Despite the challenges of the past few years, local entrepreneurs continue to find ways to bring products and services to life. For our three Small Business, Big Dreams Contest finalists, the impact of their businesses on the communities they care about are paramount.
In its 5th year, the Rockland Trust Small Business, Big Dreams Contest allows us to give back to the businesses that are the backbone of our local economy. The winner of the contest will receive $20,000 to help achieve their goals, and the two runners-up will receive $2,500 each.
Nazr El-Scari, CEO of A Sneakerhead’s Paradise, looked up to his brother for his extensive sneaker collection. After making some summer money, Nazr began his own collection and grew it from five pairs of sneakers to 55 over the course of a few months.
It was at that time that he became aware of the sneaker resale market. Quickly he saw a major need for the sneaker enthusiast community – fraud is rampant, either through fake products or people taking money without delivering the sneakers a customer paid for. Because he has the passion, time, and interest in sneaker collection, Nazr started A Sneakerhead’s Paradise, a personalized subscription service to acquire sneakers within budget and protect buyers and sellers.
As an 18 year old entrepreneur, Nazr was an idealist. When a similar service launched, it set him back a little until a college class reminded him why he loves entrepreneurship. He realized as a business owner that he needs to “be nimble, ready to learn and ready to take on any obstacle.” Though hosted solely on a website now, Nazr hopes to eventually complement this with a mobile app.
Nazr is hoping to win the Small Business, Big Dreams competition to kick his marketing up a notch to scale his company and bring back the joy and excitement to the sneaker community, rather than a solely profit-focused mindset. “We want to branch out to buy-one, give-one charity work as we scale. We also want to do shoe drives around back-to-school to get sneakers people love and they can afford,” said Nazr.
When asked what drives him as a CEO and entrepreneur, Nazr said, “I can be creative in business – that is exactly what entrepreneurship is. It allows me to be creative and provide opportunities for people in my community and others to build something from the ground up and be part of something bigger than themselves.”
Learn More About How to Start a Business
Since she was old enough to stand on a stool and hold a spoon, founder of Alicia's Spice Co. Alicia Haddad has tried new things in the kitchen. Her passion for cooking, baking and canning with her grandmother and family led her former boss and current friend-slash-mentor to encourage Alicia to start her own business making spice blends.
Alicia’s Spice Co. was founded with only one goal in mind. “Feed Your Body Healthy.” This is the guiding principle behind all their products and development of recipes. With strict dietary needs in mind, she set out to develop great tasting recipes that focus on wholesome ingredients. The company creates and manufactures kosher, keto, vegan, certified gluten-free seasoning blends that are free of anti-caking agents and low in sugar and sodium in Worcester. “I hit the ground running and loved every minute. From creation to mistakes to tears to long nights… how many countless hours have gone into this business over the last almost 7 years. Something in me said you have to keep going, you can’t quit, you can’t take no for an answer,” said Alicia of her entrepreneurial journey.
Alicia is a humble and incredibly proud women owned business. Alicia's Spice Co. is a state and nationally accredited Women Business Enterprise (WBE), Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB). Most recently, Alicia was awarded by the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE) for their Andrea C. Silbert Rising Star Award of 2022. Alicia is a great example of how determination and perseverance are a road map to starting a business, but especially young women, that they are capable of great things.
Winning the Small Business, Big Dreams competition would help Alicia purchase much needed manufacturing equipment and help her continue to manufacture an affordable spice product that is healthy and that consumers can trust. Alicia, and a small team of three additional people, currently manufacture Alicia's Spice Co. products by hand.
Catch Up with 2020 Small Business, Big Dreams Winner Erin Baumgartner of Family Dinner
Dynamic duo Carissa Wills-DeMello and Adam Davenport are not just planning a wedding – they are building Town Farm Tonics, a local, thoughtfully-sourced, herbalist-crafted wellness company. They create delicious honey- and vinegar-based herbal tonics for wellness support in Westport.
Though Carissa has been interested in wellness and herbalism for years, the couple decided in 2020 to invest in building a business around Carissa’s products made for family, friends and local farmer’s markets. Adam’s operations and logistics support allows Carissa to focus on her passion for herbalism, and the pair focus on creating easy-to-use products that help customers take their health into their own hands. Their two main offerings are Elderberry Syrup and Fire Cider, and several other infused vinegars and herbal syrups are in development.
Town Farm Tonics is envisioned as a steady, local presence that uses traditional recipes and helps to put dollars in the pockets of people down the road, like local farmers and fellow small business owners. They wholesale their products to local stores in MA/RI, and are expanding through New England. Their brand aligns well with the recent cultural shift toward holistic healthcare at home.
If Carissa and Adam win the Small Business, Big Dreams contest, funds awarded will help scale and grow their business by improving on their branding and hiring their first part-time employee. Carissa said, “Our inspiration is health empowerment, to give customers the tools they need to feel better. We also want to support and uplift our community and local economy. As entrepreneurs, we are creating a business ecosystem with longevity.”
Adam added that Town Farm Tonics is not looking to become a national brand, but stay true to its local roots and scaling the small-batch homemade products to reach New England and create a sustainable and long-living business. “We want to show what the next generation of sustainable business looks like that improves personal health, family health, community health and environmental health. We want to continue to own our manufacturing and have the ability to impact our local community.”
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We are Here to Support Your Community, and Ours
Community and relationships are at the core of what we do each day at Rockland Trust. We are proud to help thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs reach their goals, follow their dreams and bolster the local economies across Massachusetts.
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