Entrepreneurship for All at the Makers and Innovators Pitch Contest

Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Above photo by Frantz Augustin (http://frantzaugustin.com/)

Entrepreneurs, small business owners, and investors came together last week at the Maker Innovatation Lab Lawrence to participate in a pitch contest hosted by Entrepreneurship for All (better known as EforAll). Festivities began with a tabling session, during which startups got the opportunity to discuss their products and ideas with curious business owners. After that, a few select companies presented their ideas in a 2.5 minute pitch. Once all the presenters had spoken, their ideas were judged by a handful of experienced entrepreneurs and cash prizes were awarded to the best budding ventures.

That describes the Makers and Innovators Pitch Contest in a nutshell, but REALToDo CRM wanted to provided a bit of extra insight - what is EforAll and who are the aspiring entrepreneurs flocking to their events? Find out below!

What is EforAll?

Peter Cakounes speaks to a crowd at an EforAll pitch contest

EforAll provides funding for small businesses and non-profits with the goal of accelerating entrepreneurship in mid-sized cities. In addition to funding, the EforAll team offers substantial mentorship and and networking opportunities to burgeoning businesses. By lending a hand to entrepreneurs, the EforAll team hopes to turn back the tide of poverty and unemployment in the mid-sized, gateway cities that they serve.

The company hosts frequent "pitch contests" like the one on October 26th at Maker Innovation Lab Lawrence. Here, entrepreneurs get the chance to hawk their wares and receive feedback from small business owners and investors. A handful of these entrepreneurs will be chosen to present, which gives them the opportunity to earn a cash prize. Traditionally, EforAll has awarded three prizes per event, with an additional prize for a "fan favorite" voted on by those in attendance.

  • 1st place winner receives $1,000
  • 2nd place receives $750
  • 3rd place receives $500
  • Fan favorite receives $500

Aside from its pitch contests, EforAll also offers an accelerator program for select companies. Program finalists receive three months of focused mentorship and educational workshops, along with free office space. And, on top of that, EforAll awards a total of $30,000 to accelerator participants. Those sorts of perks don't come without a cost, though: EforAll requires its accelerator businesses to attend bi-weekly, 3-hour meetings and mandates weekly mentor check-ins.

Importantly, the EforAll Business Accelerator bills itself as a program for those beginning a business. Program applicants must have received less than $25,000 in outside funding and should only be at the beta or testing stage of development. They also accept applications from those in the ideation phase, so long as they can demonstrate a strong understanding of their target market. This makes the accelerator a fantastic opportunity for first time entrepreneurs and those who may need some assistance to gain traction in their chosen industry.

EforAll's footprint is currently limited to Massachusetts, though a recent announcement from the company describes plans for a national expansion.

What sorts of businesses attend EforAll events?

The short answer: all kinds of early-stage businesses. Most of the companies at the 10/26/17 Makers and Innovators Pitch Contest had just developed their prototype or were refining their products with beta-testers. Some of the many companies in attendance are described below:

WakeMe Social Video Alarm Clock

WakeMe social video alarm clock table at an EforAll event

According to the WakeMe website, WakeMe is a social video alarm clock. Simply put, the application replaces your phone's alarm with videos from your friends and family. The company behind WakeMe, Hyperapptive, Inc, plans to offer the application for free and, like many free apps, they plan to earn revenue through advertising. Since users of the mobile app will be interacting with it first thing in the morning, the company is positioning itself as a targeted advertising platform for early morning staples like breakfast food and coffee.

WakeMe co-founders Chris Janowski and Craig Simms of the WakeMe team tabled at the event. They were one of the few companies chosen to pitch at the EforAll event and were awarded the 1st place prize of $1,000 to fund their idea. On top of that, they also won fan favorite for the night, giving them another $500 to help get their app off the ground.

