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Martin Desmarais

Stories by Martin

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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.

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Now is the time for startups

Mass Challenge CEO spurs on entrepreneurs

Speaking at Startup Night at District Hall in the heart of Boston’s Innovation District MassChallenge CEO John Harthorne had a tough but ultimately encouraging message for aspiring entrepreneurs — the startup world is full of fear, failure and frustration, but if you have a passion for what you are doing and the will to work hard success is possible.

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Architects tackle challenges of rising sea levels

Competition seeks to help Boston cope with effects of climate change

A forward-looking planning competition called Boston Living with Water has turned its attention to the rising sea level and highlights the importance the architecture, design and urban planning industry will have in ensuring the city’s survival. The message is pretty clear — it’s going to be sink or swim for many of Boston’s critical economic and business hubs.

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Massport makes push for diversity

Aggressive minority participation goals for hotel construction project

The state’s massive transportation authority, Massport, may be best known for running Boston Logan International Airport and handling the local shipping ports, but that is not all it does. With well over 300 acres of real estate in addition to Logan, the agency has a big hand in some of the major development going on in Boston. Now its leaders are making a historic diversity stand with a new project to build a headquarters hotel near the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

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Supplier Diversity – How to Market your business to public entity

Massport and Keolis executives talk about the importance of supplier diversity

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Gary Morton: Boston Black MBA Association Chapter Chair builds leadership skills

The Boston chapter of the Black MBA Association advocates continuous learning and education attainment.

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Beverley Johnson’s consulting firm builds bridges between developers and community.

Bevco Associates, Inc. works to stabilize neighborhoods through economic and physical revitalization.

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Marketing entrepreneur parlays passion for social causes into successful business

Grove Hall native is chief executive of MORE Advertising

MORE Advertising founder and CEO Donna Latson Gittens had one long-term dream for most of her early professional career — to run a television station. But after more than two decades in the TV industry, with this dream not looking likely, she did what all good entrepreneurs do and turned a better opportunity into a business.

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Business Accelerated - City Incubators help lay groundwork for urban entrepreneurs

Boston is a city known for business innovation in places like Kendall Square and the Seaport District, but there is a growing movement to expand this ecosystem in the city's neighborhoods like Dudley Square and Fields Corner.

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Harvard grad Matthew Fields finds success in online education with Stanford-backed Redbird Advanced Learning

A business he birthed in his time at Harvard University has allowed Matthew Mugo Fields to fulfill a promise he made while a young immigrant student back in high school — to one day help other students better their educational opportunities just as he was helped.

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Roxbury man starts craft distillery in NH

New Hampshire’s state liquor distribution system offers filmmaker new opportunity

Roxbury resident Robert Patton-Spruill has enough passion — and the boost of a federal distillery license — to believe that his recently launched New England Sweetwater Farm & Distillery can be a success in the business of booze.

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Small businesses set to gain from rising crowdfunding sector

Crowdfunding is a hot topic in the lending and investing world, but with billions of dollars at stake for small businesses and startups it is not just an Internet trend that will fade away in the short term. Developments in the industry suggest crowdfunding will be a crucial part of supporting entrepreneurs for the foreseeable future.

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Kiva lending program brings microloan approach to US

Online Zip loans aid small businesses

Kiva, a nonprofit lending organization, has helped connect entrepreneurs all over the world with $670 million in loans since it began its efforts in Africa a decade ago. Now, with more than 1.2 million lenders and money sent to 86 different countries, Kiva has set its sight on helping U.S. startup entrepreneurs with its Kiva Zip program.

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Boston Impact Initiative invests in ‘social impact’ firms

The Boston Impact Initiative, an organization that supports community organizations through loans and grants, has made its first equity investment in a local business, backing Roxbury-based City Fresh Foods. The move is seen as an expansion of the Initiative’s efforts to provide sources of investment cash to businesses and organizations in Boston’s urban neighborhoods. In particular, the investment focus will be on existing local businesses that provide services to the diverse communities of color throughout the city.

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Program helps businesses harness Internet technology

Initiative backed by $1 million federal grant

A state program to help small businesses use technology to expand — with Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation at its heart — has shown officials one successful way to support economic growth. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s Small Business Technical Assistance Program has shelled out close to three-quarters of a million dollars to small businesses and also funded a number of technical training programs, workshops and outreach to educate small businesses about the benefits of using technology.

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Tropical Foods ‘hybrid’ market grows, retains customer base

The store’s slogan is, after all, “The Supermarket for Everyone,” and the new location will allow the store to deliver on this promise.“It is ethnic, but is it also now modern and conventional,” Garry said.

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