More than 100 business owners and other professionals act as mentors to those who also want to start a company of their own, Parker explained. The tuition? Zero. The Deshpande Foundation covers the entire cost, Parker said.
“They have to make a commitment to drive to Lowell or Lawrence twice a week,” he said. Students learn about bookkeeping, marketing and other skills essential to running a business.
One of last night’s graduates who solved a problem is Cheryl Hajjar of Haverhill. A mother who is well aware of the difficulties young children often have with toilet training, holding on to a pacifier and making the transition from crib to bed, she invented the Indigo Pixies.
The Pixies are a family of “magical, multicultural fairies” that help children achieve these milestones, she said. Hajjar self-published a book, “The Paci Pixie,” that tells how a pixie helps children let go of their pacifiers.
Hajjar received a grant of $4,000 and she said she expects to start making the Indigo Pixie dolls that will help young children in their development. Thirty-thousand dollars in grants were distributed last night.
“We all won,” said Jer-emy Shannon, founder of FEMG Productions, a multimedia production company. He noted that an anonymous donor who attended last night’s celebration gave $10,000 to be evenly divided among the graduates.
Parker noted that such contributions, made to Merrimack Valley Sandbox, are tax deductible. For more information, visit MVSandbox.org. By the way, the program is called sandbox because that is where many people begin to demonstrate their creativity, Deshpande explained.
Mayor Daniel Rivera, who addressed the graduates, their families and their mentors, said his administration will do all that it can to help entrepreneurs.
“We need more of them,” he later told The Eagle-Tribune.