Civic, business and community leaders today announced the launch of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Berkshire County, an innovative nonprofit program for aspiring entrepreneurs at a press conference held at Framework Pittsfield Co-Working in downtown Pittsfield. EforAll aims to transform communities into inclusive and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems by helping residents of all backgrounds turn their promising ideas into successful businesses.
With a commitment of over $1 million to support its operating budget for three years, EforAll Berkshire County will be open to residents, mentors and other partners countywide.
“With its focus on the untapped potential of every resident, EforAll takes a uniquely inclusive approach to economic development. Women and minorities, immigrants and those previously unemployed are the faces of this program,” said Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. “Today, we say to all aspiring entrepreneurs that your community is behind you.”
The EforAll model, which is active in multiple communities throughout Massachusetts, utilizes pitch contests to connect budding entrepreneurs with business leaders to share ideas, receive feedback and compete for funding. An intensive 12-week accelerator program provides each entrepreneur with a full year of support from three mentors, a group of peers and other local experts; knowledge of building a company from the ground up; and a chance to win seed money for their startup. After launch, participants have access to an alumni network, co-working space and financial guidance.
EforAll Berkshire County will be administered by an executive director and program manager, with support from more than a dozen staff at the organization’s Lowell headquarters. In addition, local community members will participate in the process as experts, judges, mentors, leadership and advisory board members, and by collaborating with other community groups.
The program is made possible by a group of partners including Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation; the City of Pittsfield and Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC); Greylock Federal Credit Union; Mill Town Capital; 1Berkshire; the Feigenbaum Foundation, Berkshire Bank Foundation, Callahan Dee Family Foundation and the Shah Family Foundation; Common Capital; and MassDevelopment.
"EforAll Berkshire County is the culmination of a great partnership between a committed and diverse group of leaders in the Pittsfield area and EforAll,” said David Parker, CEO of EforAll. “Over the past six months, we've devoted many hours of work toward making sure EforAll's program is the right fit for the community. We're thrilled to be in Berkshire County, and we're highly confident we will help many local residents successfully launch their business and nonprofit ideas."
The concept of aligning new business owners in the City of Pittsfield with a spectrum of cohesive support appealed to Mayor Linda Tyer.
“In the City of Pittsfield, small businesses are integral to our local economy. In 2018, the city partnered with the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to study ways to further promote and support our entrepreneurs and their innovative endeavors,” Tyer said. “I am truly impressed by EforAll’s grassroots approach to working with emerging entrepreneurs and its proven track record of inclusiveness. I am excited to know that EforAll will be a real and viable resource, widening the pathway of opportunity and access to all members of our community who driven by an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Board President Jay Anderson, of Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC), noted the need for businesses to have comprehensive support up front.
“We have seen a drastic increase over the last 10 years in the need for technical assistance, coaching, and skills development in all areas of running a business,” said Anderson. “The success is typically based upon how early we can get small business startups the mentoring they need. EforAll is a perfect solution to solve this growing problem.”
With a countywide presence, Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire, said he looked forward to EforAll having a reverberating impact in the Berkshires.
“EforAll will be providing for a major area of need in our region and helping strengthen our overall entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Butler. “We’re thrilled to both welcome and partner with this inclusive, innovative and regionally focused initiative. “
Now active in nine locations, EforAll first began working in the Massachusetts cities of Lowell and Lawrence to build a thriving, community-based entrepreneurial ecosystem. EforAll is focused on growing in Massachusetts, with the program spreading to Cape Cod, New Bedford and Fall River, Holyoke, Lynn and Roxbury. Nationally, it has opened a new office in Greater Denver.
Since 2013, EforAll alumni have created nearly 350 new startups and over 680 jobs, raised $21.2 million and generated $19.7 million in revenue. An impressive 83 percent of teams are still active. EforAll startups are 75 percent women-owned, 56 percent minority-owned and 54 percent immigrant-owned; 56 percent owned by residents who were previously unemployed; 75 percent local, 25 percent scalable, 16 percent food-related and 10 percent nonprofit; and 48 percent service, 33 percent product, 12 percent tech and 7 percent retail.