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Martin Desmarais

Stories by Martin

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Harnessing creative energy

Entrepreneur handles events from flowers to marketing

Nearly 20 years ago, Gwendolyn McCoy started Make Scents Floral Design to harness some of her creative energy, but the side business has continued to grow into something more. Now, the life-long Dorchester resident not only continues with her floral design, stationery and events management business, but has also folded into a larger MS Creative Group, which provides small business marketing, consulting and web design services.

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Immigrants help grow Massachusetts economy

Officials pledge continued support for immigrant businesses

Speaking at the Engaging Immigrant Entrepreneurs & Small Business Owners Forum, held on Nov. 13 at Bunker Hill Community College, Massachusetts Assistant Secretary of Business Development Nam Pham pledged the state’s support to the immigrant business community. His words echoed the sentiment of the event — immigrant entrepreneurs are helping grow the state’s economy and it is imperative to help them continue to do so.

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SBA assisting veterans

Administrator visits Boston area to plug lending programs

The government’s start-up czar — U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet — was in Boston last week furthering efforts to help U.S. veterans start companies, but to also chat about the state of entrepreneurship and remind all about the cash the SBA can help pump into needy small businesses.

Mobile tech

Saving time, money for businesses

Much has been written about the growth of the mobile technologies industry and the importance of small businesses making sure their products and services can reach consumers through the growing spectrum of handheld devices. However, for small business owners it is equally important to note that using mobile technology as a business tool for employees also is a critical factor in improving the bottom line.

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Early steps lead to small business success

Startup small business owners have a lot on their plate and job one is usually trying to make money for their fledging company. If they are thinking about financial needs at all the most pressing one is likely to make enough to keep going. But it is never too early to start thinking about future financial stability and there are some critical early steps that can help a startup succeed.

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Site connects startups

StartHub provides support to Boston’s entrepreneurs

Since he took office, Mayor Martin Walsh has pledged to make Boston a friendlier place to start a business — especially in Boston’s oft underserved neighborhoods — and he has been busy trying to make this happen. Last week, he was back at it again, out in Roxbury to push the launch of the city’s first online startup website, StartHub.

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Developing a workforce

Grant provides training funds for hotels, construction

A recent $3 million grant from the federal government will allow Boston to double the amount of women and people of color it helps train for jobs in the construction and hospitality industries to about 400 over the next five years.

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The business of music

At Berklee’s ICE, music students absorb entrepreneurship

The Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship at Berklee College of Music is examining the business of music in a way the college hasn’t done before, and pushing its students toward a greater impact on an evolving industry. The effort is also resonating with both U.S. and international students, who hope what they learn can be applied to the music business in their home countries.

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Asian professionals convene

NAAAP conference highlights stories of success

About 200 of some of Boston’s up-and-coming Asian businessmen and businesswomen attended the National Association of Asian American Professionals 2015 Northeast Leadership Conference last Friday at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

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Regulating the sharing economy

Congress probes consumer, business protections in growing sector

The sharing economy went before Congress last week for a stark examination of how it creates jobs, benefits consumers, but also raises a slew of policy concerns and questions. At stake is the question of how much regulation businesses in the sharing economy need.

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Programs that help women business owners expand their opportunities

Women-owned businesses are on the rise — most accounts find they make up about 30 percent of all privately held firms in the U.S. — but there is concern that many of these business top out early.

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Focus on sustainable food

Festival highlights progress in Boston’s local food economy

Owners of many of Boston’s up-and-coming new food businesses turned up to showcase their fare on Sept. 20 for the sixth annual Boston Local Food Festival on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway. Neighborhood food startups relished the attention from an estimated 50,000 visitors who roamed and grazed through the food festival’s array of stalls and tents.

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SBA expands reach

New program trains community orgs to support local entrepreneurs

The federal government is trying to do a better job helping small businesses in underserved communities grow, and is reaching out to community organizations as partners in doing so.

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Moira Studio’s Clemencia Herrera combines marketing and design skills

Clemencia Herrera, founder and creative director of Moira Studio, a creative marketing firm based in Cambridge, has put her multicultural background and experience to work to gain a foothold for her startup business.

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The Holyoke Innovation District finds creative solutions to revitalizing the city

While Boston’s Seaport Innovation District has garnered praise and attention, the efforts in Holyoke to revitalize vacant mill and factory sections of the city with new businesses and spur economic growth has been steadily and successfully moving forward for more than half a decade.

