There has been a huge movement in the amount of individuals who have decided to take the journey of becoming self employed by creating their own startup company. Many fail to realize the amount of energy and risk involved in bringing to life the next big idea for a business. With the businesses that do succeed comes entrepreneurs who understand the secrets that lead to the success or failures of any given business. Through the efforts of some of these self-made business men and women, there are now programs focused on breeding more of the entrepreneurial type of people. One of the catalysts that is trying to make a difference in the startup world is EforAll. EforAll is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating economic and social impact through entrepreneurship in mid-sized cities.
EforAll started in December 2010 as the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, a non-profit with initial funding from the Deshpande Foundation. The Deshpande Foundation at that time had two other successful programs up and going at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Hubli Sandbox in Hubli, India. Both the MIT and Hubli programs encourged entrepreneurship as a means to improve communities, and building on that success, the Deshpande Foundation decided to try to use entrepreneurship to help the cities of Lowell and Lawrence MA, both of which were struggling with high unemployment in the shadow of the very visible entrepreneurial activity 30 miles away in Boston. Once their tactics proved successful they started to focus on new territories throughout Massachusetts. Among other locations, the non-profit found themselves entering the South Coast region, mainly Fall River and New Bedford. Both cities dealing with high unemployment rate as well.
EforAll runs a year long program which starts with an accelerator at the beginning that lasts three months. The way the business idea is accelerated is through classes and teachings, workshops, and pairing the entrepreneur with three mentors that they are expected to meet with weekly to help build the business. The mentors are people who love to see others succeed. They can be people who have already built a business or are in the process of it. "Some of the mentors have young businesses that have only been around for three to four years while other businesses owners have been in a particular industry for decades" says Jeremiah, who is the Program Manager at EforAll.
Part of the reason why EforAll is so successful is because of employees like Jeremiah Hernandez. He spends majority of his time organizing all the events along with all the people necessary to keep the program moving. He is constantly working hard out of the Business Innovation Center in Fall River and Groundwork! in New Bedford, which are both co-working spaces. Before the accelerator even starts, Jeremiah has to accept 40 applications which are to be read by a readers pool and then graded on a number scale. Each application is read four to five times by different volunteers. The volunteers range from high school seniors to retired business man to give each application a fair shot of making it into the program. Once each business idea does get accepted, Jeremiah has to begin managing the accelerator, which involves dealing with the entrepreneurs as well as the mentors. He then has to manage all of the volunteers who help run the program. "Its a challenging task sometimes trying to make everything work together" says Jeremiah "but when it all comes together, it's more than worth it."
Even if you own an already existing business, but still want to get help in the program, have no fear. They still do allow individuals with businesses to join in as well. The only time an individual can't be a part of EforAll is if the business recieved more than $25,000 in funding or investment. "When investors of any sort are thrown into the mix, working with a business becomes tougher" explains Jeremiah. The investor in most cases will try to interfere with the work that the entrepreneur is trying to accomplish. By leaving out the Invester, more work can be accomplished.
EforAll has many locations situated all over Massachusetts. The one located in South Coast just recently finished their first program and with it awarded $30,000 in cash prizes to multiple startups. Jeremiah is confident with the recent graduates from the program will come long standing businesses. "There was one software company that won the 4th cash prize and was also given the opportunity to work with its targeted audience through the mentorship program. One of the mentors was able to connect this future business owner to one of the big four accounting firms in Boston, KPMG." It seems that EforAll has something good going and hopefully as they attract more hungry entrepreneurs you will start to see them grow throughout the country.