Over 200 People Attend the
2014 Sandbox Winter Accelerator Awards Celebration
From December 2013 – February 2014, fourteen-early stage ventures took part in the 2014 Sandbox Winter Accelerator. In the spirit of the Sandbox’s motto of Entrepreneurship for All, a diverse range of ventures took part in the program including a business that creates aerial drones to deliver supplies to disaster-relief areas and a non-profit that provides basic necessities to homeless school children.
On March 6th, over 200 people from all around the region came together to celebrate the conclusion of the program at the Everett Mills in Lawrence. The 2014 Sandbox Winter Accelerator Awards Celebration featured prominent keynote speakers and the awarding of a $25K prize pool to the program’s top entrepreneurs. The event kicked off with accelerator finalists showcasing their ventures. In the picture on the right, Sandbox Accelerator Finalist Jeremy Shannon explains FEMG Productions to Xconomy reporter Gregory Huang. This part of the program was a great opportunity not only for audience members to learn about the entrepreneur’s venture, but to give feedback and advice.
When the speaking program began, Marianne Paley, the Owner of the Everett Mills, welcomed everyone to her 525,000 square feet mill space. She then introduced Daniel Rivera, the recently-elected Mayor of Lawrence. Mayor Rivera talked highly of the Sandbox’s influence of Lawrence, and how the organization is helping transform the city’s future.
Then Greg Bialecki, the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing of Economic Development, spoke about the Sandbox’s impact across Massachusetts. He applauded the Sandboxs for promoting Entrepreneurship for All, and stated that in order for the Commonwealth to continue to grow in the future, there needs to be more entrepreneurs starting up ventures in sectors beyond tech.
To conclude the evening’s keynote speeches, Nick Karwoski inspired the audience with his story as an entrepreneur. Nick was the former Former Director of Marketing, Media and PR at Surfset Fitness. He talked about how the company grew rapidly to be featured on the hit TV show Shark Tank and received a $300K investment from serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban. He also talked about his experience being a Sandbox Mentor, and how it was a rewarding opportunity for him. Following Nick, Mickey Cockrell (Executive Director of Catie’s Closet) gave the class speech. She reflected back on this twelve week experience and commended all of the finalists for staying strong despite all of the challenges.
The evening hit an emotional note when Sandbox Accelerator Finalist Marieke Slovin came on stage to pay tribute to one of her fallen colleagues. Christina Hamilton, a Lowell entrepreneur who founded Delightful Surprise Sweets, and a finalist in the 2014 Sandbox Winter Accelerator, tragically passed away on February 19th. Many tears were shed as Marieke gracefully sang her original song “Against All Odds” to the crowded room that consisted of over 20 of Christina’s family members. After this beautiful song, the Sandbox announced that the Winter Accelerator Class would be giving $5,000 of their $30,000 prize money to the Hamilton Fund. Christina’s mother and son came on stage to accept this donation. Lastly, the Sandbox announced that in order to honor Christina’s memory, there will be a Christina Hamilton Award. This will be given during every future accelerator class to an entrepreneur who exemplified Christina’s traits of perseverance, hard-work, and grit.
Then for one last time, the entrepreneurs came on stage to make their last final pitches as Sandbox Finalists. “This has been an experience of a lifetime,” said Sandbox Finalist Susu Wong. “There has been so much support and camaraderie amongst all of us. This program not only helped my business grow, but me as a person.”
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for. Here is a full list of the winners:
$7,500 – Mickey Cockrell, Catie’s Closet
$4,000 – Florence Furaha/Ritah Nikandi/Debbie Kenny, Meetcaregivers
$4,000 – Cheryl Hajjar/Amy Perreault, The Indigo Pixies
$4,000 – Valerie Leikina, Faux Pas
$3,000 – Danaris Mazara, Sweet Grace Heavenly Cakes
$2,500 – Marieke Slovin, Story-to-Song