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When Laura Teicher was hired as director of Greentown Learn in 2018, one of the first things she did was push for a rebrand, a new name that better represented what the enterprise — an offshoot of Greentown Labs in Somerville that connects startups with manufacturers — is all about.

The team tried to get some variation of the word ‘connect’ into the name, almost calling it KINECT before realizing that was the name of a failed Super Nintendo app, as well as too close to K’Nex building toys.

What they eventually settled on was FORGE, which isn’t an acronym; the capital letters are used for emphasis. It was simply, elegant, and forceful, speaking to the way the agency forges relationships between innovators looking to produce and then scale up their big ideas, and manufacturers looking for new, local lines of business.

And that’s exactly what it has done, helping more than 500 startups since 2015, currently engaging more than 450 manufacturers, and supporting more than 4,500 jobs in innovation and manufacturing along the way. The startups in the program boast more than a 90% survival rate; the national average is around 10%.

But, in some ways, FORGE’s name took on a new meaning during the past two and a half years of economic upheaval churned up by the pandemic. It reflects the way this agency forged on, not only continuing to make connections, but re-emphasizing the importance of what it does.

Take the supply-chain crisis. The disruptions of those global production and shipping networks, which continues today, caused many manufacturers to localize their supply chains as much as possible, at the same time that startup companies were increasingly looking to manufacture their products close to home. In that sense, FORGE has become an even more valuable part of the innovation and manufacturing ecosystem.

But even in more stable times, an enterprise like FORGE is simply a good idea, on many levels. So many startups with good ideas fail because they don’t have this kind of resource to guide them into the production and scaling phases that are critical to a business success story. And so many manufacturers aren’t aware of the potential new lines of business sprouting up in their own backyards.

The greatest beneficiary is the regional economy itself. These connections are not only helping businesses grow and thrive, but do so in Massachusetts, and in many cases Western Mass., and that’s good economic news for everyone.

FORGE’s Western Mass. director, Kevin Moforte, told BusinessWest that he loves entrepreneurship, partly because of the role it plays in building not just individual wealth, but prosperous, stable communities. That’s something to celebrate during an era that has been anything but stable.

Cover Story

Passing it On

Kasey Corsello

Kasey Corsello, a certified coach and co-owner of the Corsello Butcheria in Easthampton.

There are many components to the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, perhaps none more important than the small army of mentors who are passing on what they know to a growing number of people looking to work for themselves instead of someone else. They impart to these entrepreneurs everything from the importance of understanding a spreadsheet to the notion that failure is … well, not unexpected and something to be learned from.

When asked what she tries to impart to entrepreneurs as a mentor, or do for them as she counsels them, Kasey Corsello summed it all up by saying that she tries to “normalize the emotional experience of it all, so they don’t feel like there’s something wrong with them.”

Anyone who has ever owned a business or tried to launch one — or mentored anyone who has, for that matter — knows exactly what she’s talking about.

“It is scary to be in the face of uncertainty, so I help them access their own inner resources, their own wisdom of lift experience to be able to make sound decisions,” said Corsello, a certified coach, co-owner, with her husband, of the Corsello Butcheria in Easthampton, and mentor with participants in EforAll Holyoke’s accelerator programs. “I help pull out their confidence and get them thinking that they can do this.”

With that, she described one of the many ways that mentors work with their clients and, while doing so, contribute in powerful ways to the vibrancy of the region’s business community.

Indeed, there are many components to the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Western Mass., and one of the most important is the small army of mentors who pass on what they know and provide much-needed sets of eyes and ears (especially ears) to those looking to start or grow a business.

And for this issue and its focus on entrepreneurship, BusinessWest talked with several of them.

Individually, and collectively, they spoke of the various kinds of rewards — and there are many of them — that go with mentoring, and about the various ways they try to counsel those on the other side of the desk, or the telephone, as the case may be.

This counsel can be technical in nature, such as how to read a spreadsheet and understand the numbers of business.

“I tell them that numbers really matter — get to know the numbers,” said Bellamy Schmidt, a retired executive who worked for many years at General Electric before moving to Wall Street and the giant investment firms JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs and then Holyoke City Hall, where he served as auditor. “As much as people may find the numbers uncomfortable, they basically tell the story of a business.”

