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Working In The Commonwealth: Mass Challenge Helping Startups, Entrepreneurs

By Mary Blake, WBZ NewsRadio 1030
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Mary Blake is an award-winning reporter and anchor who joined WBZ News...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Derek Ohly makes custom bras. He is the co-founder and CEO of Zyrra, a start-up company that has set up shop at Mass Challenge in South Boston.

“We have developed a technology that takes ten measurements as opposed to the two that are taken in a store, and actually custom manufacture bras to fit our customers exactly. We sell our product through the home party selling model,” said Ohly.

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Zyrra is one of sixty companies at Mass Challenge. Another, that won $50 thousand in Mass Challenge money in the fall and then used that funding to obtain $4.5 million from Google Ventures and August Capital, is Relay Rides.

Shelby Clark is founder and CEO of Relay Rides.

“All of our cars are owned by indviduals who let their neighbors use them when they are not using them personally,” said Clark.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Mary Blake reports.

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Clark says he came up with the idea after spotting unused cars lining neighborhood streets in Cambridge. Clark says they are growing and hiring and need help across the board.

John Harthorne, founder and CEO of Mass Challenge, says anyone with a high-impact, high-potential startup can fill out a Mass Challenge application on-line. Harthorne’s goal is to get these companies out of basements, and into one area where mentors, training, access to investors, and other resources are provided to help these small, innovative companies win.

“It’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed every day, but they’re also doing amazing and inspiring things, and they are incredibly passionate people who really care about what they are doing, ” says Harthorne.

Harthorne adds startups like these are vital to the economic recovery. He cites a Kaufman Foundation study that divided jobs data into companies age zero to five years, and five years and older .

“What they found was that companies five years and older, in an average year over the last 20 years, destroyed one million jobs. The companies age zero to five created, on average, 3 million jobs in each of those years.”

Jennifer Baruffaldi, spokesperson for Citizens for Jobs and Growth in Palmer, is working to bring a resort casino to the town.

“We used to be a mill town. Now, we’re a mill town with no mills,” said Baruffaldi. She said a casino in Palmer would mean 2,500 new local jobs.

Nancy Snyder with Commonwealth Corporation, which is a quasi-public agency working to build the skills of the Massachusetts workforce, says the economy is recovering.

“I’m optimistic, but, people looking for work are going to have to be peresistent and professional in the way they look for a job,” said Snyder.

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