Ujima Project aims to put economic control in neighborhood hands
The Boston Ujima Project took a step forward last weekend with an inaugural assembly to launch its effort to build a new community-controlled economy in Boston’s neighborhoods of color.
Fast food strike, march mark Labor Day
On a day many New Englanders celebrate as the unofficial last day of summer with beach trips and BBQ parties, hundreds of low-wage workers and labor advocates took to the streets of Boston to call attention to their fight for a $15 minimum wage and for union rights.
The city of Boston is once again seeking a full-service restaurant tenant for the large vacant space at the front of the Bruce C. Bolling Building in the heart of Dudley Square. Finding the right restaurateur-tenant for the prominent location is critical to an enlivened Dudley Square, say experts and community stakeholders. Its two-year vacancy underscores the challenges in bringing new economic vitality to a square that has served as a commercial hub for a largely low-income neighborhood.
Attorney leaves corporate world to open craft brewery
Bev Armstrong, founder, CEO and head brewer of Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer, knows her career path is unusual. The Harvard-educated attorney and MBA made a “complete left turn” into entrepreneurship, hanging her shingle as a fulltime craft beer brewer in 2016, following a 15-year stint in the biotechnology industry in such high-level roles as CFO, general counsel and VP of operations.
Trump, Republican-led Congress put forward plans for deep budget cuts
Hundreds of housing advocates from Boston and across the state gathered near Faneuil Hall last week to protest budget cuts proposed by President Trump especially, and Congress to a lesser degree, that would decimate funding for many key housing-related programs.
Zamawa Arenas branches off on her own with Flowetik
Venezuelan-born serial entrepreneur Zamawa Arenas previously spent 20 years with the full-service marketing firm Argus — 15 of those as co-owner — before hanging her own shingle in June.
The group Friends of Melnea Cass Boulevard is urging city and state transportation officials and Mayor Marty Walsh to delay a street redesign plan in order to address community priorities regarding tree preservation and safety and to ensure adequate community oversight of the project.
City workshops help local entrepreneurs with expertise
The city of Boston’s Office of Economic Development has launched series of small business workshops in Mattapan. The weekly series, which began June 20 and runs through Aug. 15, is part of a traveling Small Business Center that will provide neighborhood-located workshops for small business owners and people considering starting businesses.
The compact space at 744 Dudley St. has a few bright-red chairs and two wood tables that fold out from the wall for inside seating when needed, but most customers come in for meals-to-go or fresh seafood to cook at home. On a given day the fresh display is likely to contain whole grouper, porgy, red snapper, jackfish and tilapia and fillets of whiting and salmon. A chalkboard lists many other fish types she can stock on request.
Duplessy formed the Duplessy Foundation in 2009 as a way to tie together two areas of expertise: business consulting and youth leadership. With fundraising workshops, coaching and related programs, he hopes to be able to assist in particular like himself: children of immigrants forging their own paths and entrepreneurs yearning to harness their passion into a meaningful and money-making business.
Fourteen local black-owned technology and innovation companies showcased new products and services at last week’s Mass Innovation Nights product launch and networking event in Grove Hall.
The 11th annual YouthCAN Climate and Sustainability Summit, organized by the Boston Latin School Youth Climate Action Network (BLS YouthCAN) in partnership with the MIT Technology and Culture Forum, was held May 13 at the MIT Stata Center in Cambridge. The day-long event, free and open to the public, drew some 240 youth representing at least 38 public and private schools in Greater Boston and surrounding suburbs.
As an entrepreneur and a tradeswoman, Ronnette Taylor-Lawrence has been a trailblazer. Starting as a young single mother in the 1980s, she worked her way up from laborer to journeyman plumber, becoming the first woman of color to receive her plumber’s license from the Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 12 Boston union. Today, she is a master plumber and fire sprinkler contractor running her own business, Fire Code Design, a Boston-based full service fire extinguisher and fire safety company offering sales, repairs and service to commercial and residential clients.
Santander Bank this week announced “Cultivate Small Business,” a pilot initiative designed to assist women-, minority- and immigrant-owned businesses in food-related industries. The program’s focus is on helping to fill gaps in networking, mentorship, training and access to capital in order to smooth the path to business success, a path that can be particularly rocky for entrepreneurs starting out with few resources.
