Boston entrepreneurs discuss challenges, opportunities

Yawu Miller | 11/20/2013, 11:01 a.m.
Boston has long had a reputation as a city unwelcoming to black professionals, but a new cadre of entrepreneurs is ...
Entrepreneurs (l-r) Brian Williams, Seven Cohen, Leandrew Robinson and Darryl Settlers speak on a panel discussion while Future Boston Alliance Executive Director Malia Lazu listens in. Photo by Yawu Miller

Robinson said he put his obstinance to use in recruiting companies to sell their clothes on PLNDR at steep discounts.

“They say they’d rather burn their stuff than sell it a half price,” he said. “Although they’re saying ‘hell no,’ I hear them saying ‘later.’ You’re a little tougher than most folks. Embrace it. It’s good.”

Selkoe, whose organization hosted the panel discussion, has made it a crusade to change the business climate in Boston. He founded Future Boston Alliance, an advocacy group aimed at making Boston friendlier to young adults and the creative class. He made waves last year with a video lampooning outgoing Mayor Thomas Menino for being resistant to change.

“It’s really an effort to bring Boston into the 21st century,” he said. “When I’ve had opportunities to recruit talented black men, a lot of them have said they won’t come to Boston.”

Settles said the changing of the guard in the mayor’s office presents a new opportunity for blacks in business to create a more welcoming atmosphere.

“We have an opportunity with the new mayor,” he said. “He is under a lot of pressure to change the environment. Now, within the next six months is the right time to make that ask.”