BTCF Blog | EforAll Celebrates Inaugural Class of Local Entrepren

BTCF Blog

EforAll Celebrates Inaugural Class of Local Entrepreneurs

By Darryl Gangloff / April 22, 2020 / Economic Opportunity
EforAll Celebrates Inaugural Class of Local Entrepreneurs

For 12 intensive weeks, a tight-knit group of local entrepreneurs attended classes, met with mentors and fine-tuned the pitches for their startup businesses as part of EforAll Berkshire County’s inaugural accelerator program. Their hard work and dedication was celebrated last week during a virtual showcase event that awarded a total of $5,000 in cash prizes.

Entrepreneurship for All is an innovative nonprofit program that leverages public-private partnerships for proven economic and social impact. It launched in Berkshire County in October 2019 with support from a group of committed local funders, including Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

The business accelerator is the core program of EforAll Berkshire County. “It’s a community-wide effort,” Executive Director Deborah Gallant explained during the April 16 event, which was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Local volunteers read applications during the competitive process to join the cohort. For three months, area mentors dedicated their time for weekly meetings with participants, and specialists taught classes twice a week on topics ranging from marketing to finance.

While the intensive portion is complete, the entrepreneurs will continue to receive guidance and support for the rest of the year as they seek to turn their promising ideas into successful businesses.

“I’m very excited to be here to celebrate with everyone who is graduating from the first EforAll class. You are the pioneers in the EforAll Berkshire County program,” Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said during her welcoming remarks. “I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things you are going to do.”

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation President Peter Taylor thanked the mentors for providing a “critical resource” to the accelerator participants, commended the “talented staff” of EforAll, and congratulated the inaugural class of the accelerator program. “These entrepreneurs truly represent the core assets of Berkshire County,” he said. “They have such a deep commitment to the region and to finding meaningful opportunities to contribute to the economy and their communities.”

The Cohort

The participants created short pitches for their businesses as part of the accelerator program. They shared current descriptions for the virtual crowd.  

Brooke Bridges, Building Bridges

“My business is a social-emotional learning consultancy. I will be partnering with the school system, district attorney’s office and other youth-focused organizations to bring social-emotional learning to our youth through storytelling. By sharing our narratives, we will be able to process mental and emotional health challenges.”

As the peer-nominated class speaker for the showcase, Bridges said her EforAll experience “gives me a lot of hope. Without this program, we would not have been able to pivot our businesses in such a way that is helping us take clear steps forward. EforAll has changed my entire business and my entire life. I’m really grateful to this program.”

Valerie Chisom, Berkshire Learning In-Home Preschool

“I’m a teacher with 30 years of experience in the classroom. I founded Berkshire Learning, which is an in-home-based preschool focused on play and nature—perfect for the beautiful Berkshires.”

Erin Laundry, Bottomless Bricks

“Bottomless Bricks in Adams is a birthday party service and play space where kids of all abilities can unplug and develop their imaginations, focus and social connections in a friendly and welcoming environment [filled with Lego bricks].”

Mindy Miraglia, Berkshire Camino Hostels and Tours

“Inspired by my two month-long walks on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the idea is to be a trusted host providing clean, cozy hostels in the Bekrshires. It will bring to the guests and the community locally curated hiking excursions for people who want to unplug from their daily lives and have the opportunity to reconnect with themselves, with other people, and with being in nature.”

Curtis Mraz, Smoke & Honey Collective

“I’m a fourth-generation beekeeper. I’m starting an environmentally and socially conscientious beekeeping business focusing at the intersection of honey production, education, art and activism in the Berkshires and Hudson Valley.”

Kaitlyn Pierce, Binka Bear

“I invented Binka Bear, a plush bear and story book designed to help wean a child from the pacifier.”

Sarah Trudgeon and Chris Schlegel, The Mastheads

“For the past four years we’ve been operating a writers’ residency and public humanities project in Pittsfield. We want to build a literary headquarters in Pittsfield that will be a bookstore and bar with boarding rooms for our writers in residence and continued literary programming like poetry in schools and workshops for Pittsfield residents.”

Peydon Twing, PJT Screen Printing

“I run a small boutique screenprinting shop in Pittsfield. I’ve been running my business wrong for years, so getting the right information on how to do things correctly was one of the bigger things I took away from this experience.”

Awards

Erin Laundry, Mindy Miraglia and Valerie Chisom each received $1,500 to go toward their business. A Leadership Advisory Board considered final presentations, peer rankings, staff reviews, participation and funding impact in the selection process.

Kaitlyn Pierce received $500 in honor of Christina Hamilton, an entrepreneur who passed away in 2014 during an EforAll accelerator program in Lowell, Mass. The award regularly goes to EforAll participants who have overcome challenges in their lives or businesses.

Coming Up

  • EforAll Berkshire County’s next virtual pitch contest will be held on May 13 at 6 p.m. to help early-stage entrepreneurs gain valuable exposure and feedback on their business ideas. Applications are due April 30 at noon.
  • Applications for the no-cost fall accelerator program are due July 29. The program starts in September.
  • Follow EforAll Berkshire County on Facebook for upcoming webinars focused on helping small businesses cope with the health crisis.

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