When Eddy Firmin was ready to start his own restaurant after spending years in the corporate world and as a restaurant co-owner, he created the kind of place he would want to go to. “This is me,” he says, sitting recently in the dining room of Savvor, the restaurant and lounge he opened in downtown Boston in 2014. “It’s stuff I like to eat — good food, nothing crazy. Our recipes come from all over — from my mother, from family members, borrowed from a lot of places.”
Inside Out Fitness Concepts founder Joe Sumrell traces his interest in physical fitness way back, probably to age 6 when his mother started him in judo classes. Throughout his school years, he played just about every sport available. Later on, he took up competitive bodybuilding and earned the shelves full of trophies that line IOFC’s walls and storefront on Dudley Street in Roxbury. And at 58, Sumrell still competes in track and field, where he is ranked nationally and internationally in multiple events.
Jamaican food chain’s next Boston site will be in Dudley Square
Mattapan residents, Greater Boston’s Caribbean community, local elected officials celebrated the grand opening of Boston’s first Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill on Saturday.
For Domingos DaRosa, the record-breaking 2015 winter sowed the seeds for a new business. He started DaRosa Property Maintenance LLC in 2015. The 39-year-old father of four had been helping his parents, neighbors and friends for years with snow removal and other odd jobs. When those extraordinarily snowy months hit, his phone started ringing. He purchased snow blowers and gathered some helpers, mostly family members. Within two weeks, he says, he had customers across eastern Massachusetts — Taunton, Easton, Billerica — all through word-of-mouth referrals.
At Eye & Eye Optics, owner Bobin Nicholson wants the experience of choosing the right eyeglass frames to be as enjoyable and relaxing as the reggae music he loves. In 2010, the Dorchester resident purchased the former Peters Optical business in the Lower Mills neighborhood and retrofitted the shop to reflect his style and create a full-service eye care facility with an ophthalmologist on staff.
Entrepreneur takes a DIY approach to building a business
Inside a tiny storefront on Jamaica Plain’s South Street, the light-filled interior of Faith’s Naturals feels surprisingly spacious. White walls, a high white tin-paneled ceiling and light-toned wood shelves, coupled with a few deep-pink accents, create an inviting look to the narrow space. Neatly arranged on the shelves are jars and bottles of face and body scrubs, oils, soaps and hair care products, all handmade by owner Faithlyn Scarlett with plant-based ingredients such as flaxseed extract, arrow root powder, aloe vera gel extract, coconut oil, honey, lemon juice and crushed oats.
While the Greater Boston area has grown more diverse over the past five years, the region remains racially and economically segregated, a new report shows, with the average income 18 times higher for the highest-earning fifth of households than for the lowest fifth, and widening income and wealth gaps disproportionately affecting blacks and Latinos.
In Boston, 18,709 woman-owned businesses employ 26,209 people, account for more than $4 billion in sales and provide more than $208 million in tax revenue, according to Women Entrepreneurs Boston (WE BOS). Yet by many accounts, women face greater challenges in raising capital and attracting investment for their businesses and in finding mentors and supportive networks. A program of the city of Boston’s Office of Small Business and Office of Women’s Advancement, WE BOS was launched in 2015 to help convene and support women entrepreneurs.
The logo of La Fábrica Central, the new Spanish Caribbean restaurant and live music spot in Cambridge’s Central Square, features a trapiche, the type of wheel that grinds sugar cane into molasses. La Fábrica means “the factory,” and the symbolic logo, along with an actual 400-pound steel trapiche shipped from the Dominican Republic to Cambridge to adorn La Fábrica’s dining room wall, pay homage to the workers who toil in the Caribbean islands to produce sugar, molasses and rum.
Berklee students learn music business basics from John Kellogg in for-credit classroom and online courses. But in 2014 Kellogg opened the door for people anywhere to be schooled in basic legal and business aspects of the music industry at no charge, by developing the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on music business.
The Ujamaa Bazaar, a pop-up market organized by the Black Economic Justice Institute, Inc., will be open every Saturday this month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the large hall at 61 Columbia Road in Dorchester. BEJI recently moved its headquarters into the lower floor of the building, which is home to the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. (MAMLEO).
