“He’s the only entrepreneur that I know of that didn’t ask for anything”, said Rafael. “Typically at the end of the first twelve weeks, entrepreneurs have refined their pitch and are prepared to do an ask for financial support at the celebration event. It was Karl that said: ‘I’ve learned so much here that there’s nothing else that I need’. “
Fonseca describes Karl as a lifelong cycling enthusiast who came to EforAll with the dream of owning his own bike shop. With eyes set on acquiring a physical space that would allow him to build a community, Rafael and other members of the mentor team, Annette Colistro Reynolds and Kevin Oye, introduced the idea of Karl offering his services virtually. Soon after, Karl built a significant following, now owns his own shop, and according to Rafael, is “flourishing.” In addition to selling bikes, Karl organizes group bike rides, offers yearly bike maintenance, and works with individuals to customize their bike options based on strengths, weaknesses, and style preferences.
So Rafael, how did you first hear about EforAll?
I heard about EforAll in 2014. I wanted to expand my network and get more involved in the local community, and someone mentioned EforAll, which was called Merrimack Valley Sandbox at the time. I went to the website and really liked the mission so I signed up to be a Mentor.
What do you enjoy most about being a Mentor?
The thing that I really enjoy is the transformation that the entrepreneurs go through. From the moment the accelerator starts, to when they graduate from the program, it’s amazing how much they learn and grow in the first 12 weeks . One of the most important things that EforAll does is teach entrepreneurs a new way of thinking: knowing their customer, understanding their market, and the value proposition that their product or service provides. Entrepreneurs are able to project for the future and ask themselves what goals they need to accomplish, and what do they want their business to be.
Has volunteering always been an important part of your life?
I started working at Bell Laboratories in North Andover and they had programs for attracting young students to the technical world. I was always heavily involved with mentoring, we had summer programs for high school or college kids. Giving back has always been a part of who I am. When I was a young engineer, I would give talks to students at the Lawrence High School and Middle School, giving talks about STEM. In fact, that’s how I met my wife. She was running a program to promote parent engagement and I was a volunteer of the same program. Volunteering is very big in our family, we’ve exposed our daughter to volunteering since she was three years old and are still looking forward to other ways we can dedicate our time.