Laura Lamarre Anderson and Thea Lamarre Anderson
Laura Lamarre Anderson and Thea Lamarre Anderson

Lala Books: A Family’s Dream Turned Downtown Haven

In the bustling streets of Downtown Lowell, Massachusetts, there’s a special spot that has become a haven for book lovers of all ages. Lala Books, owned by Laura, her daughter Thea, and Laura’s husband Greg, is not just a bookstore—it’s a dream realized, a community hub, and a shining example of literary passion.

The journey of Lala Books began with a simple wish. Laura, Greg, and Thea, a reading family, often found themselves longing for a local bookstore in their own neighborhood. They envisioned a place where readers could gather, explore new worlds, and connect with fellow book enthusiasts. In 2021, their dream came to life as Lala Books opened its doors to the public.

From the very beginning, Laura, Greg, and Thea were determined to make a positive impact on the city of Lowell, particularly in the downtown area. They noticed a lack of bookstores and saw an opportunity to fill that void while also creating a space that would be fully accessible to everyone—a non-negotiable aspect of their vision.

What fuels Lala Books’ mission is not just the love for literature, but their appreciation for the community. It’s the people who breathe life into their bookstore, making it a vibrant space for connection and discovery.

Even in the face of challenges like budgeting, financing concerns, and infrastructure issues, the family’s deep connection with the community remained their guiding light. They recognized that by serving the people, they could better serve their love for books.

One of the key elements that sets Lala Books apart is Thea’s role as the head buyer. Her close relationships with the customer base allow her to curate a thoughtful selection of books that cater to diverse interests and perspectives. This personalized touch has garnered a loyal following, including support from the Lowell School Department and Community Teamwork Inc. (CTI).

Speaking of their partnership with Lala Books, Carl Howell, Chief Program Officer at Community Teamwork, highlights the bookstore’s commitment to diversity and inclusion: “As part of Community Teamwork’s commitment to supporting not only local small businesses but also women and POC-owned businesses, we have proactively chosen Lala Books for the majority of our book procurement needs throughout the organization.”

Howell continues, “Lala Books has played a crucial role in rebuilding our early education center libraries with age-appropriate and culturally relevant children’s books. We have extended this initiative to our shelter programs, ensuring that libraries are available at various locations with books that reflect the diversity of the individuals and households we serve.”
Lala Books’ location near attractions like the Quilt Museum and National Park Visitor Center also draws in tourists who make it a point to start their Lowell exploration at this literary gem.

For Laura, Thea, and Greg, Lala Books is not just a business—it’s a labor of love and a testament to the power of community. With their tagline “Where readers gather,” they continue to inspire and enrich the community through the magic of books, one page at a time.

If you’re in the Lowell area, make sure to stop by Lala Books at 189 Market Street, Lowell, MA 01852. You can also reach them by phone at 978-221-5966, or explore their collection online at

https cdn.evbuc .com images original
https cdn.evbuc .com images original

Seminar Sessions: 4/3 Business Planning Basics Webinar

Are you looking to start a new business or take your existing one to new heights? Then this webinar is for you!

Learn the essentials of creating business plans that resonate with your audience and drive success.

🗓️ Date: April 3rd, 2024

🕒 Time: 12:00PM – 1:00PM

📍 Where: Zoom

Register now to secure your spot:

Sandra Whams
Sandra Whams

Wham’s Cafe

Step into Wham’s Cafe, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Lowell, Massachusetts, where Sandra, a determined entrepreneur, has been crafting a culinary haven for lovers of authentic Kenyan cuisine for the past decade. Located on the corner of Aiken Street and Lakeview Ave, Wham’s has become a cornerstone of the community, offering a taste of Kenyan street-style snacks and home-cooked meals.

Lowell, often referred to as a gateway city, possesses a rich history and a diverse immigrant community. Sandra’s vision for Wham’s Cafe goes beyond simply providing delectable dishes; it’s about breaking down stereotypes surrounding African cuisines and creating a welcoming space for new immigrant families. In a city known for its hospitality, Wham’s stands out as a testament to inclusivity

The cafe’s menu, inspired by Kenyan kibandas and roadside kiosks, brings a piece of East Africa to the Greater Lowell area. Beyond satisfying culinary cravings, Wham’s is on a mission to support working immigrant families facing the challenges of balancing multiple low-wage jobs and adapting to a new way of life.

