Page 29 - BusinessWest February 17, 2021
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 EforAll Holyoke
This Nonprofit Ensures That Entrepreneurs Won’t Have to Go It Alone
By George O’Brien
“If your dreams don’t scare you ... they are not big enough.” That’s the quote, attributed to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian
president, economist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, that is stenciled onto one of the walls at EforAll Holyoke’s headquarters on High Street, in the heart of the city’s downtown.
Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, executive director of this nonprofit since its inception, chose it for many reasons, but mostly because it resonates with her and also because it accurately sums up entrepreneurship in general, as well as the work that goes on in that facility.
In short, she said, dreams of running a business should scare someone,
because there is nothing — as in nothing — easy about getting a venture off the ground ... and keeping it airborne.
“Entrepreneurship is so terrifying,” she said. “And when our entrepreneurs come to us, they often don’t have the support of friends or families or big networks telling them to go for these dreams. That’s why we’re here — to tell them that they’re not alone ... and that you have to be a little crazy to be an entrepreneur.”
Helping turn dreams into reality is essentially what EforAll is all about. This is a statewide nonprofit
with offices in a number of cities with large minority populations and high unemployment rates — like Holyoke. Its MO is to blend education in the many facets of business with mentorship to help entrepreneurs navigate the whitewater they will encounter while getting a venture off the ground, to the next level, or even through a global pandemic (more on that last one later).
“The difference we make is very tangible for people who are seeking new sources of income for their families and themselves, and when you’re an entrepreneur who’s just getting started, it’s really hard to navigate where to go, who to talk to.”
It will be many years, perhaps, before a city or a region can accurately gauge the impact of an agency focused on inspiring entrepreneurship and guiding entrepreneurs, but Murphy-Romboletti believes EforAll is already making a difference, especially with the minority population.
“The difference we make is very tangible for people who are seeking new sources of income for their families and themselves, and when you’re an entrepreneur who’s just getting started, it’s really hard to navigate where to go, who to talk to,” she told BusinessWest. “The model that we use, providing really close mentorship, makes such a difference — you don’t have to go through the process alone.”
Her sentiments are backed up by some of those who have found their way to EforAll and been part of one of its many accelerator cohorts. People like Sandra Rubio.
Years ago, she started baking cakes for family members because she wasn’t happy with the quality and price of what she found in area stores. Soon, she was making
cakes and other items for friends, neighbors, and even total strangers who had been exposed to her work. And her success promoted her to launch Totally Baked 413, which will soon open a location in the Holyoke Transit Center on Maple Street.
She credits EforAll with helping her make the leap from part-time activity
to full-time enterprise — but not leap until she was ready and not make too big a leap too soon. She also credits her mentors and Murphy-Romboletti with getting her through those times when she was tempted to let the dream die.
“There were times when I just wanted to give up, say ‘forget it,’ and go back to work,” she recalled. “But then, I would meet with my mentors, meet with my class, and it got me right back on track — it gave me the push I needed to press on.”
And people like Jailyne Torres, who launched Shyguns, a creative clothing brand and seller of vintage clothing. She said she took part in the Spanish- speaking accelerator, called EsparaTodos, and credited EforAll with helping her gain consistency and take a concept she conceived when she was only 16 years old and make it into a business.
“I always had the idea, the concept, but I never really knew how to make it actually make it a brand,” she said. “But EsparaTodos helped me with all that.”
Such comments explain why EforAll, while still small and emerging, if you will, like the businesses it mentors, is already a Difference Maker in the community it serves.
 Tessa Murphy- Romboletti, executive director of EforAll Holyoke.
DIFFERENCE
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   Leah Martin Photography
 BusinessWest







































































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