By Mike Lawrence
December 05. 2015 4:07PM
Entrepreneurs Shelley Cardoos and Jeremiah Hernandez are taking online applications through Wednesday for a 12-week business accelerator program that’s slated to start in January and will offer shares of a $30,000 prize pool to selected participants over the next year. Participants in the 12-week program also will have access to twice-weekly workshops — often with local business leaders — weekly meetings with mentors, and more.
Cardoos and Hernandez are offering the accelerator program through EforAll South Coast, a local expansion of the EforAll model in Lawrence and Lowell. Cardoos is executive director of the SouthCoast branch, which launched in late September and operates in New Bedford and Fall River. Hernandez is its program manager.
Hernandez is a former co-owner of the U.G.L.Y. art gallery, which closed its doors on Union Street earlier this year. Cardoos said she worked for 12 years at Ahead, an embroidery company based in the New Bedford Business Park. Both said a love of entrepreneurship led them to start EforAll South Coast. They hosted a “pitch contest” for new business ideas at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in October.
Hernandez said the accelerator program that starts in January is focused more on mentoring than money.
“This is a very basic incubation,” Hernandez said. “It’s really about the encouragement of startups — it’s not funding $4 million buildouts.”
Cardoos said they’ve had about 10 applicants for the accelerator program so far, with ideas ranging from a food truck to a youth empowerment program, a new design for a professional woman’s handbag, and more. About three to five winners initially will share $15,000 from the prize pool, she said, with shares of the remaining $15,000 then allocated to participants quarterly.
Hernandez said EforAll South Coast is funded by a three-year grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and hopes to move to private and foundation funding in the future.
They base their New Bedford operations at Groundwork, a newly renovated, shared office space on the first floor of the Quest Center, on Purchase Street just north of downtown.
Groundwork also reflects the Russian nesting doll aspect of New Bedford’s entrepreneurial community.
Groundwork co-founders Sarah Athanas and Dena Haden are now a year into their business, which they opened in December 2014. They began upstairs in the Quest Center and opened the renovated first floor space — featuring a kitchen area, wall mural and gleaming wood floors — in November. Athanas said they now have 10 full-time members, five part-time and 15 or so drop-ins who regularly pay a fee to use the shared office space and resources.
Haden and Athanas acknowledged the quirk of growing a startup that, like EforAll South Coast, helps other startups. Athanas said the situation is mutually beneficial, for Groundwork and its clients.
“We kind of are going through our growing pains along with our members, so it really strengthens our community as a whole,” Athanas said.
The local business community grew even larger in Groundwork on Wednesday, when the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce hosted an orientation for more than 10 new Chamber members.
Rick Kidder, the Chamber’s president and CEO, said Groundwork and EforAll reflect the growth of a “new economy,” built by entrepreneurial enterprises focusing on web-based businesses, applications and a location-neutral environment that can be based anywhere while reaching global markets.
“I think New Bedford is well-served if we develop a lot of time and attention to building our own businesses and growing our next generation,” Kidder said. “I think New Bedford is a town that is ripe for startups.”
Kidder said a large amount of local creative talent, the presence of higher education, low costs of office space and other startup costs, and more, all create potential for new endeavors.
“It becomes a place where a great business could start,” he said.
Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT.
EforAll South Coast is taking applications through Wednesday for a 12-week business accelerator program, that’s slated to start in January and will offer shares of a $30,000 prize pool to selected participants over the next year. Participants also will have access to twice-weekly workshops — often with local business leaders — weekly meetings with mentors, and more. The program is aimed at new businesses in the early stages of development. It’s free to apply, and applications can be found at http://lowell-lawrence.eforall.org/accapp/. Winners will be selected through an interview process.