Q&A: Shelley Cardoos: New Bedford’s Own SouthCoast Emerging Leader

I have known Shelley for, oh, over two decades.


Once upon a time, we assumed esteemed positions as our high school’s Speech and Debate team secretaries. Across North and South Shore Massachusetts, hearts broke within crested blue blazers as we won first place plastic trophy after first place plastic trophy with our Shelby and M’Lynn “I’m pregnant” scene from Steel Magnolias.

In June 2015, Shelley was back at it again.

She received the SouthCoast Emerging Leader award for the endlessly energized leadership she has shown in New Bedford and the surrounding area, one of five professionals in the South Coast chosen. For nearly twelve years, she worked at AHEAD, moving up the ladder from color picker, choosing the thread colors for embroidery on headwear and apparel, to Creative Department Manager, overseeing a department of forty.

Constantly promoting events, artists, musicians, and businesses, and pretty likely anyone she meets, she is also involved in many other local events from Soapbox Socials, arm-wrestling competitions, to drawing socials. This “Multipotentialite” is always welcoming, hilarious, smart, fearless, and breaking the mold.

An accomplished artist and musician in her own right, Shelley runs Craft-O-Rama, a seasonal pop-up shop in downtown New Bedford and has a t-shirt and design business (Shelley Chandelier, https://society6.com/shelleychandelier) She serves on the Arts History Architecture Steering Committee (AHA!) and was a member and chair of the New Bedford Cultural Council, as well as the coordinator of New Bedford Open Studios in 2010.

Recently, Shelley began a new career as Executive Director of Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) South Coast, a non-profit that is accelerating economic and social impact through entrepreneurship in mid-sized cities. The non-profit’s South Coast operation just launched in September 2015.


Q: New Bedford is more than a home to you. You are involved in the community to the point that people ask you to run for mayor. You grew up in Pembroke. You went to high school in Kingston and university in North Dartmouth. Why New Bedford? 

A: My college professor Stacy Latt Savage likes to remind me “Shelley, you were the last person that I thought would stay in New Bedford. Remember the endless hours we spent talking about how you just wanted to leave?” When I was at UMass Dartmouth, taking art classes in New Bedford there was nothing going on. I would go to New York City often and wonder what I was doing in this little city by the sea. After a failed attempt at moving across the county soon after graduating, I came back, cried on the couch a bit and then started working at Ahead. I joined a band with some friends and fell in love with the music and art scene that certainly wasn’t like the scenes in the big cities my friends all moved to but it was genuine. I realized fast that it was easy to make things happen here and over time the city just started changing and getting better. New Bedford has come a long way in the past 10 years and it’s in a great spot. We aren’t far from Providence and Boston and we are surrounded by beautiful ocean side towns and farms.

Q: You’re pretty active promoting NB events on social media. What is your role at EforAll? What’s EforAll’s vision for the South Coast? 

A: I’m the Executive Director of EforAll and my role right now is letting everyone know about EforAll and getting people involved. EforAll stands for Entrepreneurship for All. The mission is to accelerate social and economic impact through entrepreneurship in mid-sized citites. We will host networking events, pitch contests and accelerator programs which I explain more below.

Q: What is the reach of South Coast EforAll? Which towns and cities do you work with?

A: All events and programs will be held in New Bedford and Fall River but people are welcome to apply from any surrounding town, there’s no limit, but we want to be most accessible to the people of the cities of New Bedford and Fall River.

Q: I see that one way entrepreneurs can connect with mentors and find business start-up money is through EforAll’s Pitch Contests. Recently one was held on October 23. Is there a regular schedule for these events? What are other ways entrepreneurs can connect with EforAll?

A: We’ll be hosting 2 pitch contests in the fall and 2 in the spring each year. These events are great ways for entrepreneurs to network and get feedback from the community about their ideas but also a great way for us to let entrepreneurs and the community know about our Accelerator Program that runs in the winter and the summer. This is a one-year program for entrepreneurs to learn how to start a business or non-profit and a chance to win more money! The first 12 weeks of the program we have workshops twice a week with experts from the community leading the course and each entrepreneur will also meet with 3 mentors weekly. For the rest of the year, we’ll be checking in quarterly which leads to more chances to win money and receive support.

Q: What if, for instance, you have a lot of entrepreneurs who want to start the same sort of business? Is there a regulating body that makes sure businesses fit with the needs of the city or region? Is there an on-going conversation with the Chamber of Commerce, the city’s zoning boards, etc.?

A: When entrepreneurs apply for the pitch contest and accelerator program, their applications get read and scored by people in the community. All feedback and knowledge comes from the community so if their idea doesn’t fit the need of the city, they’ll hear that through the feedback. Through the accelerator program, we’ll have speakers talk about marketing, permits, laws, etc.

Q: What does an average person with a business idea need to do to get the most of what EforAll has to offer?

A: We have a lot of information on our website eforall.org and that’s where people can find applications to the programs. They can also email me shelley@eforall.org for more info and to be put on a mailing list. Besides looking for entrepreneurs, we’re looking for mentors and volunteer readers to read applications. It’s all great fun!

Now, onto you…

Q: What’s your life philosophy or mission statement? What and/or who is inspiring you these days? What music are you listening to? What are you reading? Whose art are you loving?

A: It’s hard to think of anything that doesn’t sound cliché. I really do believe in seeing the best in every situation. Trying not to take anything personally. Making sure to have fun every day. I’m inspired by people. I love being around passionate people. I’ve been listening to Andrew Bird, Camera Obscura… oh, I’ve been putting Don Omar on Spotify radio and dancing in my car a lot lately. I’ve also been listening to podcasts: The Judge John Hodgman Show and WTF. I’m loving street art in the community. It’s at a high right now in New Bedford.

Q: How did you start your business? Where can people go to find your work?

A: I sell drawings and different items on Society6. I started by selling shirts and art at craft fairs and also at a local gallery TL6. These days I must admit I’m not as active. TL6 sells items for me which is great and I’ll make some items for the pop-up shop CRAFT-O-RAMA but I focus more on selling other people’s products and just doodle on my own when I can.

Q: You have so much energy! You are a Renaissance Woman. How do you do it? What is your schedule like?

A: I think the only real answer to how I get a lot done is that I just don’t do chores. They take way too much time and I don’t like doing them, haha! Ever since I was a kid I would find ways for other people to clean for me by trading Big Bop magazine or some treat my mom bought at the grocery store with a neighborhood kid. In college, I’d pay a roommate $5 to clean my room. I wish I had a better answer but if you were to see the trunk of my car or my bedroom right now you’d understand why I have the time to send a few emails on a Saturday afternoon.

Q: And lastly, tell me about the wrestling. And Arnold Swarzenegger. I gotta know.

A: Arnold cracks me up! If you haven’t seen the movie Pumping Iron I would highly suggest it. That man is so determined and really, just funny. My sister and I started going to local wrestling shows a few years ago and got sucked in pretty fast. It’s such a great mix of athletics and drama. I also just love being in crowds of people laughing and yelling. I’ve always loved concerts and really enjoy stand-up comedy. Wrestling is another whole world of live entertainment. You get sucked into the characters, they do flips and wear funny outfits. Oh man, it’s so fun! I love being in crowds of passionate people.



2 thoughts on “Q&A: Shelley Cardoos: New Bedford’s Own SouthCoast Emerging Leader”

    1. Dad! You are posting just as much as I am. Time to guest blog? (Oh, and it’s Shelley with an E!) Did you ever see us perform our duo with our Southern accents?

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