PITTSFIELD — Mindy Miraglia wanted to start a company that provides walking tours of the Berkshires.
Her initial idea included having a hostel for hikers similar to what she had seen while hiking a well-known route in northwestern Spain. But, as Miraglia began to develop her business plan, she realized that the hostel idea wasn’t possible right now.
“So, I did a major pivot,” she said.
Miraglia since has opened her business sans hostel, but she credits Entrepreneurship for All Berkshire County — it’s an organization that helps individuals develop small businesses — with the insight to help her change course.
Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, EforAll has provided 83 people like Miraglia with 3,300 hours of service since opening its Berkshire County chapter in September 2019, according to statistics the group posted recently, during an online webinar held to assess its local progress.
Sixty-four percent of those people had incomes below the average income for the Berkshires, based on national figures; 67 percent were women and 17 percent were minorities. The Berkshire County program is not bilingual, so, six Spanish-speaking members from Berkshire County were referred to EparaTodos, an EforAll program offered in Holyoke.
Of those 83 total participants, 21 participated in EforAll Berkshire County’s two core business accelerator programs that took place in winter and fall 2020, respectively. The other participants included mentors, specialists, judges, interviewers and readers. EforAll’s first accelerator program of 2021 is scheduled to start Feb. 23. The application deadline is Thursday.
“I’m so thrilled to see all the wonderful things that EforAll is doing,” said Mayor Linda Tyer, who helped bring the program to Pittsfield. “In spite of this devastating pandemic and all of the challenges that it has left in its wake, survival in tough times like these doesn’t happen by accident.”
She attributed EforAll’s local success to the organization’s “deliberate action” and “wide range of network support.”
“Pivoting during the pandemic is a powerful example for the entrepreneurs about how to pivot during a moment of crisis,” she said.
“This has been a fast-moving and very productive run,” said EforAll Berkshire County’s Board Chairperson Peter Taylor, who also is president of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
EforAll, founded in 2010 in the Merrimack Valley, features training programs and conducts pitch contests for developing small businesses — functions that are designed to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the communities where the organization is located. The group has seven chapters in Massachusetts and one in Colorado.
EforAll is developing other chapters, in Buffalo, N.Y., Providence, R.I., San Diego and northwest Arkansas, according to CEO David Parker. He said the Berkshire County chapter is unique because it was formed with community, not individual, support.
“You are the only community so far that has come to us as a community,” Parker said. “In virtually all of the other programs, it’s been a person who made it happen.”
Miraglia, who participated in last winter’s accelerator program, set up two walking tours last summer through her business, Berkshire Camino LLC in Lee, and is planning to have 70 this year.
She described her experience with EforAll as “the intersection of dreams and reality, giving you the critical things that you need to understand so that you not only know how to do it, but whether or not to do it.”
“I’m part of an entrepreneurship ecosystem now,” she said. “I hope to be a mentor.”