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Lokvani Talks To David Parker, Executive Director EForAll


Entrepreneurship for All (formerly known as the Merrimack Valley Sandbox) is a non-profit based out of Lowell & Lawrence, MA helping early-stage entrepreneurs have a better chance at success through workshops, pitch contests, and an accelerator program. They work with both English & Spanish-speaking entreprneuers. The organization started in December 2010 with a pilot grant from the Deshpande Foundation. 

Lokvani recently sat down with David Parker, the organization’s Executive Director, to talk about why they changed their name, their impact on the region, and what opportunities they have coming up.

Why did the organization change from the Merrimack Valley Sandbox to Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll)? 

There are many reasons for the change. First and foremost, Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) embodies the organization’s core belief that people from all walks of life, with all types of venture ideas, can become entrepreneurs. Since we launched nearly four years ago, we have worked with a diverse set of individuals ranging from MIT Sloan graduates to individuals who never finished high school. 

Secondly, the change gives us a platform to add new locations in Massachusetts and beyond.

Where will your next location be and when will you announce it?

We are still in the early stage of discussions regarding other regions and are not close to a final decision.

What I can say is that we are looking for cities similar in size to Lowell and Lawrence (between 75,000 and 200,000 in population) with preference to ones providing local office space and financial support.

How will this change affect your work in Lowell & Lawrence?

EforAll is still 100% committed to both these cities. They will serve as the EforAll headquarters and we expect to continue testing new programs and services in these cities as well.

What’s been your impact so far?

Since we started nearly four years ago, we have helped launched over 50 ventures including a customized-apparel manufacturing company, a vegan ice-cream business, and a non-profit that provides basic necessities to homeless school children. 

In addition, we have built a mentor community of over 120 successful entrepreneurs professionals and partnered with over 40 community partners in the for-profit, non-profit, and public sectors. 

Can you share an inspirational story about a specific entrepreneur?

When she was twelve years old, Keo Rattana and her sister emigrated to the U.S. as refugees from Laos after living in three refugee camps. Keo ended up in the Boston area and after struggling to graduate high school, she found work in the engineering field.  Two years ago Keo was laid off. Being lactose intolerant, she had an idea to start a vegan ice cream company. Having only experimented with small batches at home, she applied to the first-ever EforAll Accelerator.  

During the twelve weeks of the Accelerator, Keo’s passion and drive were palpable. She worked with four Sandbox Mentors to set goals to (1) Find a certified kitchen and connect with retailers (2) Determine flavors and pricing (3) Design marketing and branding (4) Develop a business model. At the end of the Accelerator in March 2013, Keo accomplished all her goals and was a top prize winner. With $5,000 from the Sandbox, she purchased the necessary equipment to launch. Today you can find her ice cream in over 20 stores including three Whole Foods markets. She has a goal to one day be a national brand. Not only is Keo proud to be a successful entrepreneur but also to provide for her family, as she is the single mother of three boys.

What opportunities do you have coming up for entrepreneurs?

We have an All Ideas Pitch Contest on October 16th where we are accepting business and non-profit ideas from all sectors (social impact, tech, creative economy, etc…). This opportunity gives entrepreneurs a shot at winning thousands of dollars in cash prizes and receiving feedback from industry pros. The deadline to apply is October 2nd at midnight. For more info, people can visit EforAll.org/Pitch. 

From December 2014 – February 2015, we are holding our 2015 EforAll Winter Accelerator. This 12-week program gives participants mentors, 24/7 workspace, and $30K in cash prizes.  The deadline to apply for this is October 30th at midnight. For more info, you can visit EforAll.org/Accelerator. 

All of our opportunities including the ones mentioned above are free too apply/participate. 

What opportunities are there to mentor?

EforAll is always seeking the best entrepreneurs, executives, investors and technical experts to mentor the early stage startups in our Accelerator Programs. As a mentor you will provide support and guidance to an entrepreneur as they move their business forward. If you are looking for a rewarding experience to help an entrepreneur get started, I encourage you to apply. For more info, you can visit EforAll.org/Mentor 

For more information, visit EforAll.org

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