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!

Monday, March 7, 2016

out and about in the creative economy

Saturday was a treat! There's no other way to describe it. With so many artsy events to choose from, I chose to focus on spoken word and books -- words still matter, will always matter.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a FreeVerse! workshop led by Elmer Martinez, one of many talented young poets to come out of Lowell. Workshopping  poems with other poets yields new ways of looking at the work and the exercise that Elmer gave us really helped. We met in the studio at unchARTed, up above the new unchARTed gallery, performance space, and fantastic restaurant. The visual surroundings of being in a studio were inspiring for the poetry and for the improv exercises. Poetry, art, and pizza are plenty to boost one's energy level. Thank you to unchARTed for the pizza. Thank you to Elmer for coming back to Lowell from your freshman year in progress at Emerson to share poetry and insight with your homies.

The next stop on my itinerary was Mill No. 5 for the Pulp & Press bazaar and the Author Round-Up that was part of it. I somehow imagined that I'd also manage to fit in a quick stop at Western Avenue Studios and maybe some photography around town too, but as is emblazoned on many T-shirts "So many books, so little time!"  Pulp & Paper  is basically a  paper-themed market place full of vendors  selling art, prints, books, and even artistic little boxes and other objects made of paper.

On my way over to Mill No. 5, I started noticing afternoon light on red brick, one of my favorite photo subjects, so I got diverted off into taking a few pics. I caught up with my FreeVerse! folks just as they arrived at Mill No. 5 so we got to all ride the elevator up to the enchanted 4th floor together along with Andy Jacobson, our host for the Untitled Open Mic series. I tried to check out as many of the tables as possible on my way to a small corridor off of the main corridor to find the local small press book fair tables and the author performance space -- a smallish but decent sized room kind of hidden near Luna Theater. The first local author I ran into was Hyperlocal Man himself, Richard Howe. (Someday I am going to write a comic strip about the adventures of Hyperlocal Man and the Lowell Connectah -- two crime-fighting, problem-solving, history-preserving supeheroes about town -- if I ever learn to draw.) He informed me that Paul Marion (the Lowell Connectah) was in the performance space, so I headed on in.

In the performance space, Matt Miller was reading, nearing the end of his time slot. I was glad I caught some of his extraordinary poems. It is amazing how many writers there are in the greater Lowell area. Or maybe it's not so amazing, as the Merrimack Valley and the NH Seacoast have always been hotbeds of literary endeavor.  I was thrilled to hear Michael Casey, whom I haven't heard in nearly 20 years, do some of his most iconic poems. Paul Marion wowed the crowd as usual. Sarah Masse and Madison Brown repped FreeVerse! awesomely, and Masada Jones -- one of the three amazing founders of FreeVerse! --  was on point with her poems. I did not get to hear as much of Al Bouchard's new stuff as I would have liked, but did appreciate what I heard before I had to duck out of the performance space.

I hit the Boostrap Press/FreeVerse! table for a copy of Masada's book -- graciously signed of course -- and a copy of Princess Moon's beautiful new book. At the Loom Press table, I had a chance to chat with Paul Marion and ask him for more information on a Lowell/Mike Dukakis  story that I'd recently heard from a friend. Paul was able to correct/clarify/and amplify the story for me. There's always a Lowell connection, just ask Paul!

I stopped in at Iron Tree Furnishings to say hi to my cousin Leanne who was in the middle of installing some vintage-style light bulbs. Alas, our conversation resulted in just enough distraction to result in a shattered bulb. Fortunately, no humans or dogs were hurt.

Sir Guinness of Lowell, the canine ambassador of Mill No. 5, intercepted me with a need for some petting outside Serpentine Books as I made my way toward Vinyl Destination.  Catching up with Dave Perry is always great, even when I'm not searching for records. We chatted, I scanned the new arrivals bin, and decided I was wicked hungry and needed some dinner. I announced my intention to finally try 1981 Ramen, but alas when I got there the line was too long. I continued down the block to Bishop's Legacy and feasted on the fasoulia of my dreams.

There was lots more to do in Lowell, in Lawrence, and all over the valley, but sometimes one just has to go home and curl up with newly purchased poetry books.

For further reading on what a great day it was at Mill No. 5, Paul Marion's post, @ Book Mill, on Richard Howe's hyperlocal blog talks about the Author Round-Up organized by Sean Thibodeau of the Pollard Memorial Library and Richard Howe's  weekly Lowell Week in Review  also mentions his experience at the book fair and author round-up event among other significant news of the week. If that's not enough, here's a wonderful account of Saturday's events at Mill No. 5 on Patrick Cook's Wicked Good Blog:Milling About on a Saturday Afternoon.