Award-Winning Accelerator Prepares for Next Cohort of Start-up Businesses

reSET, a Hartford-based non-profit organization supporting entrepreneurs, has opened applications for its highly regarded business accelerator program for 2018. Tailored for impact-driven businesses but available to early-stage ventures across all industries, reSET’s Impact Accelerator was a winner of the U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Competition, and was the only Connecticut accelerator to receive the award, in 2015. Running from next January through May, the five-year old program will provide entrepreneurs with access to the knowledge and resources they need to grow their businesses and impact. Applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis; the final deadline is December 8, 2017.  Applicants are not limited to the Hartford area or Connecticut; in previous cohorts, participants have been from other states and nations.

reSET is a nonprofit organization whose mission is advancing the social enterprise sector. Its strategic goals are threefold: to be the “go-to” place for impact entrepreneurs, to make Hartford known as Impact City, and Connecticut the Social Enterprise state. reSET meets entrepreneurs wherever they are in their trajectory and aims to help them take their businesses to the next level.

The accelerator program has graduated 80 businesses to date. Recent participants have experienced success in advancing their businesses, including competitor acquisition, venture capital investment, and nationwide sales and recognition. 

Among the businesses are Almasuite, CareerPathMobile, Phood, Pelletric, Eureeka, Save America, and Genius Box. Kate Pipa, co-founder of Genius Box, which develops and sends science kits to elementary and middle-school age children, credits the Impact Accelerator with helping her business gain traction.

“reSET’s Impact Accelerator was a great stepping stone for getting introduced to and more involved in Connecticut’s startup scene.  Just being in reSET’s community allowed for access to workshops, mentors and service providers to answers questions and provide advice on different challenges that can come up when starting your business.”

Over the course of four weekend summits during the accelerator program, participants selected for the 2018 cohort will be connected to customers and industry-specific mentors. Up to 20 entrepreneurial teams will have access to:

  • 20+ optional workshops covering a range of topics in business and social enterprise
  • Numerous structured and unstructured opportunities to engage with investors and advisors
  • 1-year reSET membership (includes access to co-working, programming and the on-site Entrepreneur-in-Residence)
  • Exclusive discounts on business software packages and other resources

The accelerator will be free for accepted entrepreneurs and no equity will be taken from their operations. Graduates will also have an opportunity to compete for $20,000 in unrestricted funding at a culminating Venture Showcase in Spring 2018.

“As an entrepreneur myself, I have experienced the ups and downs of launching a new business,” said Jeremy Szechenyi, reSET’s Programs Manager. “Between reSET’s physical office and programs, we give entrepreneurs the resources and network that is critical to surviving and bringing their work to the next level.”

An information sessions will be held at reSET  (1429 Park Street, Hartford) on October 26 from 12:30-1:30pm, and November 15 from 5:30-6:30pm.  The sessions will be informal and meant to address prospective candidates questions.

reSET serves all entrepreneurs, but specializes in social enterprise ― impact driven business with a double or triple bottom line. In addition to providing co-working space, accelerator and mentoring programs, reSET aims to inspire innovation and community collaboration, and to support entrepreneurs in creating market-based solutions to community challenges.

Fledgling "Businesses with Impact" Recognized, Receive Funds to Propel Start-Up

When reSET, the Social Enterprise Trust, whose mission is advancing the social enterprise sector, revealed the winners of its annual Impact Challenge last week, the top award recipient was FRESH Farm Aquaponics, with Movia Robotics, Planet Fuel Beverage Company, Hartford Prints! and Parrot MD rounding out the top five. While the businesses may not be household names, they do represent an increasing number of start-up businesses that are not only seeking a foothold in their respective industries, but are looking to contribute to their community – locally or globally – along the way.reSET

Based in Hartford, FRESH Farm Aquaponics is devoted to providing “the best quality aquaponic food to our community sustainably, teaching a new generation with aquaponics, and engaging the community to develop a local food ecosystem.” The company proclaims “expect from us the best produce available locally, year round in the Hartford County area. You will also see us engaging local schools in pioneering aquaponic experiments from elementary schools to universities.” (see video below)

Planet Fuel is a news-othersustainable lifestyle beverate brand for teens and tweens.  The company's goal is to inspire young people to realize the power of consumer choices to effect social and environmental change.