Find out more about WakeMe Social Video Alarm Clock here:
Website: https://wakemealarm.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wakemealarm
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wakemealarm

TLC Autism Parent Connection

TLC Autism Parent Connection table at an EforAll event

TLC Autism Parent Connection is a non-profit aiming to serve the parents of children on the autism spectrum. The company offers these parents an opportunity to connect with one another while their children are provided with a safe, sensory-friendly space to play.

Co-founders Andrea Dennis and Kim Mahady presented their table at the EforAll event. Both women were a delight to speak with and seemed knowledgeable and passionate about their business. They were also lucky enough to be chosen as wildcard presenters for the pitch contest and got the opportunity to speak about their ideas in detail.

Find out more about TLC Autism Parent Connection here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tlcautismparentconnection

Diversity Dashboard

Diversity Dashboard table at an EforAll event

As stated on their website, Diversity Dashboard is a project management software tool. The dashboard gives diversity professionals a way to "track their activity, measure their results, and analyze the ROI of their diversity programs". Company founder, Kari Heistad, hosted a table at the EforAll event and was also given the opportunity to present.

According to the company, 93% of businesses that operate a diversity program do not measure the return on investment of their program. Diversity Dashboard wants to help businesses of all sizes measure their ROI and use that data to optimize their diversity programs and measure their results.

Find out more about Diversity Dashboard here:
Website: https://www.diversitydashboard.biz
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DivDashboard

Speaking with the entrepreneurs

Trying to turn your idea into a small business can be a lonely and frustrating process. But you're not the only one making the journey - discovering the failures, successes, thoughts, and opinions of your fellow entrepreneurs can be a comfort when you feel like you're spinning your wheels. REALToDo CRM got in touch with a couple of the EforAll entrepreneurs and asked them questions about their businesses.

Maureen Evelina from ILoveMyNighty

Ilovemynighty and Maureen Evelina hosting a table at an EforAll event

Maureen Evelina describes her upcoming line of women's clothing as "seductively snug nighties designed for lovely ladies who want to look hot when it's cold".

I've spoken with Maureen on a couple occasions - the first time was at a pitch workshop and the second was at the Makers and Innovators Pitch Contest. She's a charismatic woman with a keen eye for design and a clear passion for fashion. After her EforAll presentation on 10/26/17, we caught up with her and asked a few questions:

R: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

M: I never knew I would be an entrepreneur. I just had the idea to design for myself a certain type of loungewear that I had never seen in the market before. Then I couldn't stop thinking about how this would be something other women would want, too and I spent a year mulling it over before I decided to see if I could turn my idea into a business- and then just went for it!

R: Any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

M: Advice for other entrepreneurs is to seek out any and all opportunities to learn about running a business. Don't just wing it. There are plenty of educational opportunities and people out there who are willing to help (Yay EforALL!). Being prepared is smart. Spending a few hundred or thousand dollars on classes is the best way to save money as you will learn the right way to do things and save yourself from making costly mistakes and poor decisions. People overall are very supportive and want to see you succeed. You have just as much potential to succeed as the people who started Spanx or Facebook, so don't talk yourself out of it before you try. Do as much as you can and don't feel like "you're behind". It could take 1-2 years before you are actually up and running and that's a good thing.

R: How is the business going? Any big news coming up?

M: The business is going well. As per my advice above - I'm 10 months in and feel like I've barely touched the surface of what I need to do. It is incredibly challenging and time consuming but exciting and gratifying at the same time. I am building a strong support network and am currently in an accelerator program for fashion startups (Factory45) so I'm learning a lot of what I need to do. Having a full time job and trying to learn from scratch about business, designing, manufacturing, e-commerce, branding, marketing, social networking - all at once - has my head spinning, but I'm devoted and want to see all this become a reality and enjoy my success in the next couple of years. Up next - I was selected as a graduate of the business planning class through the Center For Women in Enterprise to be in another pitch contest in two weeks at LISC Boston. I find out today if I'm accepted, so I will give it another shot if the opportunity is there!

