West

Letter: Nonprofit fosters wide range of innovation

I applaud the Globe for its coverage of the burgeoning field of spaces and programs encouraging entrepreneurs west of Boston (“Suburbs of Invention,” Dec. 29).

Just north of Boston, the cities of Lowell and Lawrence have thriving ecosystems involving hundreds of entrepreneurs who reflect the cities’ diversity: young/old, with advanced degrees/not out of high school, recent immigrants/longtime residents. Over 120 mentors and 30-plus institutions, including all of the high schools and colleges in the area, are pledging time and money to help these entrepreneurs.

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The Merrimack Valley Sandbox, a local nonprofit catalyzing this activity, builds awareness of entrepreneurship through English and Spanish language pitch contests, entrepreneur meet-ups, and workshops — and then channels 15 to 20 promising candidates to twice-a-year intensive accelerator programs that include mentors, experts, free co-working space, and prizes. The results are promising; local ventures include a made-to-order textile firm with seven customers, six employees, and $100,000 in the bank (Mass Challenge grand prize winner); a nonprofit helping juvenile offenders avoid jail time; a device to track the wear of running shoes; and a vegan ice-cream company.

While other efforts focus primarily on high tech, we believe the Merrimack Valley Sandbox approach promoting “Entrepreneurship for All” will succeed in midsize cities across the country, resulting in hundreds of sustainable and diverse new businesses committed to their communities.

David Parker

Executive director

Merrimack Valley Sandbox

Lowell

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