A couple of weeks back, I was one of the judges for the Merrimack Valley Sandbox finalists. The Sandbox is a mentorship program to encourage entrepreneurship in Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts. Seven contestants made a pitch (they are with me in the picture) and we ranked them. Then a second round of judges on another day ranked another seven contestants. And finally, last week, Desh Deshpande, whose foundation is a major contributor, and Daniel Rivera, Mayor of Lawrence, handed out cash awards to the winners, from a pool of $25,000.
This was grass roots America at its finest! The passion, dedication and hard work of these entrepreneurs was impressive — and their requests were very modest. The smallest award was just $2,500 and the largest just over $12,000. This was for “Clara’s Closet”, where schools set aside a room where toiletries and clothing are made available free of charge to poor and homeless students. Read more about the event in the Eagle Tribune.