MOVIA Robotics provides an innovative approach in educating children with autism to "form connections inside the world we live in today." The company uses robots and develops "our own software based on interactions with therapists and children."003

Now in its fifth year, the reSET Impact Challenge recognizes the most innovative and impactful early stage ventures and start-ups from all industries throughout New England.  The event, held at The Society Room of Hartford, saw a record, sellout crowd of 300 in attendance.

Diamond Level - $20,000 + Professional Services Package (1 Winner)

FRESH Farm Aquaponics (

Gold Level - $10,000 + Professional Services Package (2 Winners)

Movia Robotics (

Planet Fuel Beverage Company (

Silver - $5,000 + Professional Services Package (2 Winners)

Hartford Prints! (

Parrot MD (

People’s Choice - $1,500 + Professional Services Package (1 Winner)

BookBugs ( 

Investor’s Choice - $1,500 (1 Winner)

Send Help Back Home (

Bronze - $500 (7 Winners)

Asarasi, Inc. (

Beautiful Day / Providence Granola Project (

BookBugs (

Daily General Counsel (

Dream See Do (

Hugo & Hoby (

LOTUS Alliance LLC (

logoThe five awards judges - Sherrell Dorsey of Uber and Triple Pundit, Adam Dotson of Ironwood Capital, Claire Leonardi, an advisor to reSET's Social Enterprise Investment Fund and former CEO of Connnecticut Innovations, Anthony Price of LootScout and Paul Witinski of Ironwood Capital - narrowed down more than 100 applicants to 12 honorees.  The People’s Choice winner was selected via more than 1,800 online votes.

Since its inception, reSET’s Impact Challenge has awarded more than $180,000 to scaling entrepreneurs. reSET is a nonprofit organization whose mission is advancing the social enterprise sector. Its strategic goals are threefold: to be the “go-to” place for impact entrepreneurs, to make Hartford known as Impact City, and Connecticut the Social Enterprise state.  In addition to providing co-working space, accelerator and mentoring programs, reSET aims to inspire innovation and community collaboration, and to support entrepreneurs in creating market-based solutions to community challenges. reSET’s goal is to meet entrepreneurs wherever they are in their trajectory and to help them take their businesses to the next level.

reSET’s Impact Accelerator recently was a winner of the U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Competition, the only Connecticut growth accelerator to receive the award this year.

Overwhelming Support Spells Defeat for Creation of Social Benefit Businesses in CT

Despite being introduced with the backing of Governor Malloy, overwhelming support in the House of Representatives where it passed by a lopsided 128-12 on May 20, and co-sponsorship by the legislature’s four top leaders, legislation establishing the “benefit corporation” as a new type of corporate entity never came up for a vote in the State Senate.  And thus it died when the legislative session ended on Wednesday.

“Despite a great deal of effort, we lost. It is a sad day for Connecticut that we couldn't get something so unequivocally positive done. I personally find it hard not to be disheartened by the whole process, but I guess that's politics,” said Kate Emery, founder and CEO of reSET, the Social Enterprise Trust.

Similar legislation has already been passed and signed into law in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. It is pending in nine other states.

The bill (HB 6356) would have allowed businesses to legally incorporate as benefit corporations in Connecticut and was described as the most comprehensive piece of social enterprise legislation ever proposed in the United States.  It was designed to help social entrepreneurs protect their organization’s social mission, and provide a transparent, accessible, and simple mechanism for defining their business’s social goals.  Supporters said the legislation would also help drive job creation and increase the number of community-based partners benefit corpcommitted to solving some of Connecticut’s most pressing social issues without requiring additional state funding.

Here’s how Hartford Courant business editor Dan Haar described the bill in a column the day prior to legislative adjournment:  “The bill has few if any opponents, it would make it easier for private firms to do some good in the world and it wouldn’t cost the state any money (okay $62,000, once, to reprogram the computers).

Firms organized this way, known as type-B corporations, would have a stated social goal beyond profits for the owners — public health, perhaps, or promoting the arts or restoring the environment or creating economic opportunity for disadvantaged people. It’s the kind of stuff nonprofits tend to do, but allowing for-profit companies to set up with a social purpose simply adds an avenue.”

The bill not only required benefit corporations to publicly state their social mission within the business’s articles of incorporation, but it also would have created a culture of accountability within Connecticut’s social enterprise community by requiring that those businesses publish an annual benefit report detailing the public benefit that they have actually created, and make that information publicly available on their website.