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Saint John 316 - Putting faith in fashion

Entrepreneurs draw inspiration from scripture for clothing line

The founders of Saint John 316, married couple Keith and Renee B. Ware, want to send a faith-based message with their apparel and lifestyle fashion brand — the Christian-based theme reflects their personal beliefs — but they also are savvy enough to know that their market focus may be the key to getting their fledgling venture off the ground.

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The importance of the web

Digital presence is key for minority businesses

Maintaining a digital presence is crucial to all business in today’s Internet-driven and increasingly mobile-dominated market. For small businesses, digital know-how can mark the difference between closing shop quickly and growing into a thriving company. And for minority businesses, argues Dartmouth professor Alva Taylor, digital excellence even more essential.

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U.S. doing more contracting with small businesses

For small businesses, chasing government contracts can be the difference between not just surviving, but thriving. Thanks to the recent boom in federal government work awarded to small businesses, government contracts are abundant. But in Massachusetts the chase is not just a metaphor, as more and more Bay State companies venture beyond the state and region to seal the deal. Working out-of-state adds logistical challenges and risk to many small businesses, but some local companies are proving that the extra effort is worth it because they are able to more than double and triple their revenues.

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Blending arts and science

Boston nonprofit gives kids hands-on tech experience

Boston startup Gique (the name signifies a cross between “geek” and “chic”) is bringing its unique blend of technology, engineering, math and art to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester on Aug. 6, giving local kids exposure to the passion project that MIT grad Danielle Olson hopes will help pave the future for a generation of tech-savvy and creative minds from Boston’s neighborhoods.

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Tia’s Cakes & Pastries - baking business success

Entrepreneur leaves marketing to open baking startup

Tia’s Cakes & Pastries specializes in custom cakes, such as the kind you can find at weddings or special events.

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The perfect recipe

Nicola Williams uses her marketing and advertising background to promote the local food movement

Nicola Williams believes in the sustainable food movement and supporting the growth of local business with a food vision for New England. That vision, aimed at the middle of this century, means that at least 50 percent of all food consumed is clean, fair, just and accessible food to all. As founder of the Williams Agency, a marketing and event planning agency focused on sustainable food, culture and arts, her role is to spread the good word about the movement — something she has been doing so for many years.

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Fittus - a fitness app for exercise enthusiasts

Entrepreneur seizes health and wellness opp with app

Success in the startup world takes savvy business planning, hard work and a bit of luck. But Fittus founder Joel Edwards took to heart a lesson he learned early while studying business at Suffolk University — that you need a passion for what you are doing to start a company — and launched an enterprise that combined his interest in exercising and working out with his desire to be an entrepreneur.

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Forming partnerships: The Latino Legacy Fund

Group looks to change trajectory for Boston Latinos by leveraging resources and forging relationships

The Latino Legacy Fund, a partnership of local Latino philanthropists and leaders, the Boston Foundation and Hispanics in Philanthropy, is building an initial $1 million endowment fund to support Boston-area Latino programs.

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Make way for big data

For many years the concept of big data meant many “bigs” — namely big cost, big companies and big infrastructure. But now the prevalence of data analytics services means that only the big data part remains, because small- and medium-size companies can easily and affordably take advantage of data crunching to push their businesses ahead.

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Hub business wary of future

Amid boom, confidence wanes among Hub’s small business

While small business gurus continue to sing the praises about how U.S.’s small companies are leading the way to economic prosperity, a new monthly report — finds that confidence is waning. That’s a cause for worry. “Waning confidence” is a far cry from the panic that reigned at the start of the decade, but the report suggest that many business owners are starting to wonder if the post-recession peak already has occurred. This presents a different picture on the street than most small business data suggest.

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On the rise: Diversity hiring

Thanks to corporations like Google, companies are making hiring practices more transparent

A year ago, when tech giant Google went public with what could only be classified as poor diversity numbers — saying that 70 percent of the company’s 50,000 employees worldwide at that time were men and, in the U.S., its employees were only 3 percent Latino and 2 percent black — it shocked many. But not because the diversity numbers were so low; that was no surprise. The shock was they admitted it.

