NEW AMERICANS SUCCESS STORY: Lawrence Has Faith in ER Productions

Elena Rodriguez and Mayor Dan Rivera of Lawrence

According to the 2010 Census, the City of Lawrence is home to the largest percentage (73.8%) of Hispanic and Latino communities in the Commonwealth. Moreover, the largest community represented in Lawrence is the Dominican Republic population (30,243); which happens to have the third largest concentration of Dominicans in the world – following the Dominican Republic and the Washington Heights community in New York City. 

One of the biggest challenges facing New Americans as they immigrate to cities such as Lawrence has been the language barrier.  Accessing services and programs to integrate in a new country can be extremely difficult without being able to understand information in your native language.  That’s why the City of Lawrence has been benefitting from innovative programs that are providing Spanish-language services to meet the accessibility needs of New Americans.  

A mother of two children, Elena Rodriguez came to the United States in 2013 with mostly her FAITH.  Elena got married here in the states and shortly thereafter – her husband died 2 months after marriage.  After the tragedy, she needed to stay active and attended a community event at the Lawrence Heritage Park where she met Eduardo Crespo and Janine Duran from EparaTodos (EforAll).  They told her about the launch of a new business training program held in Spanish and encouraged her to apply to become part of the first cohort.  

At first, she had an idea for a business in her head, but she didn’t know how to move forward with the language barrier and being new to the country. Because of EparaTodos breaking down cultural and language access barriers to entrepreneurial education, it was integral to helping transform her idea to a reality.  Elena made connections with a variety of supportive agencies in entrepreneurial ecosystem, including the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center – which helped guide her with the development of her business plan.  As a result of the inaugural EparaTodos program, Elena won the top prize of $1,500 in seed money to launch her event planning business - ER Productions!  

Coming from the Dominican Republic, Elena was deeply rooted in the Christian community and brought over 5 years of experience in putting on Christian events. Because she already had good relationships with pastors, churches and Christian artists – Elena was certain that her business idea could succeed.  She saw the same potential for a business in the United States after becoming part of the Hispanic Christian community over here. Her vision for ER Productions is to be the leading Hispanic Christian event planning company in the country; spreading Latin culture and Latin family values - where families can come together and enjoy a good time at a non-alcoholic event.  

In order to realize her visions for building a production company, Elena needed coaching and direction.  She began a mentor relationship with Awilda Irizarry of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center.  Partly funded by the SBA, Elena was able to receive free mentoring services in Spanish because of talented and dedicated counselors like Awilda.  Elena has been taking advantage of the service and started out building a strong relationship with Awilda by meeting once a week for two hours. The next step for Elena is to apply for a bank loan, so she worked with Awilda to get lender-ready and met every 15 days to finalize the business plan in English.  

On August 29th Elena officially launched ER Productions with her first concert partnering with an international band, Tercer Cielo.  The venue, Lawrence High School was packed with 1,257 people who came to the event.  She used the momentum of that successful kickoff event to start her second event which also made positive revenue. Today, Elena is already planning more big events with the City of Lawrence and go on tour with the bands she promotes. 

Through programs such as MSBDC and EparaTodos, she received the educational training and met contacts that were essential to launching her new company.  Elena recalls the excitement of seeing her dream become reality on that night of her first event.  The best part of her business she says – is seeing how people from different faiths come together to enjoy her events as a family.

E for All is one of three Growth Accelerator Fund Competition winners in Massachusetts, awarded $50,000 by the SBA to support entrepreneurial development. 

Company Name: 
ER Productions
Lawrence, MA