Wham’s Cafe is ever-evolving to meet the changing demands. Recognizing the trend towards take-out and the desire for convenient family meals, Sandra envisions a future where Wham’s becomes the go-to destination for ready-packaged items, providing a quick “grab and go” experience for busy families. Sandra has received invaluable assistance and guidance from the Entrepreneurship Center at CTI, specifically from Amanda Camerano. Amanda has provided a thorough business and personal assessment, offering support to enhance Wham’s growth and sustainability.

Amidst these endeavors, Sandra, a mother to a special pre-teen named Stella, holds an annual awareness event at Wham’s Cafe. The event supports special needs children and families in Kenya through Stella’s Wish Bus, showcasing a commitment to community engagement and social responsibility. Stella’s presence is not only an integral part of Sandra’s life but also a source of inspiration for the entire Wham’s community.

As we honor Black History Month, Wham’s Cafe takes center stage in celebrating the diverse and vibrant blend of African culture and resilience. Sandra’s journey, from setting up the cafe from an empty storefront to managing its day-to-day operations, reflects the spirit that has shaped the history and contributions of the black community.

Wham’s Cafe isn’t just a place to savor Kenyan delicacies; it’s a cultural bridge, fostering understanding and appreciation. Join Wham’s on their journey as they navigate the challenges, embrace growth, and continue to serve not just food but an experience that transcends borders and builds bridges of connection in the heart of Lowell.

Kate Stanley
Kate Stanley

Canto Auto School – Kate Stanley’s Triumph and Perseverance

In the vibrant heart of downtown Lowell, Massachusetts, stands Canto Auto School, a testament to resilience, transformation, and the spirit of its owner, Kate Stanley. Hailing from Kenya, Kate’s journey with Canto Auto School began in 2007, but it was not always easy. The years previous to Kate’s ownership of Canto Auto were marked by many challenges.

Taking on the role of savior, Kate faced a daunting task. The auto school was grappling with financial difficulties, but she saw beyond the monetary struggles and recognized an opportunity for revival. The risk was significant. Undeterred, Kate embarked on the journey to obtain the necessary credentials, determined to breathe new life into Canto Auto School.

The early days were a steep learning curve for Kate. With little knowledge of the industry, she quickly acquired the people skills and driving expertise required for success. The journey, however, was far from easy. Kate often felt alone, but her perseverance proved stronger than the challenges she faced.

Strategically located at 150 French Street, Unit 8, Canto Auto School became a community hub catering to a diverse range of individuals. The school’s commitment to inclusivity shines through its services tailored for Spanish, Creole-French, Kenyan, and Portuguese speakers. Canto Auto School became more than just a driving institution; it became a symbol of unity and cultural diversity within Lowell. The school’s commitment to inclusivity extends beyond language barriers, welcoming people from all walks of life, especially immigrants seeking driving education.

In 2023, Kate’s journey took a transformative turn when she discovered the Entrepreneurship Center. This pivotal moment marked a significant shift in Canto Auto School’s trajectory. Through the center, Kate accessed vital resources, including business coaching, grants from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) and the Inclusive Recovery program, and an SBA Microloan facilitated by business advisor Amanda Camerano.

At 71, Kate Stanley remains a workaholic, driven by an insatiable desire to learn and improve. Her story is not just about conquering challenges but embracing lifelong learning and fostering a sense of community. Canto Auto School, under Kate’s guidance, has become a beacon of inspiration, proving that age is no barrier to passion, perseverance, and the pursuit of dreams. The school stands not only as a driving institution but as a testament to Kate Stanley’s enduring spirit and commitment to empowering individuals on their journey to success.

Blushing Skin bar
Blushing Skin bar

Radiance Redefined: Blushing Skin Bar Unveils the Secret to Timeless Beauty

In the heart of Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, Blushing Skin Bar has emerged, aiming to become part of your routine for personalized skincare and body treatments. Reflecting the inspiring journey of its founder, Sophea Prum. Nestled at 164 Westford Rd STE 15, the establishment stands as a testament to the hard work and passion for change that fueled Sophea’s dream of creating a haven for beauty enthusiasts.