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Small biz is scaling up

The startup waters are notoriously hazardous. Generally speaking about nine in 10 startups fail, to the point that failure is recognized as an accepted part of any entrepreneur’s professional cycle and a way to sort out the good from the bad. And nobody worries there won’t be more startups on the way. But in Massachusetts, attention has turned to the next step in business growth — scaling up — as a crucial factor in strengthening the economy.

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Taking Root with an urban farming revolution in Boston

There was a time in Boston when seeing vegetable gardens meant that some neighbor had a green thumb or others were looking for a way to transform the eyesore of a vacant lot. Today, the rise of the urban farming revolution is rooted in the demand for local, sustainable food, as well as the economic potential of urban agricultural small businesses.

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From Food Trucks to Urban Farming – Boston’s Locally grown food startups on the rise.

Future Boston Alliance’s restaurant accelerator program aims to diversify the restaurant landscape

The food industry in Boston is evolving, and people like Future Boston Alliance co-founder Malia Lazu are the core ingredients in a new recipe to cook up more local-grown small businesses. Future Boston Alliance’s new restaurant accelerator program is just one of the efforts to add to the growing selection of food startups simmering around the city from restaurants to food trucks to food suppliers.

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Hub ranks high in startup index

Access to capital helps innovative business ventures advance in Boston

When it comes to fostering small business innovation Boston is doing something right and people are starting to take notice. A recent report found Boston ranking high in the areas that are most important to building a strong startup environment in a city — an open network between city institutions and entrepreneurs, as well as access to the money to get startups off the ground. The report, “Innovation That Matters: How City Networks Drive Civic Entrepreneurship,” which was developed by Washington D.C. incubator 1776 and supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, specifically examines how cities are able to promote the growth of startups that focus on civic sector industries including education, energy, health and local government agencies.

CERO meets $350,000 goal by crowdfunding

Thanks to a late push, Cooperative Energy, Recycling and Organics, known as CERO Cooperative, topped its goal last week by raising $350,000 for its recycling and composting business.

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Pitch in the City returns

Entrepreneurs compete for startup funds at Hibernian Hall

Six local entrepreneurs presented their ideas to a panel of venture capital experts and an audience of colleagues, friends, and other interested parties. Savané, along with the others, showcased what makes a great pitch — passion, precision and showing the potential for profit.

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Cutting red tape: Boston leads the way

Obama administration looks to Hub for small business, start-up ideas

U.S. Small Business Administration head Maria Contreras-Sweet came to Boston to announce the “Startup in a Day” initiative, a collaboration with the White House, the SBA and the National League of Cities. In its first phase, participating cities make a pledge to create a “Startup in a Day” online tool by the end of 2015; develop a streamlined, business-friendly online permitting system; and share best practices to encourage other municipalities to join in.

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Group pushes firms to diversify

Mass. Diversity Coalition grew out of efforts for inclusion in state’s new gaming industry

The Massachusetts Diversity Coalition started with the goal to make sure that the state’s minority- and women-owned businesses got a piece of the growing gaming sector. However, the group now has bigger fish to fry — it wants to make sure that all major development projects make diversity a priority.

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Second Pitch in the City startup event set for June 16 in Roxbury

Building on the success of the first Pitch in the City, which was held earlier this year, Banner Biz Magazine is back with the second pitch event set for June 16 at 7 p.m. at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. It will bring together some of the hottest new startup entrepreneurs from Boston and give them a chance to pitch their startup ideas to a panel of business experts.

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JP business is ‘hands-on’ venture

Entrepreneur strikes pay dirt with massage startup

Many small business entrepreneurs who worked previously for someone else admit they started their own venture as a way to have their hands on all aspects of a business. Christine Rose is no different. It is just that in her case, her desire for a more hands-on business is literally “hands on” as her startup venture is a massage therapy company, Imani Massage.

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Worker-owned firm turns trash to cash

CERO cooperative processes recycling, compost for restaurants

With its recycling and composting business, Cooperative Energy, Recycling and Organics, known as CERO Cooperative, has dedicated its efforts to creating green jobs in the local food economy. The effort is something its leaders view as for the Boston community, but now CERO is asking the community to show its support — with cash.

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Annual conference brings green businesses together

When socially conscious business activists first organized the Sustainable Business Conference in 1990, environmental causes and business were widely seen as being at odds. Twenty-five years later, businesses increasingly are seeing sustainable practices as key to their survival. The Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts held this year’s event May 15 in Cambridge. The event brings together like-minded businesses that have created what it means to be a sustainable business — namely making an effort to build a stronger local economy through a network of environmentally and socially conscious.

