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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurs’

Last fall, I blogged about the worthy Granola Project, which gives employment to refugees in Rhode Island. It is housed at the social service agency Amos House in Providence. I bought some of the granola at the farmers market a just last week.

Now Sarah Shemkus has written for the Boston Globe about a similar initiative for refugees in Massachusetts, but with the goal of helping refugee women to spin off companies on their own.

“Moo Kho Paw fled the violence and oppression of Myanmar for a refugee camp in Thailand nearly a decade ago,” writes Shemkus. “Five years later, she, her husband, and their baby daughter resettled again, this time landing in Springfield.

“As she adapted to her new home, Paw started looking for a job … That’s when she learned about Prosperity Candle, the Easthampton company where she has now worked for three years.

“ ‘I love the job,’ Paw said. ‘It helps me to pay the rent, to buy the baby diapers.’

“That’s precisely what Ted Barber, 46, hoped for when he and partner Amber Chand founded Prosperity Candle in 2010. … Sales are only part of its mission — the company says its real goal is to help women in and from developing countries by teaching them new skills and creating jobs. …

“In Easthampton, the company employs refugees such as Paw to make and package candles and fulfill orders. Currently, up to four refugees are working there at any given time, though Barber expects to hire more as the business expands. …”

The idea for an enterprise like Prosperity Candle first occurred to Barber when he was working in Africa, helping entrepreneurs build small businesses. …

” ‘I realized I wanted to do something different.’ …

“Rather than giving away money or supplies, [his] company would provide women with the resources, skills, and support they need to start a sustainable businesses. …

“Prosperity Candle formed as a low-profit limited liability company, a structure that requires the business to put its social mission ahead of profits.”

More.

Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe
Moo Kho Paw (left) and Naw Test made candles at Prosperity Candle in Easthampton.

Prosperity Candle formed as a low-profit limited liability company, a structure that requires the business to put its social mission ahead of profits.

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I took a tour of Mass Challenge today, an accelerator incubator program. And what is an accelerator incubator program? you ask. An incubator helps small businesses get launched and grow. An accelerator helps them get launched and grow really fast.

The program I visited may be the biggest anywhere. It has a whole floor of a gorgeous new building overlooking Boston Harbor, which the landlord has provided rent-free at least until 2014. It has zillions of sponsors and supporters, including the mayor and the governor, who don’t always see eye to eye on other matters.

Enter by tomorrow to be in the running for this year’s program and the top prize. Every entrant, whether chosen for the program or not, gets three to five professional reviews. You can enter from anywhere in the world. Caveats: there is an entry fee of $200, and your startup has to have made less than $1 million so far. Click here to enter.

From the website: “MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup accelerator and competition, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached. Benefits for startups include:

* 3 month accelerator program. World-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, media and more.
* $1M in Cash Awards. $4M+ in-kind support.
* Open to all. Any startup can enter, from anywhere, in any industry.
* No equity taken. No restrictions applied.”

And while we’re on the subject of small business, I also saw a great presentation about a new City of Boston website that walks people through all the things they need to do to get a business started in Boston. A wonderful, user-friendly site.

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The blue-collar city of Buffalo, New York, has struggled in recent decades with unemployment and economic decline. A few years ago, it had a big idea for redeveloping its waterfront — a big idea that went up in smoke.

But when residents and local organizations starting thinking small instead of big, good things began to happen.

“In 2004, it was decided that the region would invest large sums of public money [at the site of the old Memorial Auditorium] to draw a new outlet for Bass Pro Shops, a national purveyor of sporting goods and fishing equipment. Local leaders scraped together $65 million in promised tax breaks, infrastructure improvements and other public subsidies to speed its arrival and to catalyze a new era of growth and commerce on the waterfront. It was all for nothing.

Since the Bass Pro deal collapsed, the harbor development corporation has shifted its focus on some comparatively tiny, piecemeal projects, such as the multicolored Adirondack chairs that dot the waterfront park, a new small restaurant that dispenses ice cream and veggie burgers, Jason Mendola’s fledgling kayak rental business and the relocation of the free Thursday at the Square concerts to Canalside’s Central Wharf.

None of those improvements required huge investments. None were heralded as keystone projects for future growth. But together, they have begun to transform the phrase ‘waterfront development’ from an oxymoron into a reality.”

Read the thoughtful article by Colin Dabkowski in the Buffalo News. I found the lead at ArtsJournal.com.
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By the way, when my mother met my father, he was an editorial writer for the Buffalo Evening News, the forerunner of the Buffalo News. She was attending law school.

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