Briefcase Departments


Nominations Sought for Difference Makers Award

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly a decade ago, BusinessWest created a new recognition program called Difference Makers. That carefully chosen name sums up what this initiative is all about — identifying and then celebrating individuals, groups, and agencies in this region that are making a difference in our communities. And now, it’s time to nominate candidates for the class of 2018. The nomination form can be found at; click ‘Our Events,’ and then ‘Difference Makers.’ Nominations must be submitted by Nov. 3. Over the first nine years of the program, honorees have included a host of individuals and nonprofit agencies focusing on everything from childhood literacy to combatting homelessness; from reducing gang violence in Springfield to creating a walk to battle breast cancer. For a full list of previous winners, visit

Those nominating candidates are encouraged to make their submissions detailed and explain why the individual or group in question is a true Difference Maker.

VVM Graduates 14 from Collegiate Accelerator

SPRINGFIELD — Valley Venture Mentors announced that it has graduated 14 startups from its inaugural Collegiate Accelerator Program. After nine weeks of intensive training, more than $20,000 in cash prizes was distributed to the entrepreneurs by accredited investors. Additionally, a $5,000 award was given to the startup that showed the most grit. Here is a rundown of the teams and the prize distribution:

• The Travel Unicorn, the LGBTQ+ travel guide that works to connect travelers to safe destinations based on their recommendations: $6,000, plus the $5,000 Grit Award;

• lymph + honey, which provides access to healthful, wholesome, and sustainable natural hair- and body-care products: $6,000;

• Vidvision, which helps marketers convert their video viewers into customers: $2,700;

• Zirui, offering innovative and stylish solutions for traveling with beauty and care products: $2,700;

• Mt. Mitho, bringing flavors from the highest peak on Earth: $1,350;

• redflowers, an online media platform that fosters community and dismantles societal stereotypes surrounding black identities and black women: $700;

• STEAMporio, training the makers of tomorrow by creating a passion for learning: $700;

• Boman, where a shipping container plus agricultural system equals a turn-key platform for growing any crop, anytime, anywhere;

• El Cherufe Chile Paste, an artisanal chile paste that offers a new flavor experience to lovers of spicy heat;

•, where you bid to wear it first;

• Lighthouse, which helps students with projects, no matter the size;

• Shesabelle Chandeliears, helping those with limited earring options experience the full range of expression earrings have to offer;

• Studio 26, a promotional service that offers underground musicians in Massachusetts tools and resources to help expand and build their brand; and

• The Black Enterprise Business Resource Center, which cultivates the empowerment and collaboration of black entrepreneurs in the Western Mass. area through quality business education and business services.

Leadership Holyoke 2017-18 Series to Begin

HOLYOKE — Leadership Holyoke is a comprehensive community-leadership and board-development program of the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce. The series utilizes a combination of classes and practical experiences to help local business people develop their leadership skills, increase their knowledge of the community, and acquire the skills needed to serve as board members and community leaders. The 2017-18 Leadership series begins on Sept. 22, consists of a weekly series of eight seven-hour sessions, and concludes on May 2 with a graduation ceremony at Holyoke Community College (HCC) with a specialty luncheon prepared by the college’s culinary program students. All sessions will be held on Fridays (except for the Boston State House trip) and take place at HCC as well as other locations throughout the city. Each session will include a segment on organization and leadership skills, and a segment on community needs and resources. Faculty members from HCC will participate as instructors and facilitators, and community leaders will participate as speakers and discussion leaders in areas of their expertise. The Leadership Holyoke series is made possible by PeoplesBank. Tuition of $600 per participant is due at the start of the course and includes a continental breakfast each week, a bus trip to Boston, and the graduation luncheon. Sign up online at or call the chamber at (413) 534-3376 with any questions.