With funding from the 2012 Jobs Bill, the Innovation Institute designed and ran the Massachusetts Innovation Mentoring Initiative, a grant competition aimed at supporting new and novel programs to increase the number, success, and diversity of start-ups and small businesses in regions across the Commonwealth.
Three winners, announced in 2014, have each implemented and completed different types of multi-year projects in different regions of the state. Collectively, the winners have been able to build and expand high-quality mentoring capacity, bring best practices around mentoring and entrepreneurship support to traditionally underserved areas, and engage new institutions and other community partners in growing regional innovation economies.
Entrepreneurship for All (formerly Merrimack Valley Sandbox): The award from the Innovation Institute helped EforAll strengthen and scale up its mentor program for entrepreneurs in the Greater Lowell area. The group hired two ‘Managers of Mentorship,’ to promote mentoring services including a bilingual mentor who supported EforAll’s establishment of a program for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs, EparaTodos. In addition to the added mentor support, the award was used to enhance communication between mentors and entrepreneurs, and to build awareness of the EforAll’s programs in the region. The program engaged dozens of mentors in Lowell and Lawrence, helping expand the number of ventures founded as a result of EforAll programming from 75 to 176. Find out more here about EforAll's impact on the region and the Commonwealth.
Interise, Inc.: With the Mentoring Initiative award Interise provided extensive executive mentoring to a select number of established small business owners in the South Coast region, spanning the Gateway Cities of Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, and Barnstable with an emphasis on minority- and women-owned businesses. From its strong roots in the Commonwealth, Interise has become nationally recognized from the success of its StreetWise MBA program, a seven-month certificate program that has served 3350 small businesses nationally. The StreetWise MBA created the foundation for 3 classes incorporating additional mentoring that graduated 23 small businesses owners in the New Bedford/Fall River area. The class of 2014, the first in the South Coast, reported an average of 30% growth, with 100% of participants adding or maintaining jobs a year later.
Valley Venture Mentors (VVM): Based in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, Valley Venture Mentors was awarded a grant to expand mentoring services to increase the number of active start-ups, improve the quality of new enterprises, and build out programs to support the innovation economy in the Pioneer Valley. The Mentoring Initiative award allowed Valley Venture Mentors to greatly expand the number of companies being mentored, open a co-working space for entrepreneurs, hire additional program staff, and host more events for entrepreneurs and potential investors, including ‘demo days’ and pitch contests. Over the course of the grant, VVM established a replicable, scalable model to use entrepreneurship mentoring as a way to bolster the formation, success, and diversity of startups emerging from the Pioneer Valley, accepting 30 applications from more than 120 in their inaugural Accelerator cohort, which began in 2015. Following their Mentoring Grant Award, Valley Venture Mentors successfully leveraged the investment to attract an additional $1.5 million in private funding to increase their programs' impact.