In other cases, it’s practical advice, everything from understanding one’s audience and meeting its needs, to the importance of networking and relationship-building.

“I tell them that networking is the key to building relationships,” said Yadira Pacheco, who owns a real estate agency and is a mentor in EforAll’s Spanish program, EparaTodos. “I tell them to network every chance they get; it doesn’t matter if it’s linked directly to their type of business — they’re going to find somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who’s going to connect with them because of what they do.”

Yadira Pacheco

Yadira Pacheco says she tells entrepreneurs to network every chance they get, because relationship-building is one of the keys to success.

And then, there’s advice, or counseling, that falls more in the category of psychology, if that’s even the right term, that Corsello referred to.

“I tell them not to be afraid of failing — and for obvious reasons,” said Bill Cole, owner of Tiger Web Designs and a serial entrepreneur himself. “The bottom line is this … if you interview all the super successful people in this world, you’ll find that a common thread is that they failed miserably many times before they got to be successful. And there’s a reason for that; some things you must learn the hard way in order to learn them well.”

How well someone copes with failure, and, overall, how well one can learn from it, will play a larger role in one’s ultimate success in business than any given product or service, said Cole, who told BusinessWest that he focuses on helping those that he mentors become good entrepreneurs much more than he counsels them on any specific idea they may have to change the world as we know it.

 

Getting the Idea

As he talked about his mentoring work, Cole said he “got the bug,” eight to 10 years ago.

That bug, as he called it, is a desire to give back to what is, by all accounts, a growing number of people who would rather work for themselves than for someone else. Or at least try to do just that.

What all who try find out is that this isn’t easy, and if it were, everyone would do it. The fact that not everyone does, speaks to just how hard this is, meaning every aspect of entrepreneurship, from conceptualizing ideas to bringing them to market, to coping with the known — things like competition and the laws of supply and demand — to dealing with the unknown and sometimes what can’t possibly be foreseen … like a global pandemic.

Bill Cole

Bill Cole

“I tell them not to be afraid of failing — and for obvious reasons. The bottom line is this … if you interview all the super successful people in this world, you’ll find that a common thread is that they failed miserably many times before they got to be successful. And there’s a reason for that; some things you must learn the hard way in order to learn them well.”

Overall, entrepreneurship is daunting, said those we spoke with, adding that it’s important to assist those who don’t know what they don’t know with the many important aspects of starting and then running a business, while also helping them deal with the roller-coaster ride that is entrepreneurship and all that comes with it.

“I force them to realize that they’re not alone, that they can rely on their mentors to help them,” said Schmidt. “That creates a sense of comfort; it’s not me against the world — I’ve got people who have my back.”

This ‘having one’s back’ aspect of mentoring is as important as any practical advice on a product or marketing, or reading a balance sheet, said those we spoke with, adding that they want to help people learn about themselves as much as they do about business.

“There’s a lot to learn, and when we’re in a space of learning, self-doubt comes in,” said Corsello. “And that creates an emotional response — ‘I can’t do it,’ or ‘I’m overwhelmed.’ There are some people who have a mindset for entrepreneurship and it’s very easy for them — they’re not afraid to fail, they’re not afraid to take risks; their natural strengths are geared toward entrepreneurship.

“There are others who have a hard time with uncertainty, who have a hard time taking risks, who have a hard time failing,” she went on. “I work with people to break down the steps and celebrate each and every small thing.”

There are many of these small things that are involved with starting a business and taking it to the next level — whatever that might be, said those we spoke with, adding that, overall, they work with their mentees to keep their eye on both the big picture and all the little things that contribute to a business being successful.

And while doing so, as Corsello noted, they try to make these entrepreneurs feel comfortable in their own skin. This in a nutshell, is what she strives to do as a mentor to entrepreneurs, a new role she accepted recently as part of the program known as Blueprint Easthampton, which she helped launch.

She said mentoring is like coaching, in that she’s helping build the confidence needed to get where they desire to go.

“I get to see people in their full light, essentially, and fully believe in them when they can’t believe in themselves,” she explained. “They’re realizing their vision and their dream, and they’re learning about themselves and gaining the tools they need to be resilient.”

