On May 7, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Massachusetts U.S. Small Business Administration Office held the sixth annual Woostapreneurs Forum. Seventy-five attendees and 25 representatives from local businesses and business-serving organizations logged on to hear from two panels and experience two networking breakout sessions. 

Each year, the Chamber and SBA host this free, half-day conference in an effort to connect greater Worcester to the entrepreneurship ecosystem and business resource providers in Central Massachusetts. The conference is designed for existing business owners, budding entrepreneurs, veteran entrepreneurs, millennial entrepreneurs, women-owned businesses, and other underserved entrepreneurs in search of business help. Our region’s banks and credit unions participate as well, including TD Bank, Digital Federal Credit Union, Workers Credit Union, bankHometown, City of Worcester, Country Bank, People’s United Bank, and Webster Five.

“TD Bank was proud to be the presenting supporter of the 2021 Woostapreneurs Forum, designed to help local businesses learn more about crucial topics related to starting and growing their business,” said Jennifer McKay, business development officer of TD Bank’s SBA Division. “As the number one SBA lender in our Maine-to-Florida footprint, TD Bank understands the unique challenges small business owners and entrepreneurs face and is committed to helping Worcester businesses thrive through the products and services we offer, as well as our support of important community initiatives like this conference.”

This year, attendees represented all different phases of business from all different industries including startups, contractors, commercial photographers, restaurants, laundromats, marketing consultants, and more. Participants networked via the chat function on Zoom and shared questions and advice in the networking rooms. The program was formatted around two main panels: a “Success Story” panel featuring Lynn Cheney of Maker to Main, Rick Porter of CinchIT, and Charles D. B. King II of FASTSIGNS; and an “Area Resources” panel featuring Karen Cappetelli of Acorn Business Advisors, Breanna DiBella of Studio DiBella, and Jennifer McKay of TD Bank. 

When asked where to start when opening a business, Mr. Porter recommended starting with your website. “It can actually inform your business and help you understand what you need to do — from your logo and brand, to your mission statement and more.”

Several questions to the panelists centered around doing business in the pandemic. Karen Cappetelli pointed out while there were certainly challenges, there were also opportunities. “I have gained clients virtually that I had never met before. It’s easier to engage virtually for many of my clients who are busy entrepreneurs and business owners.” 

Another speaker, Ms. DiBella, reflected upon attending this event in the past. “My first year in business I attended Woostapreneurs Forum and gained valuable insight from the panelists. I remember feeling inspired by entrepreneurs who spoke about their experience. This was the first Chamber event I attended, and it certainly wasn’t the last. I’d recommend the forum to any new business owner and especially aspiring entrepreneurs who are curious to learn how the local business community can support their dream to build a business.”

In addition to the speakers who shared their own struggles and achievements, attendees also had the opportunity to network with resource partners and supporters to learn more about their services. Representatives from WorcLab, the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) at Clark University, SCORE, the Center for Women and Enterprise, and other representatives from the Worcester Business Resource Alliance (WBRA) were on hand to share what they offer and answer questions in small groups. 

“This was very helpful and it helped to get me out of my shell,” said attendee EvaMarie Young of Jovea Divine Health Transformations. 

A recording of this sixth annual Woostapreneurs Forum can be found on the Chamber’s YouTube channel – but if you missed out this time, consider joining us next year!


Karen Pelletier is the executive vice president at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

This story was originally published in the May 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.