LOWELL – There’s a new captain of the ship – so entrepreneurship – and she is ready to push the organization further into new oceans of opportunity.
EforAll (Entrepreneurship for All) is a long-standing organization that has helped hundreds of aspiring business owners get started.
Sophan Smith was selected from dozens of qualified applicants to serve as the new Managing Director of EforAll in Lowell. And for the 42-year-old Dracut resident, the new position closes the circle for her professional life. A native of Lowell said of her return to her youthful roots: “I am very excited to be back in my hometown. But more than that, to be in an industry that helps people. “
EforAll has a deep and massive presence both in the Merrimack Valley and across the country. Your main job is to help people start small businesses and grow.
“You don’t have to climb the corporate ladder to be successful,” said Smith of the traditional goals that set antiquated ideals from the American dream. “You can start your own ladder.”
On Cabot Street, whims become ideas and ideas become actions. But the daunting and arduous challenge of the start-up has deterred many aspiring entrepreneurs from going beyond a sketch on a napkin.
EforAll is the panacea for all fears associated with starting a business.
EforAll is headquartered in Lowell and serves medium-sized cities across the country. It helps clear the fog, set a goal, and set a course for everyone involved in their programs.
According to the company’s website, EforAll’s mission is to
– “Introducing and celebrating entrepreneurship in the local culture through pitch competitions and other public events. “
– “Promote community engagement by using community members and leaders as experts, judges, mentors, advisors and partners.”
– “Prepare entrepreneurs with a 12 week in-depth session covering the basics of starting a business including: accounting and budgeting, using an attorney, fundraising, presentation skills, making effective use of marketing and social media, pricing, using strategy of Stanford’s Business Model Canvas and iterative testing of assumptions using the Lean Startup methodology. “
– “Support entrepreneurs by providing a mentoring team, advice, guidance and an integrated professional network.”
– “Invest in the most promising companies with cash prizes.”
– “Celebrate successes and inspire others through award ceremonies and public relations.”
And for Smith, it is a welcome responsibility to lead the ship, laden with passengers, to its ambitious goal. With numerous positions on her resume at various corporations, universities, and nonprofits in Eastern Massachusetts, including a similar role at the Merrick Valley Business Center, she was a natural fit for the position.
Relationship building is their secret weapon, along with an understanding that EforAll is not just a template and resource for business success, but a civic and collaborative collaboration that benefits all parties.
According to program director Lianna Kushi, there were three main criteria for the position. Leadership and vision; general management; and development and fundraising.
“And Sophan threw it out of the park on each of them,” said Kushi. “She took over on the first day. She had already introduced herself to her new colleagues before I had the chance. She was in meetings before I even got there. I felt wonderfully out of date. “
Kushi added, “She has the ability to be comfortable in all situations. Whether it’s a formal corporate event or a neighborhood picnic, it can be in either world. She is a natural leader with a strong bond with the local community. “
And both women agree that the economic impact of COVID-19 will put many people out of work and a greater interest in running a business and self-employment.
It should be clear that EforAll does not fund any company directly. However, it creates connections between business aspirants, bankers and leasing agents, vendors and retailers.
Regardless of who is at the top, EforAll will stay on course and continue to provide guidance, mentoring and resources to anyone who needs it – all for free.
One of the many success stories is that of The Purple Carrot, whose co-owners Doug and Alaina Brackett completed the program in 2016. They said EforAll helped them build relationships with other business owners, funding sources and the community.
Their Merrimack Street bakery has been highly and consistently recognized as the best in the valley, winning three times the Winter Festival’s annual soup competition.
“EforAll helps build a sustainable workforce for businesses and improve the local economy,” said John Hawkins, an EforAll mentor. “You assign the aspirants to a team of mentors who help them navigate the system. As a mentor, I like to give something back to the community and watch these ideas grow. The personal satisfaction of watching others succeed is very rewarding. “
Another new graduate is Brian Ruhlmann who completed the program in 2020.
“It was huge,” he said. “They know their stuff and guide you through every point at which you start a business. The community of co-entrepreneurs and the commitment to mentors is very powerful. Being part of this network is invaluable. I 100% recommend the program to anyone looking to own a small business. The connections last forever. “