‘Opportunity abounds’: EforAll arrives in Worcester this month with free courses to help entrepreneurs’ ideas become reality

‘Opportunity abounds’: EforAll arrives in Worcester this month with free courses to help entrepreneurs’ ideas become reality

What lies beyond the pandemic? MassForward is MassLive’s series examining the journey of Massachusetts’ businesses through and beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

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National unemployment has been hovering at or above 1 million claims for months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that’s suffocated many small businesses.

The economic uncertainty breeds one thing in the eyes of John Esler, who is leading the effort to bring EforAll to Worcester.

“Opportunity abounds,” Elser said. “That’s what entrepreneurship is best at, looking at the opportune moment and seizing it.”

With eight locations across Massachusetts, EforAll has been in the state for about a decade. Its goal is to provide entrepreneurs a free education to better help their ideas translate into a successful business.

EforAll plans to launch in Worcester in September.

“Out of crisis come fantastic businesses,” Esler said. “I think it’s going to be a time where our students and those who always had a dream of starting a business but they had a job and they just hadn’t gotten the moment, initiative and courage, to leave that job and start a business.”

EforAll will be joined by eforever as part of a new partnership between the two organizations. While EforAll partners with future businesses, eforever works with existing businesses to ensure they succeed.

Worcester will become the first city to launch both simultaneously.

“Worcester has had a tremendous renaissance over the last 10 years,” Esler said. “…There’s just so many resources and so many people who are excited about continuing the renaissance in Worcester that it was just a must-do.”

EforAll plans to launch in September. Eforever plans to launch sometime after in the fall.

The launch of EforAll coincides with the beginning of the academic year at Worcester State University. The school plans to partner with the organization to better prepare its entrepreneurship students for success after they leave the Chandler Street campus.

“It’s about what’s that return on investment after college,” Worcester State President Barry Maloney said. “If you can leave Worcester State with a network and developed ideas, it’s a great way to keep people in the area and keep people linked to Worcester.”

For now, the program is only tied to Worcester State and Quinsigamond Community College. Although, Esler said conversations with other schools in Worcester have started.

Worcester State gained interest in the program after it resembled its “Big Idea” initiative for entrepreneurial students.

Members of the community offer pitches to the EforAll. One of the factors determining acceptance is ensuring the students offer a representative look at the community.

Seventy-four percent of the entrepreneurs served at EforAll are women, with 58% consisting of people of color. Esler said 46% of the businesses are immigrant-owned and 39% were previously unemployed.

“We work hard to make sure that the entrepreneurs that we serve in a given community are representative of the demographics of that community,” Esler said.

Students then participate in three months of training. The classes take place two days a week for three hours. After the course, students are paired with three mentors to gain a better perspective of the business climate in their communities.

The course also brings opportunities for students to win upwards of $20,000 to help in launching businesses. Students select their peers as the award winners.

Seventy percent of businesses that launched after completing the EforAll remain open after three years. The number is higher than the national figure that shows about 60 percent of businesses survive after year three.

The number should only grow though as students will have access to eforever once they start their business.

Since 2014, eforever has helped 326 entrepreneurs and 97% of those businesses remain open.

The program is provided cost-free to entrepreneurs.

Before its launch, EforAll raised three years’ worth of funding from existing businesses to ensure it had a strong foundation to begin in Worcester.

The goal for the first year is to launch 30 new businesses.

“You have to be a bit of a risk-taker but you also have to build a network to help you when things don’t go well. I think that’s all part of what EforAll is about,” Maloney said. “The fact that Worcester doesn’t have a chapter, it’s time.”

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