Entry to Entrepreneurship Showcase

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 5:00pm

On Tuesday, April 12th, we celebrated the achievements of the young entrepreneurs who have completed the Entry to Entrepreneurship program presented by BerkShares, Inc, in partnership with the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network and Berkshire Community College's South County Center. Students presented their business plans at Dewey Hall in Sheffield, MA to friends, family, and community members and each received 200 BerkShares in seed money, awarded by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics and BerkShares, Inc.





By way of extending our thanks to all the many people who helped to make Entry to Entrepreneurship possible, we're posting program facilitator Alice Maggio's introductory remarks from the event.

"Good evening, thank you so much for joining us. My name is Alice Maggio. I am the executive director of BerkShares Inc. and the local currency program director at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, and I want to welcome you to this celebratory event. Tonight we are celebrating students from our Entry to Entrepreneurship program, and cheering them on as they present the business plans that they have developed over the course of the last twelve weeks. I know you’re all looking forward to hearing from them.

But we are also celebrating the contributions of so many of our community members who have pitched in with their time, energy, intelligence, (and money!) to help make Entry to Entrepreneurship possible.

And we also invite you to celebrate our local economy – all the wonderful locally owned businesses that we are fortunate to have here – and to imagine what is possible here in the Berkshires to further deepen and diversify the community of local businesses.

Thank you for joining this celebration, and for being here tonight.

Entry to Entrepreneurship is a bit hard to describe. It’s part laboratory, part business course, part mentorship program, part service learning project, part economic development experiment.

The students that you’ll hear from tonight have been meeting in a classroom at Berkshire Community College’s South County Center for two hours each week since the end of January. They have been guided through a curriculum that I co-developed with Keith Girouard from the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network’s Berkshire Regional Office, one that follows the outline of a standard business plan.
The goal was for the students to “learn by doing” – learn about business and their community by coming up with a business idea and developing it into a business plan. These are the business plans that our students will be presenting tonight.

Now, you might be wondering why BerkShares, Inc. and the Schumacher Center for New Economics are interested in putting together a business planning program for young people in the Berkshires. Well, our interest in developing Entry to Entrepreneurship stems from our interest in finding ways to build our local economy from within.

We see Entry to Entrepreneurship as a part of a larger initiative spearheaded by BerkShares, Inc. called Community Supported Industry. Community Supported Industry builds on the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model to find ways that citizens can identify local business opportunities and work together to turn them into enterprises that become part of the local economy.

Inspired by this spirit of community support, Entry to Entrepreneurship has a slightly different shape from your normal business planning course.

First, it’s “crowd sourced.”

Instead of one teacher, there was a multitude of teachers. The teachers for the class were local business people and experts, all speaking about their areas of expertise. Many of them are here tonight, and I’d like to thank them now for their work: Maddie Elling, Keith Girouard and Nancy Shulman, Billie Best, Phyllis Webb, John Graziano, Michal Snyder, David Bruce, and Erik Bruun all volunteered their time to come teach our students.

This was a multigenerational classroom. It’s not always easy for high schoolers to imagine what it’s like to run a business. But thanks to another group of extraordinary community members who volunteered their time as mentors, advisors, and business plan reviewers, our classroom was able to incorporate many voices, and our students had access to real live business people with real life experience. Many of them came to every class, to serve as sounding boards & resources for our students as they developed their ideas.

Mark DeCelle, Chip Elitzer, Charles Ferris, Oskar Hallig, Howard Lefenfeld, George Manley, Rachel Moriarty, Bonnie Silvers, Richard Stanley, Kristina Vaselewski, Vito Vitrano, Maia Conty, Jody Law, Betsy Andrus, Will Conklin, Elizabeth Hamilton, Brian Hailes, Sierra Watson, Bruce Marzotto, and Kate Chebatoris formed this corps of advisors, mentors, business plan reviewers.

And then there are our sponsors. Thanks the generous support of local individuals, businesses, and banks this year, students were able to participate in this class by paying a 25 BerkShare or $25 registration fee only. We are committed to continuing to make this opportunity affordable to all local young people who wish to participate. If you would like to contribute to the future of this program, please see Kate Chebatoris or Catherine Chester at the door before you go.

Our sponsors this year were Covestro, 1Berkshire, the Elitzer Family Fund Nancy Fitzpatrick and Lincoln Russell, Benno Friedman, the Great Barrington Rotary Club, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Hellman, Shearn & Arienti, LLP, Hunt Alternatives & Fern Portnoy, Charles and Angeliki Keil, Lee Bank, Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, Salisbury Bank and Trust Company, Smitty Pignatelli, The Triplex Cinema, and the Schumacher Center for a New Economics.

I would like to extend my thanks and the thanks of the Board of BerkShares to all of our sponsors for jumping on board to support this program. This is only the second year we’ve done it, and it’s not the most conventional thing to fund. THANK YOU.

So this program was crowd sourced and crowd funded, but it also took a different approach to idea generation. We started the program off with a lesson about the local economy, and a challenge to our students to think about what kinds of businesses might be missing from our local economy, and what goods and services might we currently be importing, when we may be able to instead produce them or offer them right here. This ties in to BerkShares, Inc.’s goal of finding ways to fill the gaps in our local economy with businesses that can provide good livelihoods, good employment, and use our natural resources in a responsible and productive way.

The ideas you’ll hear tonight are what these 15 students imagined for the Berkshire economy. But you might have ideas of your own. We hope to bring some of those ideas out in discussion towards the end of the evening.

Finally, before we launch into the presentations, I have a few more thank yous.

First, to the local businesses, all of whom accept BerkShares, who have provided our refreshments for tonight. The cheese platters are from Bizalion’s Fine Food, the cider and doughnuts are from Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, and the coffee is from one of our advisors, Barth Anderson from Barrington Coffee Roasters. Thank you!

Next, a thank you to the Entry to Entrepreneurship committee who helped me to organize the program and raise the funds to make it happen: Tim Geller, Catherine Chester, Dave Bruce, thank you!

Next, a thank you to CTSB-TV for airing the videos from our class, and a HUGE thank you to Rachel Moriarty for filming our classes, editing the footage, and posting it on YouTube, despite very slow internet! Rachel is my colleague at the Schumacher Center, and we are so lucky to have her.

Another big thank you goes to Berkshire Community College for welcoming us into their South County Center and making us comfortable in one of their biggest classrooms. What a wonderful community resource. Thank you to Julie Hannum for making that space possible.

And an extra special thank you to Keith Girouard and the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network for your partnership in developing the content of Entry to Entrepreneurship. This program would be nowhere near as sophisticated without your advice, teaching experience, the resources your brought to the table, and your good will!

Finally, I’d like to thank and congratulate our students. This is our second year running the program. Last year we had 5 graduates and this year we have 15! These students come from Lenox, Lee, Great Barrington, Sheffield, and everywhere in between. They are 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 23 years old! These young people have all impressed me and it has been a delight to meet them and see them grow and learn over the last few months.


We are now going to hear a short presentation from each of our students or groups of students. If you have questions for them please hang on to them and after all the presentations we will have time for questions and answers. Without further talk from me, I would like to invite our first presenter up on stage..."