Sophea’s journey unfolds with a longing for transformation and a desire to nurture something distinctly her own. The catalyst for this venture? An appointment for a laser treatment, an experience that motivated Sophea to pursue certification in electrolysis and laser procedures, ultimately leading her to become a certified aesthetician.

Blushing Skin bar

Graduating amidst the challenges of the 2020 pandemic, Sophea’s dreams faced an unexpected hurdle as the world slowed down. She found herself compelled to return to her original workplace temporarily, navigating through the uncertainty of those trying times. However, the passion to create persisted, and as the world gradually reopened in 2021, Sophea embarked on a quest to find the perfect space for her vision.

Fueled by determination and guided by her entrepreneurial spirit, Sophea set out to explore the landscape for rental spaces, seeking the ideal location to bring her dream to life. It was during this pivotal moment that she crossed paths with the Entrepreneurship Center, an invaluable resource that provided her with the guidance and support needed to navigate the intricate journey of starting her own business. The Entrepreneurship was there to nurture her business plan and grow her ambitions from the ideation phase into the operation/growth phase it is in today.

Blushing Skin Bar is a testament to Sophea’s unwavering commitment to excellence. Every detail within the beauty bar reflects her dedication to and commitment to beauty itself. The sleek and modern ambiance mirrors the sophistication of Sophea’s vision, creating an atmosphere where clients can unwind and experience the pinnacle of personalized care.
Sophea’s commitment to providing unique experiences extends to her facials, available for the face, back, and underarms. One standout offering, aptly nicknamed the “Peachy Pit Facial,” caters to the underarm area, providing a refreshing and rejuvenating experience like no other. The Blushing Skin Bar also proudly offers a range of services, including revolutionary V-IPL (Variable Intense Pulsed Light) and V-FR (Variable Fractional) treatments.

Blushing Skin bar

Join Sophea on this transformative experience, where each visit is not just a beauty treatment but an experience crafted with precision and care. For those seeking radiant, rejuvenated skin, Blushing Skin Bar is more than a destination; it’s a reflection of one woman’s dreams, passion, and the dedication to work towards her goal that started with a desire for change and blossomed into a radiant haven for all.

To embark on your journey to radiant skin, Blushing Skin Bar invites you to book an appointment through their convenient online platform on Vagaro


Starting in 2024 Seminar Sessions: 1/26 Let’s Get Social: An Entrepreneur’s View on Using Social Media

Get ready to supercharge your online presence!

Join us on January 26th from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM. Unleash the secrets to mastering social media strategies, dive deep into the world of digital engagement and discover innovative tactics to captivate your audience featuring guest speakers from Rise Social Relations!  

Mark your calendars and gear up for an immersive workshop that will transform the way you conquer the digital realm. Don’t miss out on this exclusive opportunity to learn from the experts!

Reserve your spot today:

Rise Social Relations Webinar

The Entrepreneurship Center at Community Teamwork has been awarded the highly competitive SBA PRIME Grant

The Entrepreneurship Center at CTI has been awarded the highly competitive SBA Prime Grant, allowing them to become one of just two organizations chosen in the entire New England region. PRIME funds will be utilized on aiding small businesses to spread the knowledge of the 5 essential functions of the business rubric: Managment, Marketing, Finance & Accounting, Info Technology, and Operations.

The E-Center will establish partnerships with community organizations and will offer curriculum in the many different languages spoken in Lowell in their respective communities. Together with our partners we will identify and assist where needed. Ani Vong will be leading this initiative and partnering alongside LatinX Center, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA), The African Community Center of Lowell (ACCL), Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS), THRIVE, and MassHire Lowell Career Center with Seminars to commence in 2024.


The Story of Mira Ve began with a Discovery

The story of Mira Ve began with a discovery—a notebook bursting with recipes and aspirations. In 2020, two friends, Carolina Pino and Carolina Rios, stumbled upon a dream that not only captivated taste buds but also intertwined threads of connection within the Lowell community.

