EforAll's David Parker was impressed by how collaboratively local leaders worked together to bring in the program.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield and the larger Berkshire County community are welcoming the local launch of Entrepreneurship for All, a nonprofit aimed at helping aspiring entrepreneurs find success.
A group of local, community, and business leaders introduced the Berkshire chapter of EforAll at co-working space Framework on North Street on Monday morning.
"As we stand shoulder-to-shoulder as we are today we can be transformative and today we welcome EforAll to the city of Pittsfield and Berkshire County," Mayor Linda Tyer said.
EforAll is a nonprofit program launched by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in 2010. Originally called Merrimack Valley Sandbox, it uses public-private partnerships to create economic and social impact by providing entrepreneurs from all backgrounds with resources and local mentors.
Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, said the program focuses on creating a diverse economy that fits with many of the city's goals and initiatives.
"EforAll is focused on the untapped potential of every resident EforAll Takes the inclusive approach to Economic Development," he said. "Women, people of color, immigrants, and those previously unemployed are the faces of EforAll. Every story they tell helps erase the lines of race, gender, and socioeconomic class lines that can separate us."
Jay Anderson, board president of the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp., said EforAll follows through on much of the work his volunteer board has tried to accomplish over the years.
Many small startup businesses have a very specific skill set, he said, but lack those cornerstone business attributes that are critical to a success story.
"I think what is needed the most is not money it is expertise," he said. "So to be able to match early on in the process someone who wants to start a business with an expert over a period of time and to be able to transition and help them will greatly enhance the success of that business."
David Parker, chief executive officer of EforAll, said each entrepreneur will be lined up with three mentors from local experts and innovative thinkers. He said they will bring on 20 of these mentors to guide cohorts of 15 entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs will also be able to connect to a network of 800 mentors throughout the state's nine chapters as well as 350 "graduates" of the program who have started successful businesses.
He added there will also be pitch contests throughout the county and small competitive grants will be given out to entrepreneurs.
Parker said this number will only grow and EforAll looks to establish 50 programs in four to five years throughout the country.
There are sometimes questions as to whether communities can raise the funds to support the program, however the Berkshire County chapter has raised more than $1 million to run the program for three years.
Supporters include the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Mill Town Capital, 1Berkshire, The Feigenbaum Foundation, Berkshire Bank Foundation, Callahan Dee Family Foundation, Shah Family Foundation, Common Capital, MassDevelopment, and the city of Pittsfield.
Parker said he was amazed by how the city, local business and community leaders came together to bring the program to Berkshire County.
"You are quite frankly the first community to come together in such a dramatic fashion and say to us we know we have this issue, we know how we want to deal with it, and we think your program is a good fit," he said. "That is already unusual and quite frankly you are going to become the blueprint for how we approach other communities in the program."
Parker said there was no doubt in his mind that Berkshire County would find success in the program and add to EforAll's growing successes.
EforAll businesses have created 687 jobs, raised $21 million in capital, and generated $20 million in revenue. Plus, 83 percent of the startups mentored under EforAll are still active.
About 75 percent of the startups are owned by women, 56 percent by minorities, and 54 percent by immigrants. And 56 percent are owned by people who were previously unemployed.
Startups range from service and products to technology to retail.
Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire, said EforAll was harbored in by a diverse group of people and the program will be accessible to all in Berkshire County.
Mentors will travel throughout the county looking for promising entrepreneurs to bring into the program.
Newly appointed Executive Director Deborah Gallant chimed in and said people will be able to find her in coffee shops "from Williamstown to Otis."
Butler said EforAll fits with 1Berkshires' vision to create a diverse thriving economy in Berkshires County.
"The Berkshires of 2019 is a much different place than the Berkshire County of 2009 and 1999," Butler said. "We have learned the lesson of putting all of our eggs in too few baskets. The economy of 2019 is diverse, innovative, and full of potential."
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