A Warm New Bedford Welcome to Samia Walker & Donna Criscuolo!
Samia Walker Donna Criscuolo
This winter, EforAll welcomes two new cohort leaders: Samia Walker and Donna Criscuolo. As an EforAll alum myself, I was eager to get to know who would be taking over this amazing program! I sat down with Samia and Donna on Tuesday for an interview and had a wonderful time getting introduced two these two awesome leaders. The interview went as follows:
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Samia: I’m a proud new mom and a New Bedford native. We just bought a historic house here and it has helped us deepen our SouthCoast roots. I’ve been volunteering with Third Eye Youth Empowerment for 15 years and currently run my own non-profit called Doodles which encourages the freedom of creativity in toddler-to-school age children.
Donna: I was born and raised in Connecticut and ran a yoga business for 14 years while working for non-profits. I lived in California for a couple years where I consulted entrepreneurs before moving to Providence for more non-profit work and settling into Bristol, Rhode Island. I was there for almost three years until I found this wonderful organization [EforAll]!
How did you get involved with EforAll?
Samia: I had already been working on Doodles as a volunteer and then I heard about EforAll’s program, so I applied. Crazy story, the day of my interview for the EforAll accelerator I actually went into labor! I had to send my husband in to do the interview. We got accepted. I did the 12-week accelerator program during my maternity leave from my office job and officiated Doodles as a non-profit. Immediately after I finished the accelerator program I went back to work. I realized I couldn’t go back to sitting behind a desk, and with the 90 minute commute, I wanted to be able to spend more time with my newborn. So I asked around the community, threw out some applications and then Shelly (EforAll’s Director of Programs) reached out and asked if I wanted to apply for EforAll. I jumped on the opportunity and here I am!
Donna: I was looking for another role as a non-profit executive and after doing my research on local opportunities, I came across EforAll and immediately fell in love with the organization. I actually applied for the job and sort of forgot about it, next thing I knew I got a call and after 5 interviews over span of two weeks I was hired! I was sold on EforAll’s mission and how they’re empowering people to really take control of their lives and pursue their dreams. The fact that it’s free to entrepreneurs is a huge bonus.
What made you want to help entrepreneurs?
Samia: After going through the EforAll program myself and seeing the type of knowledge, experience and empowerment it gives people who are pursuing the business they always dreamed about, I wanted to do my part.
Donna: I was an entrepreneur. I understand how lonely it can get and how hard it is to launch a business when you don’t know what you don’t know. I believe in building a supportive community and network for entrepreneurs is crucial to their success and I want to help foster that environment. Whether entrepreneurs apply the knowledge gained through this program tomorrow or in ten years, it is invaluable information.
What advice do you have for freshmen entrepreneurs?
Samia: Just do it! I know it sounds cliche but you really just have to put yourself out there. See and be seen, do not be afraid to network and attend events. You are a professional now, a business owner. Own that title.
Donna: It’s really easy to lose focus on the big picture of life when you’re focused on the business, it’s important to have some form of work-life balance. You have to hustle but you should also take the time to go for a walk, have a good time with friends and family and laugh. You can’t give from an empty vessel. Make time to replenish yourself and your mental health. Remember why you’re doing it. To build a business for yourself and to create a legacy for your friends and family so don’t lose contact with them over the vision.
Tell us about the EforAll accelerator program and the organization overall.
Samia & Donna: We hold pitch contests where anyone can come and pitch their business idea to a panel of judges and the winners get seed money. We conduct a 12-week accelerator program which is a crash course in small business basics. During the program you are matched with three personal mentors whom you meet with at least once a week for 90 minutes. These mentors are business owners themselves, financial advisers, marketing specialists, etc. We hold lectures led by experts and introduce you to industry specialists with plenty of networking opportunities. Our main goal is to give you the best skill set to launch your business. Don’t forget: Its all free!
What are you excited for in the future, both inside and outside of EforAll?
Samia: I’m excited for the growth I’m seeing every day in the city. I’m excited about the new people coming to participate in this growth and I can’t wait to dive deeper into the community to meet new people on different levels. I want to be a cheerleader for those who need the extra push to get their business started. And of course, I’m super excited to watch my child grow up in such a supportive and inclusive community.
Donna: The organization is expanding nationally and that is super exciting! Especially in an economy where most non-profits are shrinking. Our predecessors have laid out a phenomenal groundwork on the SouthCoast. We can’t wait to expand outside of the New Bedford hub to Fall River, Taunton, and maybe even Providence!
After meeting these two wonderful leaders, I can say with full confidence that EforAll is in great hands! EforAll has upcoming pitch contests on April 3rd and April 24th, if you have an idea go pitch it! If you do not, they are still excellent events to attend for networking and learning about the local entrepreneurial community. EforAll is currently taking applications for its 2019 summer accelerator. You can apply here. Applications are due April 28th.