Carolina P., raised within the bustling rhythm of restaurants, held the dream of venturing into her own culinary world. In contrast, Carolina R. brought a flair for digital design, and together, their distinct talents seamlessly intertwined, paving the path for their joint culinary pursuit.

One day in 2020, Carolina R. stumbled upon a notebook belonging to Carolina P., filled with recipes. Upon questioning its contents, Carolina P. revealed her lifelong dream—”Mira Ve,” translating to “Hey, look” in English, a phrase reminiscent of Cali, Colombia, where inspiration struck.

This inspiration fueled their ambition, yet reality loomed large—neither knew how to cook beyond the basics. Undeterred, they embarked on a culinary journey, envisioning a menu centered around crafting hotdogs and burgers. During brainstorming, Carolina R. swiftly recognized a missing element: the need for homemade sauces and distinctive flavors. Enter Carolina P., who held the key to these secret recipes.

Their venture began casually, serving friends and family, and swiftly expanded as people sought solace in good food during the pandemic. As their food drew crowds, it dawned on them that this passion could evolve into something bigger. The solution emerged as a food truck—an idea aligning with the demand for quick, delectable take-out meals. However, finances posed a hurdle until they found a lifeline at the Entrepreneurship Center.

At the E-Center, a wealth of resources awaited—business coaching, marketing expertise, and crucially, access to the initial SBA Microloan. This support fueled Mira Ve’s food truck dream, turning aspiration into reality.

Guided by the E-Center team and specifically, Amanda Camerano, our SBA Microloan coordinator, Mira Ve received invaluable guidance. Amanda played a pivotal role, offering ongoing business coaching, fostering strategic discussions, and pinpointing funding avenues. Her involvement at the Entrepreneurship Center proved pivotal in securing a $30,000 forgivable loan via the City of Lowell’s Small Business Expansion Program.

Amanda, in collaboration with Carolina P. and Carolina R., provided unwavering support throughout the application process, ensuring Mira Ve received the necessary assistance to expand their operations. The Entrepreneurship Center’s comprehensive resources and dedicated personnel became the cornerstone of Mira Ve’s transformative journey.

In the whirlwind of their early days, Mira Ve ventured into the food truck domain despite their initial lack of experience.Parking on Merrimack Street became their signature spot, a classroom teaching the art of adapting to demand and serving their delectable offerings every single day. Their strategy evolved through community engagement, from participating in local events like the Lowell Farmers Market to collaborating with neighboring restaurants like Panela. Their aim extended beyond profits; they wanted visibility, aspiring to be more than just a food truck.

Each bustling day marked a milestone, but their journey transcends food—it’s about manifesting a dream into a flavorful reality, one dish at a time. Their menu, inspired by Colombian street food, echoes the vibrant flavors of Colombia. However, their commitment to authenticity goes beyond tradition; they also prioritize inclusivity by offering an array of vegan dishes, showcasing their versatility and dedication.

Thanks to the resources at the E-Center, their dream flourished further. With guidance in business coaching, strategic planning, and crucial financial assistance, Mira Ve has transitioned from a food truck to establishing their own brick-and-mortar location. Now situated at 105 Mammoth Road in Lowell, reachable at (978)-596-6688, their doors are open Monday-Thursday & Sunday from 2-10 pm, Friday 11 am-11 pm, and Saturday 2-11 pm. We invite you to savor their offerings and witness their journey firsthand.

black sheep craft ice cream
black sheep craft ice cream

Black Sheep Craft Ice Cream

In the midst of uncertainty after the pandemic hit, Black Sheep Craft Ice Cream was born.

Zac Turgeon, a local resident and entrepreneur from Dracut, Massachusetts found solace and inspiration in an unexpected Christmas gift – an ice cream machine. When his previous career in office management did not show much promise, he decided to take the leap and turn his hobby into a business and seize the opportunity to bring a unique touch to the ice-cream scene in the Merrimack Valley.

From the very beginning, Zac has been a symbol of perseverance and drive. The desire to share his innovative ice-cream creations allowed him to stay consistent during the early days and fully test out flavors with friends and family members to ensure there was a demand for his distinct style in a region dominated by classic farm stand flavors, and low and behold there was a demand.