Bellamy Schmidt

“I force them to realize that they’re not alone, that they can rely on their mentors to help them. That creates a sense of comfort; it’s not me against the world — I’ve got people who have my back.”

Elaborating, she said that entrepreneurship can be as isolating as it is challenging, and, as Schmidt said, these business owners need to know that they’re not alone. And beyond that, they need to understand that what they’re experiencing — the fears, the self-doubts, the seemingly endless hits to their self-confidence, are not unique.

“They need to understand that they’re not the only ones struggling with this,” she went on. “And that’s why I say that I normalize their experience.”

 

Rewards Program

Over the past decade or so, Cole has been a mentor for several of the agencies that are now part of the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, including VVM, EforAll, SCORE, the Small Business Administration, and others. He’s worked with startups, mom-and-pop businesses, and some looking to get to the next level, and, because of his background, he’s often asked for advice on creating a website.

But his broad advice to entrepreneurs comes in many flavors, including that aforementioned counsel on failure, why it should be expected, why it’s normal, and, most importantly, why it shouldn’t bring an end to one’s dreams of owning their own business.

Overall, he said he advises those he mentors to work smart — and not just hard, although that is critically important as well.

“There’s a combination of working hard and working smart that has to happen,” he explained. “You can’t just work hard, you have to be smart, too. And ‘smart’ just means paying attention to what’s going on around you.

“We tend to have tunnel vision on what we’re trying to do — whatever that may be,” he went on. “If it’s a product, you may have tunnel vision on the product itself, when you have to think about things like how are you going to go to market with that product, or organize the business itself — how many people need to be hired, how much is it going to cost? There’s a difference between having a product idea and a business, and the difference is that most people have ideas that are expensive hobbies when it’s all said and done — it’s not really a business.”

Schmidt agreed, and said he stresses the importance of understanding who one’s customers are and what need is being met by their product or service.

“I try to force them to think about what it is the customer really wants,” said Schmidt. “Because often, a businessperson will want to do something that they want to do, and it might not be what the customer wants; if you have a business, it’s all about the customer, it’s not about you.”

Miguel Rivera, co-owner, with his wife, of Rewarding Insurance Agency in Holyoke, and another mentor in the EparaTodos program, concurred.

“Many people don’t have a target market,” he explained. “You ask them who their target market is, and they say ‘everyone.’ Then I try to teach them that their clients are not ‘everyone’; they must identify who their target market is so they can do the right marketing.”

When asked what they enjoy about mentoring, all those we spoke with said there are many kinds of rewards.

One obvious one is the satisfaction that comes from helping someone or some group take an idea and turn it into something successful.

“The first day I went to work after college, my new boss said to me something along the lines of … ‘the most important thing I get out of my job is a sense of accomplishment from helping move young people along in their careers and watching them grow,’” Schmidt recalled. “As naive as I was, I thought that was kind of a ridiculous answer. But as I matured, I realized how right he was; there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment when you see someone develop that you have helped.”

Rivera agreed. “I’m glad to see business owners doing their ribbon cuttings and grand openings — that’s what I enjoy the most,” he said. “And many of my clients are still in business — they’re doing well, and I take pride in that.”

Said Cole, “I love it when someone is successful and I had something to do with it — it’s a wonderful feeling. But I don’t mind being there when someone is struggling, either; I’ve been there, so I know.”

Pacheco has been there as well, and so she knows first-hand how daunting entrepreneurship is. And that’s why she mentors others.

“When I was starting my business, it was very difficult, because I didn’t have the support, the guidance, or a blueprint — anything,” she recalled. “So, I was literally thrown into it and had to figure it out for myself. And that’s one of the reasons why I help others. I know how difficult and stressful it can be when you’re trying to grow a business.”

 

The Bottom Line

Beyond that, though, mentors say that they inevitably learn from those they are mentoring, and this helps them become both better business owners — and better mentors.

“I’ve learned a tremendous number of things that I never would have learned otherwise,” said Cole. “The reality is I’m smarter for it and I have a lot more experience from it than I ever would have had if I just done my own little thing.

Pacheco agreed.

“You always learn something from each participant,” she told BusinessWest. “Everyone has a story; everyone’s background is different. In the process of me helping others, they are also helping me; it’s a learning experience on both sides.”

