Community Support For Local Business Start-Ups – Babies and Briefcases

Cheryl HajjarBy: Cheryl Hajjar – March, 2014

So you have an idea for a venture and everyone always tells you to go on Shark Tank. You’re feeling empowered and think you are sitting on the next Google or the next Chipotle, but it may not be as easy as you think. According to the Small Business Association, more than 50% of all business fails within the first 5 years. But why? Well, the number one reason new start-ups fail is lack of experience. How do you get experience? Do you go back to school and get a business degree? Do you read a bunch of books on entrepreneurism and roll the dice?

Back in November, a friend of mine told me about the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Winter Accelerator grant program where they actually teach mentorship to individuals that have either a new business or just have ideas and concepts. They award a total of $30,000 in cash and prizes to finalists who they feel accomplished the most during the program. So I decided to enter, and became a finalist. For the next 12 weeks I attended classes, workshops and had regular mentor meetings to “accelerate” my business. It has been one of the greatest opportunities myself and my business, the Indigo Pixies, has had. Goal setting, revenue projections and selected speakers on various topics were some of the things included in the curriculum. I feel like I received a mini MBA; it was so intense and the networking opportunities that we have because of the Sandbox will make the difference between succeeding and failing.

The Sandbox’s goals are to boost the economic and social well-being of greater Lowell and Lawrence by advancing entrepreneurship and innovation. In a nutshell, they teach you all of the tools you need to make your business successful whatever it may be, and their number of success rates so far has been exceedingly high. More than 90% of all individuals who graduated from the program are thriving in their businesses. Not only do they have the Accelerator program but they have several smaller pitch contests where individuals can win smaller amounts to help with costs such as marketing or buying a new computer.

The Sandbox All Ideas Welcome Pitch Contest is one of their opportunities that either a business or a non-profit can enter. They are giving thousands of dollars in cash & prizes & feedback from industry professionals. The deadline to apply is March 13th at midnight. Go to for details.

So how else can you help your business to be successful? Networking with your community and letting everyone know where your business is and how your services can help them is another way to promote your success. Getting involved with networking groups and advertising in your local newspaper is a great way to promote yourself.

One of the things I really love about The Valley Patriot is that local business owners such as myself (and others), really support each other.

This year is The Valley Patriot’s 10th year anniversary of being in business and the timing couldn’t be better to align yourself with the most trusted source of local news. It is on the cutting edge of journalism and provides great advertising rates for start up businesses.

More importantly, is getting involved with other businesses in the area through The Valley Patriot. Cross promotions are great as well. With nearly 40 communities in its delivery, there is no better way to gain more exposure for your business. If you have a start up and are looking for ways to help it grow, contact me at:

Cheryl Hajjar, CEO & Co-Founder, Indigo Magic, 1 (910)-7-pixies,