEO of Constant Contact, spoke about persevering  and learning from the difficulties you encounter. She also emphasized community -- the enterprise's role in the community and the importance of building community. My most memorable quote from her speech was  "for every dollar that a small business brings in, 70 cents stays in the community."

Gail Goodman

Class speaker Gabby Davis of Made in Lowell also emphasized community in her speech. Her business focuses on deepening community connections and stimulating economic growth by creating cool events and with marketing, sales, and service programs that promote Lowell.

Gabby Davis
Joey Banh -- EforAll
EforAll's Joey Banh presented the class gift and the completion certificates to the finalists. 

The Class Trying to Fit All in One Photo
Each finalist gave a 1-minute pitch, not really a pitch contest, just a chance for each of them to give the audience a good idea of what they're doing.
One Minute Pitch: Lindsay Joseph -- The Greater Now

One Minute Pitch: Daniela Valdivia -- Vibra Tours
As always, there was much excitement in the room as the prizes were awarded. The Christina Hamilton Award for grit and overcoming obstacles went to Angel Bella Bakery.
Vicky Theng -- Angel Bella Bakery with Lowell Friends and Supporters
The prize money was awarded as follows:
  • Viera Admin Solutions $6,000
  • Invisawear $5,000
  • Phoenix Rising Pizza $4,000
  • Angel Bella Bakery $500 (Christina Hamilton Award)
The Winter Accelerator Class with Giant Cardboard Checks
Congratulations to all who participated in the 2017 Winter Accelerator Class! Such passion and dedication is an amazing thing to see. 

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