Black Sheep Craft Ice Cream’s departure from nostalgia sets them apart. Rather than clinging to the classics, Zac draws inspiration from the past while boldly exploring new flavors such as Pumpkin Spice Latte, Oat Cereal with Rainbow Marshmallows, and Basil with white chocolate shards mixed in. Zac believes that not every flavor needs to be universally loved; it just needs to be someone’s favorite. This philosophy guides him as he aims to use ice cream as a medium for expression and with this, every two weeks Zac creates new flavor combinations.

Like most small businesses, Black Sheep Craft Ice Cream faced financial hurdles due to the pandemic’s impact and obtaining funding proved challenging. That is where the Entrepreneurship Center came into play. Black Sheep Ice Cream joined forces with the guidance of Microloan Program Coordinator, Amanda Camerano and the Entrepreneurship Center to craft a solid plan that would convince financiers of the potential in his venture and ultimately provide Zac with the funding he needed to finally pursue this flavorful journey.

Securing the financial access to capital through the Entrepreneurship Center was a pivotal moment, marking the beginning of Zac Turgeon’s small business

journey. While milestones are yet to come, the progress made in overcoming financial barriers signals a promising future for Black Sheep Craft Ice Cream. His future goals include continuing to introduce new, unique flavors and experiences. Whether expanding or maintaining his current path, the core of his business will remain rooted in delivering quality ice cream and enticing customers to step outside of their flavor comfort zones.

This upcoming November 13th, Zac will be unveiling three new flavors for his monthly drop. Be a part of the magic – shop local, support dreams and save the date. Pints of these delicious creations can be ordered at and while you are there, do not hesitate to sign up for alerts for future drops.

For more information, email Zac Turgeon at

Rafaela Headshot
Rafaela Headshot

An Interview with Entrepreneur Rafaela Gonzales, Gloryscent Founder

How did you come up with your idea for Glory Scent?

The idea for Gloryscent was conceived while I was working on finding solutions for my natural hair. For a long time I had been using harsh chemicals to style my hair and it was causing very negative effects. While creating DIY hair treatments the idea came over to me to try my hand at creating a line of beauty products. It so happens that I fell in love with skin care while doing my research. I eventually found an online natural skincare formulation school, which helped launch my business.

When did you start to think about turning your idea into a business?

When I began developing my business plan I was still in college and working within the community so I was close to people who knew of Eforall and knew of CTI, and recommended these organizations to me. When I reached out to CTI I was about a year and a half into the business and needed funding to execute a project and take Gloryscent to the next level.

What was the benefit of working with the Entrepreneurship Center?

CTI was able to provide me with funding of course but also helped me with my annual projections and building my inventory list. I worked with KellyAnne most of the time and she was a wealth of knowledge and very patient and kind.

What were some of your biggest challenges in starting your business?

One of my biggest challenges starting the business was finding the right people to help me grow it. At the time I didn’t even know what I needed to succeed because I was still in college and didn’t have any experience running a business and really didn’t know anyone that was doing something like this. I also struggled with funding the business, of course, because college students don’t have much money and I certainly didn’t have a well of family members to rely on , to say the least.

What is the background on how you were able to get your products to JC Penny?

Something that I did not anticipate when building a brand was how expensive it would be to get the word out or to actually execute the aesthetic and branding itself. After a lot of work creating the branding for Gloryscent, a company called Thirteen Lune reach out to me in their beginning stages of their brand. They asked me if I would be interested in being stocked in their online retail store. I was skeptical at first because they had not launched yet so I had nothing to see but after going on a phone call with them I knew that we were a perfect fit. Thirteen lune worked out a deal with JCpenny to house the brand on their online store in their physical stores! That has been a huge win for the Gloryscent! JCpenney is a well known department store and has been around for over 100 years. They have stores all over the US and as of October we will be stocked in about 300 of them. It’s a very exciting time.

What words of wisdom would you say to small business owners starting out?

I would encourage all small business owners to continue to push through the challenges that they face and have faith that they will succeed in the end. Success has everything to do with our mentality.

What are your future plans for Glory Scent Beauty?

I want to continue scaling and pitching Gloryscent to other retailers and brands. I see Gloryscent being sold in all of the world’s major department stores and bring clean beauty to women of all shades