An Incubator Model for Smaller Communities

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox has created an incubator model, which it says will boost the social and economic vitality of cities with populations under 200,000.

The model is more inclusive than most, the staff works with everyone from high school students and their teachers to senior citizens, as well as entrepreneurs from varied ethnic and educational backgrounds.

The program offers an Entrepreneur Program featuring outreach to early-stage entrepreneurs, pitch contests with cash prizes, and 12-week Accelerator Programs that include workshops, mentor matches, the availability of 24/7 workspace, and more cash prizes.

A Student Entrepreneur Program pairs the Sandbox with local nonprofits and universities to identify student entrepreneurs, to help build student skills, and to provide small grants that allow students to test their ideas. The Education Innovation Challenge works closely with local public schools to identify teachers who have innovative ideas to improve students’ experiences inside and outside the classroom — and provides small grants to move those ideas forward.

And the Lanza tu Idea Program connects with area churches and nonprofits to identify Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs, to provide them with workshops, and to give them opportunities to participate in pitch contests with cash prizes.

The full article appeared in our print edition. To always get the full story, read Downtown Idea Exchange.

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