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Help is on the way for Lynn startups

COURTESY PHOTO
Kevin Oye and Trish Fleming mentor an EforAll entrepreneur assistance at their Lowell headquarters.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN In the 1960s, the city’s downtown was a bustling center of activity and there’s at least one person who is convinced it can be again.

Kevin Moforte, executive director of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), a Lowell-based nonprofit whose mission is to assist startups, has turned his attention to Lynn.

“The downtown used to be an economic powerhouse and it  offers lots of potential for startups to thrive,” he said. “Lynn is surrounded by many high-end communities, and if the city was revived, could attract them as customers.”

Launched in 2010 by Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, a billionaire businessman, the center has been responsible for the launch of 200 startups in Lowell, Lawrence, Fall River and New Bedford. Now, it’s Lynn’s turn.

“We want to help people in Lynn kick off businesses with a local touch so they’re in tune with the community,” Moforte said.

The nonprofit offers a small business accelerator to foster entrepreneurial growth. The intensive 12-week program promises to prepare entrepreneurs for the many responsibilities they will face, with mentors who have lived the startup dream and made it a success. There are also small cash grants up to $5,000 to help businesses get off the ground.

“Entrepreneurs are talented people with hopes and aspirations, but need help,” he said. “Our training offers the nuts and bolts of running a business: How to define your product, find customers, pricing, when to hire a lawyer,  how to register the business, how to budget and project cash flow.”

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In addition, the participants work with mentors, successful local business people who have done well and want to help the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The second way to get help from EforAll is to win a “Pitch Contest” like the one scheduled for June 14 at KIPP Academy at 6 p.m. Set up like “Shark Tank” without the teeth, three winners will receive cash prizes, mentoring and expert training.

Thomas L. Demakes, CEO of Old Neighborhood Foods and William Mosakowski, CEO of the Public Consulting Group, which was founded in Lynn, provided an undisclosed amount of money to bring EforAll to the city.

“Starting a company is complicated,” Demakes said. “So many people take the plunge, but they’re simply not prepared to do what it takes to make a new business thrive. This is our opportunity to give something back.”

Former state Treasurer Steve Grossman, who serves as CEO of Inner City Capital Connections, the nonprofit that assists small businesses, including those that are minority-, women- and immigrant-owned, said EforAll has made a difference bringing startups to life in the Bay State’s older cities.

“They are smart, have lots of resources and they bring together thought leaders,” he said.  “They will help accelerate the startup culture in Lynn.”

Moforte is no stranger to the startup community. Before immigrating to the U.S., he opened a soap company in his native Dominican Republic.

“We made high-end soap by hand with coconut oil, cocoa butter, rum and sugar cane and sold them to tourists for $4,” he said. “But making the soap was only a fraction of what I did, the rest of the time I was chasing lawyers, trying not burn out and sometimes chasing the rabbit down the wrong hole. I wish I had an EforAll.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]

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