Such sentiments explain why mentoring is so rewarding — and why it’s so important, for all those involved.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

DBA Certificates Uncategorized

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the month of July 2018.

AMHERST

Bang On Creative
182 Pondview Dr.
Michael Lewis-Schuster

Buba Bread
28 Pulpit Hill Road
Malaika Ross

Kaijn
30 Boltwood Walk, Unit 1
Greg Stetsman

Mosquito Joe of Amherst-Charlton
731 South East St.
Lynn Hateh

Sunset Property Management
69 South Pleasant St., Suite 203
David LaMotte

BELCHERTOWN

Black Oak Farm
351 North Washington St.
Carl Pomietlarz, Terry Pomietlarz

Country Acres
134 South Washington St.
Christine Spellman

Danaleri Corp.
732 Daniel Shays Highway
Ross Hartman

GB Restoration
29 Sherwood Dr.
Gregory Burgess

John H. Conkey & Sons Cordwood
621 Daniel Shays Highway
John Conkey Jr.

KMH Engineering
54 Oak Ridge Dr.
John Henry

CHICOPEE

DHI
272 Langevin St.
Andrew Desormier

JR Services
76R Sheridan St.
Nahor Santos de Sonia Jr.

DEERFIELD

Blazing Light Photography
19 Kelleher Dr.
Richard Logan

Church of Healing Light
796 River Road
Russell Canedy

Josh’s Detailing Service Shop
60 North Main St.
Joshua Candelaria

New Golden China
45B South Main St.
Chun Bao Lu

EASTHAMPTON

Artisan Builders and Craftsmen
19 Plain St.
Aaron Scott

Bonnien G & Co.
116 Pleasant St., #410
Bonnie Shew

EAST LONGMEADOW

Be Here Now Therapeutic Massage
280 North Main St.
Virginia Levine

Cyndy’s Stained Glass
104 Gerrard Ave.
Cynthia Ford

The Glowtique
280 North Main St., Suite 7
Natalya Czapienski

New England Termite & Structural Repair
121 Mountainview Road
Eric Lucas

Tiger Web Designs
95 Lasalle St.
William Cole

Wright Choice Heating & Air
130 Smith Ave.
Jessica Wright

GREENFIELD

Blue Moon Healing Center
11 Plum Tree Lane
Jean Conway

Intelligent Spark
115 South Shelburne Road
Frederick Bliss

J. Duke Driving School Inc.
489 Bernardston Road
Kim Williams, Nick Waynelovich

The Salon
278 Main St.
Kristine Mallon

The UPS Store
21 Mohawk Trail
Dennis MacLaughlin

HADLEY

Michael’s
325 Russell St.
Barbara Salter

Rodriques Towing
10 Mill Valley Road
Aldron Rodriques

Stephanie Joerke Massage
8 Goffe St.
Stephanie Joerke

Sunny Brook Farm
6 Mount Warner Road
Joe Boisevert

HOLYOKE

ABC Mini Storage
621 South Canal St.
Robert Celi

Blue Door Gatherings
420 Dwight St.
Laura Bowman

City Pizza
420 High St.
Kemal Cirak

Classic Magic Beauty Salon
594 Dwight St.
Betsie Pagan

Nueva Esperanza
401 Main St.
Nelson Roman

United Tractor Trailer School
50 Holyoke St.
Paul Wanat

LONGMEADOW

Applied Behavior Software, LLC
37 Wimbleton Dr.
Applied Behavior Software, LLC

Mario’s Barber Shop
945 Shaker Road
Anthony Magnani

LUDLOW

Chameleon Painting
58 Chapin Circle
Brian Foster

Magna Roller
119 East Akard St.
Peter Puscema

Max’s Whatnot Shop
6 Chestnut St.
Beth Wallace

Nadia LaMountain Massage
393 East St.
Nadia LaMountain

NORTHAMPTON

Borawski Farm
170 Audubon Road
Robert Borawski

Capoeira Gunga do Vale
25 Main St.
Bruno Trindade

Clay & Dough
296C Nonotuck St.
Lily Fariborz

Digital Mapping Consultants
94 Williams St.
Devin Clark

Mineral Hills Workshop
267 Turkey Hill Road
Eric Fernandez

Test Print Pottery
43 Fern St.
Barbara Chalfonte

PALMER

American Woodworks
4028 Main St.
Roger Barnes

Balicki Auto Body Inc.
92 Bacon Road
Michael Balicki, Peter Balicki, Philip Balicki