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Entrepreneur bottles family recipes

Makomas draws on founder’s Ivory Coast heritage, makes headway with local retailers

Founded late last year, Makomas makes three traditional juice drinks that harken back to founder Magbè Savané’s youth in Africa: Ginger Drink, Baobab Drink and Hibiscus Tea. Her mother sold similar beverages in small plastic bags to neighbors and town folk. As a child Savané helped her mother hand-make the drinks using all-natural and simple ingredients. The 30-year-old recalls these days fondly and said juice-making immediately popped to mind when she was considering starting her own business.

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Tapping the mobile market

We live in a mobile world. Consumers live in a mobile world. And today’s small businesses better live in a mobile world. Specifically, whether brick and mortar, old or new, b2b, b2c, tech savvy or tech weary, mobile apps can help businesses tap into markets they could never reach before — it’s a bottom-line game changer the likes of which rarely has been seen before.

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Charlotte Golar Richie: Champion for civil rights

Commissioner works to fight discrimination as member of Commonwealth civil rights agency

Charlotte Golar Richie’s commitment to civil rights, fairness and equality is in her blood — her parents fought for these issues, she focused on them while serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and it was a strong part of her campaign for Mayor of Boston in the 2013 election. That’s why she’s well-suited for her current role as a commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

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Boston's Inner City Entrepreneurs solve problems in urban landscape

Boston is on the forefront of the urban entrepreneur movement

Boston is on the forefront of the urban entrepreneur movement, joining other cities like New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. in backing a business environment that not only supports diversity but sees it as a necessity by directly linking businesses to their communities.

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Baker: small businesses key to Mass. economy

Small firms create half of Mass jobs

While speaking at the annual awards ceremony of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Massachusetts District Office on May 4 in Framingham, Baker acknowledged that small business is responsible for adding half of the new jobs in the state and admitted that any new administration would be remiss to ignore the economic necessity of small business growth.

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Julie Burros: Advocate for the Arts

Cultural planning crucial to success of Boston’s creative economy

Late last year, Julie Burros became Boston’s first Chief of Arts and Culture in more than 20 years. She is here to create a cultural plan for the city and work as an advocate for the arts community in the creation of new policy that will help keep art and culture strong in Boston.

CityStart Boston to hold four-week program

May is national small business month, headlined by the government’s National Small Business Week from May 4 to May 8, and this year there is plenty to celebrate with the continual rise of the country’s small business economy. Locally, the small business celebration focuses on highlighting top success stories and emphasizing the services in place to help companies continue to grow.

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Small business success stories

SBA, President Obama pledge support for entrepreneurs during Small Business Month

Organizers of a new startup support program, CityStart Boston, have announced a month-long effort to extend Boston’s innovation economy across the entire city, beyond the city’s Innovation District and the other areas where startups and entrepreneurs cluster.

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JerkFest goes to Vermont

Celebrating sustainability, Caribbean culture

Nicola Williams and her Williams Agency, a marketing and event planning agency focused on food, culture and arts, has 20 years of success with events in and around Boston. Now, Williams is heading north with plans to put on Vermont’s first Caribbean foodie festival this summer.

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JP entrepreneur brings tech to trucking business

Rashad Sanders is drawing on the city’s various startup support organizations, including District Hall in the Innovation District, the Downtown-based Startup Institute and Smarter in the City in Dudley Square, to get his young company Loadlytics off the ground. Loadlytics is developing a web-based dispatch management system that allows trucking companies to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of operations.

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Down Home builds foundation for success

Family business cooks up Southern specialties from Dot to Downtown

Specializing in southern cooking, Down Home has grown since its start in 2009 so that the vision its co-owners, the husband and wife pair of Gary Webster and Gale Scott, started with is now coming to fruition.

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Pitch in the City event gives local entrepreneurs the spotlight

Tech Connections and PracticeGigs were the winning startups

The “Pitch in the City” event, was organized by Banner Biz Magazine and sponsored by Northeastern University, offering substantial support and connections to all the startups pitching their ideas. It also was a great warmup for the day when the young entrepreneurs will hopefully appear before investors, seeking a serious cash infusion to keep their businesses growing.