By Caitlin Walsh The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) When a Massachusetts mom was laid off from her job, she didn't sit back and wallow. Instead, she used the time off as an opportunity to launch her business "Tick Tock." The company designs and sells products, such as stickers and charts that hang from doorknobs, to reward youngsters for such things as tooth brushing and potty training."
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
When Keri Steckler and her family moved to Andover a few years ago, it was done in order for her to be closer to her job in Woburn, where she was an art director at a stationery company.
She couldn't have foreseen the layoffs that came soon after in 2014 -- or that Steckler would be one of them.
But thanks to a nonprofit business mentoring program, Entrepreneurship for All, Steckler got a second chance. The idea for her next step -- to start a business called Tick Tock -- was her own and EforAll gave her the skills to make it happen.
Tick Tock takes shape Instead of losing hope or finding herself discouraged, Steckler took her job loss as a sign to get started on her own adventure, an idea she had brewing in the back of her mind -- a company that makes rewards programs for toddler- and preschool-aged children.
She got her business up and running in no time, and called it Tick Tock, which designs and sells products, such as stickers and charts that hang from doorknobs, to reward youngsters for such things as tooth brushing and potty training."
"(The products) help kids develop healthy habits," she said. "For potty training, (the products) hook onto a doorknob so they're eye level, and the kids take ownership. It's what resonates with kids. It seems that when kids are potty training, they're ready to do it, so giving them the idea that they can reward themselves, that really seems to resonate with kids."
From there, she thought of rewards for tooth brushing, too, and targeting older kids as well.
"I'm trying to pivot that as an educational tool," she said. "I've been going to dental practices and really trying to do more business-to-business work, and just increasing those healthy habits for kids who need that extra push, who might not be brushing at night."
'So helpful' Steckler credits much of her success to EforAll.
"It was such an amazing program," said Steckler, who participated in a pitch contest and an 11-week program with EforAll. "You fill out a form about your business a couple of weeks ahead of time, and you go and pitch your business. They have a panel of judges, they have an audience. I did that this past spring and I came out in second place and won $750.
"After that, I got an email about an intensive, 11-week program where everything they teach is so practical and what you would need to start a business."
Classes took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and begin with a matchmaking-type session, in which participants went around and told the potential mentors about their business. From there, every entrepreneur was paired with three mentors, who meet with them weekly and help them launch their business.
Steckler said a camaraderie developed between the 15 entrepreneurs, which was another perk of the program. "It's also a competition, but the competition is so last on my list of why it's important," she said.
There were other perks, too, like the potential to win money -- up to $30,000 for each graduating group of participants. Even after the program is finished and the prizes are won, there's still connection with the mentors and collaboration on ideas.
It was a dream come true for Steckler and others like her, she said.
"It's so helpful for entrepreneurs who are on their own, who don't have anyone to bounce these ideas off of, and you're not sure if you're making good decisions," she said. "To be able to talk to people who know, that's amazing. That's my favorite part about EforAll."