It also would have given owners of social enterprises the option of locking in their commitment to the social mission that their business is designed to serve by electing to adopt its legacy preservation clause after a waiting period of two years. This would allow shareholders to ensure that their commitment to the creation of public good is maintained, even if ownership of that company changes over time.  But it was not to be.

“We did everything we could possibly do and we had a lot of great people working very hard to make it happen,” Emery said in an email to supporters of reSET across the state.  “It was a well fought battle and sooner or later we'll get it passed but for now we will have to take heart in knowing we did all we could.”

The broad coalition of supporters – all of whom submitted testimony during a public hearing on the bill -  included AARP, the Connecticut Association of Nonprofits, the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges and AT&T.  As Haar noted this week, Connecticut Innovations, the state’s technology investment arm, and the state Department of Economic and Community Development both supported it actively.  The Connecticut Bar Association, which opposed a similar bill last year, also supported this year’s revised version.

Benefit Corporations are a new class of corporation that 1) creates a material positive impact on society and the environment; 2) expands fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decisions; and 3) reports on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards.

In her public hearing testimony, state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith said Connecticut “is poised to realize many benefits” from passage of the bill, which would “leave a lasting social and financial impact on our state for years to come.”

CT AARP Steps Up Focus on Entrepreneurs, Business Development

Next month, AARP and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are teaming up to host National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Month, targeted at new business owners age 50 and over and those interested in starting a business.  The goal is to match these “encore entrepreneurs” with experienced business owners and community leaders for advice and assistance, and to link them to the resources they need to successfully start and grow their businesses and create jobs. Consistent with the organizations’ mission, the Connecticut AARP chapter views social enterprise as a valuable opportunity for age 50+ entrepreneurs – also known as “Encore Entrepreneurs” – and active retirees with sharp business and entrepreneurial acumen.  With one in four Americans ages 44 to 70 interested in becoming entrepreneurs, and a large majority planning to work during retirement, small business ownership is described as a solid option.

In addition to planned programs during April, the Connecticut AARP has announced support for legislation proposed by Governor Malloy’s (SB6356) which would help AARP members formalize their commitment to creating public good. The bill is designed to help address a variety of social concerns, through business rather than public funds or philanthropy, that are core to AARP’s mission, such as hunger, economic insecurity, housing and isolation.  AARP has ongoing partnerships with the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), nationally and state-wide, and with co41592_130564031656_4369100_nmmunity partners in Connecticut including Social Enterprise Trust (reSET) and the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC).

The bill before the legislature aims to help attract and keep social entrepreneurs and social enterprise investors in Connecticut and provides a heightened level of transparency and protection as compared to other states with similar legislation, according to AARP. Among the beneficiaries:  “Encore Entrepreneurs” seeking purpose beyond profit, community based organizations seeking to partner for social benefits, age 50+ workers seeking employment opportunities in a down economy, and the State by creating a new source of revenue through the payment of up-front incorporation filing fees and annual taxes.

National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Month is part of a larger effort by AARP and SBA to promote entrepreneurship among individuals ages 50+.  It will consist of events across the country, including two in Connecticut, on April 16 in Waterbury and April 18 in Bridgeport, that will link individuals with local resources and mentor opportunities to help them successfully start and grow a small business.

The initiative includes AARP’s Work Reimagined, a unique new way for experienced workers to advance themselves in today’s tight job market.  Work Reimagined is a social network based jobs program that connects employers seeking experienced workers with qualified professionals searching for new or more satisfying careers.  The site,, leverages the platform of professional networking site, LinkedIn, which is used by more than 15 million people aged 45-64.

AARP’s Work Reimagined and other resources for experienced workers over age 50 are slated to be highlighted in a segment on WTNH’s Connecticut Style program airing Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.

The in-person AARP/SBA workshops in April will feature presentations by SBA, SCORE, reSET (Social Enterprise Trust), The Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC), People’s Bank and local economic development agencies.  Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and speak individually with representatives, as well as network with other small business owners and “would be” entrepreneurs. Registration is required.

April 16, 2013 in Waterbury   9 a.m. – 12 p.m. (noon)

Silas Branson Library, 267 Grand Street, Waterbury, CT

To register, call 1-877-926-8300 or register online

April 18, 2013 in Bridgeport   9 a.m. – 12 p.m. (noon)

City Hall Annex, 999 Broad Street, Bridgeport, CT

To register, call 1-877-926-8300 or register online.