Entrepreneurship For All Mentors Help Budding Business Owners Flourish

By Paul Tennant The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) EforAll is a nonprofit group that helps people start their own businesses. Mentors who have already achieved success, offer entrepreneurs who are just starting out, advice on how to reach their goals. In many cases, mentors challenge each of their clients to develop a one-year execution plan. LAWRENCE When Daniela Valdivia Terres came to the United States from her native Lima, Peru, a little more than a year ago, she wanted to own and operate her own travel agency.

After all, that is what she did in the old country. She had no idea, however, of how to pursue her dream in her new country.

That's where Entrepreneurship for All, also known as EforAll, came into the picture. EforAll is a nonprofit group that helps people who dare to start their own businesses transform their visions into real live companies.

Mentors, men and women who have already achieved success in business, offer Terres and other beginning entrepreneurs advice on how to reach their goals.

Terres needed guidance on how to keep the books for her travel agency, Vibra Tours, as well as assistance in applying for financing from the Small Business Administration.

Awilda Irizarry, a senior business adviser at Salem State University, helped her surmount those challenges.

In 2016, an American business needs to spread its message on the Internet and social media. Terres, however, was not familiar with these avenues of communication.

No problem. Rafael Fonseca, vice president and director of product management at Artel, a Westfield company that provides video systems, helped Terres become tech-savvy.

Irizarry, Fonseca, Trish Fleming, director of mentoring for North Shore InnoVentures, an "incubator" for biotechnology and clean technology businesses that are just getting started; and Gary Sidell, who operates a real estate firm and owns 60 Island St., the former mill building where EforAll has its Lawrence headquarters, talked to The Eagle-Tribune on Wednesday afternoon about why they mentor budding entrepreneurs.

The mentoring is provided free of charge.

"We guide and inspire our clients to be the best they can be," Irizarry said. "I believe in giving back to the business community."

Advising an up-and-coming business owner can also benefit the mentor, she noted.

"It's a great opportunity to network," Irizarry said.

Fonseca said he has a passion for volunteering.

"I love giving back," he said.

"The entrepreneurs come with a lot of passion," he said. Fonseca and other mentors challenge each of their clients to develop a one-year execution plan.

"It's almost like a parental thing," Fonseca said.

Fleming, of Andover, spent much of her career in Cambridge, which she said has a "surfeit of resources" for anyone who wants to start a high technology company. Yet the ingenuity that sparks the creation of a business "exists everywhere," she said.

That's why she now offers her services on the North Shore and in the Merrimack Valley, "where they need me," she said.

Regarding the voluntary aspect of mentoring, Fleming said, "We don't get paid in cash."

"We feel we're making a contribution," Sidell said. He had the advantage of learning from a mentor, none other than his father.

Sidell's father started KGR, a women's apparel manufacturer, in 1975. KGR is no longer in business, but his father moved on to real estate.

The encouragement and guidance EforAll provides to people who have the courage and vision to start a business are "exactly what this community needs," Sidell said.

"It charges me up to be working with entrepreneurs who have energy and want to learn," he added.

EforAll's graduates include Brenna Schneider, who runs 99Degrees Custom, a Lawrence company that manufactures custom clothing. The company employs 25 workers, according to Andy Vargas, marketing manager for EforAll.

Potential entrepreneurs as well as mentors are encouraged to contact Lianna Kushi, executive director of EforAll in Lawrence and Lowell, at [email protected] or 978-934-6518.

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