Bob’s Small Engine Repair
106 Belchertown St.
Robert Cain

The Canine Cuttery
1407 Main St.
Keri Smith

Central Reflexology Inc.
1026 Central St.
Li Hua Zou

Cricket
1045B Thorndike St.
Matt Sternberger

East Coast Design Services
3 Fieldstone Dr.
Matt Blanchard

Mada Courier
1915 Ware St.
Robert Letasz

Palmer Hobbies, LLC
1428 Main St.
William Lanza

Purple Puppy Dog Grooming
529 Wilbraham St.
Rebecca Bouchard

Success Signal Broadcasting
3 Converse St., Suite 101
Marshall Sanft

Woods Group Realty
16 Wilbraham St.
Debra Woods

SOUTHWICK

Daniels Hockey
36 Deer Run
Lynn Daniels

Glow Spray Tanning, LLC
21 Matthews Road
Lauri Scott-Smith

Living Hope for the Heart
2 Eden Hill
Elicia Roy

My PT
35 Gillette Ave.
Thomas Naro

Reiki
17 Fernwood Road
Robert Ziemba

SPRINGFIELD

A Loving Home Care
1205 Bradley Road
Grizel Colon

A.C. Painting
33 Fresno St.
William Carter

All in Compliance
155 Brookdale D.
Strategic Information

Anaisa Amor
49 Andrew St.
Stacey Hynes

Bertile
54 Princeton St.
Ricky Facey

Boston Road Pizza
1291 Boston Road
Ahmet Tanriverdi

Bouncehouse R Us
66 Norman St.
Jorge Santiago

Bozyk Merchandising
2452 Roosevelt Ave.
Francisca Bozyk

Frostal Studio 73
48 Edgewood St.
Jana Allen

G’s Home and Business Improvement
1124 Berkshire Ave.
Dossie Green

GWS Tool Group
616 Dwight St.
Benchmark Carbide, LLC

Hampshire Hills Inc.
620 Page Blvd.
Jameson Porczlo

KMH Gospel Creations
46 Montgomery St.
Kenyetta Monique

Little Chef
131 Oakland St.
Petra Cappas

Locust Market
261 Locust St.
Felix Antigua

Oldies from the Estate
45 Parker St.
William Wallace Sr.

Pagan’s Market
1196 St. James Ave.
Juleiska Pagan-Otero

Rustic Brewing Co., LLC
34 Front St.
Michael Kopiec

Skin Catering
1500 Main St.
Leanne Sedlak

WARE

Ateks Tree
30 Prospect St.
Andrew Hogan

Muddy Brook Remodeling
80 West Main St., #2
Michael Stasiowski

Property Masters
33 Hardwick Pond Road
Joshua Berthiaume

WEST SPRINGFIELD

1105 Main
Joseph Stevens
1105 Main St.

Bob’s Discount Furniture
135 Memorial Ave.
Dean Lotufo

Bourque Real Estate
1233 Westfield St.
Bourque Group Inc.

Cosmetology Hairdresser
446 Main St.
Lidia Afinogenova

Dunkin’ Donuts
11 Pierce St.
Jessica Salema

Golf Tournament Solution
58 Mercury Court
Heather Namakeo

Lynn Property Service
848 East Elm St.
Samuel Lynn

M.H. Ball Pythons
61 Irving St.
Matthew Hanlon

Mavins Stitch & Print, LLC
116 Miami St.
Natalia Shtrom

Quality Inn
1150 Riverdale St.
Shubham, LLC

Steve’s Sports
94 Front St.
Steve Bordeaux

Studio E Fitness
685 Memorial Ave.
Elizabeth Lenart

WILBRAHAM

Falcon Youth Football Assoc.
12 Addison Road
Shannon Melluzzo, Tricia Murphy

On Site Contractors
21 Blacksmith Road
Tanya Carreira

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