R: What did you enjoy most about the EforAll event?

M: What I enjoyed most about the EforAll event was being a part of something so supportive. Everyone there was kind and excited. I have never done anything like it before and didn't really know anything about pitch contests, so I was glad that I went outside of my comfort zone to get my name out there and get good advice in return.

R: How can users get in touch with you, follow you, etc.?

M: I would love for people to sign up for my newsletter on ILoveMyNighty.com so they can stay up to date on my progress and my upcoming launch in 2018.

Find out more about Maureen and her business here:

Frantz Augustin from Clubartizan

Clubartizan table at an EforAll event
Photo by Frantz Augustin / http://frantzaugustin.com

Clubartizan is described as a "social impact marketplace for high quality arts and crafts from artists around the world".

I met Frantz Augustin for the first time at the Makers and Innovators Pitch Contest. During our short interaction, he proved himself to be an accomplished and knowledgeable programmer, as well as a talented photographer. He also graciously agreed to answer our questions after the EforAll event:

R: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

F: My high school principal is the reason why I want to become an entrepreneur. He was always talking about one problem that needed to be solved: extreme poverty. In my country, 59% of the population live under $2.41 a day. As a native from there, I want to help and one way to do this is by creating jobs for the poor.

R: Any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

F: First, the journey is hard, but do not let that stop you. If you feel the calling, go for it. However, It’s not going to be easy. For instance, I am not sure if Clubartizan will work, but I am happy trying it and I'll give it my all.
Lastly, learn from other entrepreneurs. My go to entrepreneurship article is “ How to Start a Startup by Paul Graham”. My favorite entrepreneurship books are “The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz”, “Ecosystème by Rachel Vanier”, “Chaos Monkeys by Antonio García Martínez”, “How Google Works by Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg” and “Give Work: Reversing Poverty One Job at a Time by Leila Janah”.

R: How is the business going? Any big news coming up?

F: I am at the early stage right now. I had the idea 5 years ago but I was not fully invested in it. I had to learn how to code, graduate from college and get experience in the real world. Right now, I am all in and I am very excited about it. I have been applying for a lot of accelerators and I am working on finishing the prototype. With or without accelerators, I will launch Clubartizan.

R: What did you enjoy most about the EforAll event?

F: It was a great event. The last time I went to an event like that was when I was in college. I enjoy meeting other entrepreneurs and seeing what they are working on. I also appreciate the feedback I received. The event was a great source of motivation for me as well.

R: How can users get in touch with you, follow you, etc.?

F: My twitter and instagram handle is @augustincaz. I am also on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/frantz103/. My email is hirefrantz@gmail.com.

R: Anything else about your company that you would like to highlight?

F: If you meet art lovers or artists send them to clubartizan.com. The access code is dream. If you are an artist or an art lover, please reach out to me - it’s the right thing to do.

Launch your ideas with EforAll

Royce Threadgill presents REALToDo CRM at an EforAll pitch contest
Photo by Taylor Threadgill / https://realtodo.com/author/tay/

EforAll provides a great service for entrepreneurs who need some help getting traction with their target markets. UbiquiTools presented REALToDo CRM at an EforAll event in Lowell on 10/12/17 - and won 3rd place! More important than the prize money, though, was getting to speak with local business owners. EforAll staff and judges asked tough (but necessary) questions and were generous with feedback and constructive criticism.

If you're looking to get serious about your business, take a look at EforAll's upcoming pitch contests and business accelerator.

Article by REALToDo Real Estate CRM, a simple CRM for real estate agents. Did you find this article useful, flawed, or downright offensive? Let us know in the comments! If you enjoyed the article and want to see more, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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About James Royce Threadgill

Founder of UbiquiTools LLC. Coder/creator of REALToDo real estate CRM. Chemical engineer that previously worked in gene therapy and green plastics before founding UbiquiTools.