Organization helps people of color rise through corporate ranks
The Partnership, a nonprofit with a mission of diversifying Boston’s corporate leadership pipeline, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Since 1987, the Boston-based organization has offered leadership development programs to nurture the talent of African Americans and, increasingly, other people of color traditionally underrepresented at the highest levels of business and industry. Over the years, the organization has worked with some 300 partner organizations and now has a network of more than 4,000 alumni.
Outside the Box Agency President Justin Springer’s path has always been nontraditional, and his entry into entrepreneurship is no exception. A few years ago, when he was frustrated by a string of unfulfilling jobs and job searches, a friend mentioned Future Boston Alliance, the organization known for championing innovative ideas for Boston, but less known at the time for its new business accelerator program. To his surprise, he received word that he’d been selected for Future Boston’s accelerator cohort.
A jury of design experts, city officials and residents of Roxbury’s Garrison Trotter sub-neighborhood is evaluating six development proposals submitted as part of a city of Boston pilot Housing Innovation Competition launched last November.
Boston has 40,000 small businesses that provide some 170,000 jobs, nearly half of all employment in the city, according to the city’s Small Business Plan released last May. And the vast majority of the city’s small businesses — both downtown and in Boston’s many neighborhoods — are “micro-businesses” with fewer than 10 employees and less than $500,000 in revenue. The Mayor's Office of Economic Development (OED), formed in 2014 by the incoming Walsh administration, has been ramping up its efforts to support existing and new small businesses, providing a range of services to help them get a foothold, survive and thrive.
Memory cafes are new to Boston, but the model was developed in the 1990s in Holland, and over the past decade has spread across the U.S. In some areas they are called “Alzheimer’s cafes,” but memory cafes are not Alzheimer’s education sessions or support groups. A 2005 evaluation of memory cafes in the United Kingdom observed that the cafe setting provides “a safe space in which to ‘re-story’ the experience of dementia.” Organizers say cafe participation can open a path to starting difficult conversations about dementia.
Increase in extreme heat days poses threat to already-vulnerable residents
Boston is in for more severe storms, damaging floods and dangerously hot days in the coming years, experts say. While all Bostonians will feel the impacts of extreme weather and increased flooding, the impacts may be felt hardest in the city’s communities of color and lower-income neighborhoods. These residents already face a slate of challenges and inequities that will make it harder to withstand heat waves and bounce back after disasters.
From the MBTA’s recent outsourcing of its cash-counting operations to the heavily-funded campaign to lift the cap on charter schools, Massachusetts is witness to a push for greater privatization of services that traditionally have been public, or government-provided.
Opportunities seen for local job seekers
A strategy for boosting economic development along the Fairmount Corridor by attracting and retaining businesses and jobs — and particularly, connecting corridor residents to those jobs — appears to be gaining traction.
The city is offering several Roxbury land parcels for sale to developers as part of a pilot competition to encourage the creation of “compact” multifamily rental or ownership housing with a range of affordability.
Population increases present challenges
Hosted by Imagine Boston 2030 and the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s research division, the Boston by the Numbers series is an opportunity for Bostonians to see and discuss the data and trends that help guide long-range city planning.
Parents, students turn out for weekend sessions at Bolling Bldg.
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang last weekend shared some of his department’s efforts to acknowledge and address systemic racism.
The Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square was transformed Monday evening into a marketplace for local entrepreneurs and a site for thoughtful discussions on creating an inclusive innovation ecosystem and supporting local entrepreneurs who have already taken the leap.
BPS teachers say budget shortfalls are cutting critical services in their schools and causing them to dig deeper into their own pockets for classroom supplies.
North Carolina minister and political leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II electrified an overflow crowd in Boston last week as he hammered out an agenda for a “moral revolution of values” in times of pain, injustice and outrage.
Optometrist combines art with eye care in Dudley shop
When optometrist Lesa Dennis-Mahamed opened her new full-service eye care shop in Dudley Square’s Bolling Building last fall, she chose a name infused with multiple layers of meaning.
Hundreds served by training programs
Developer “linkage” fees on large-scale commercial developments in Boston have led to job training and higher incomes for city residents in need, according to a new report from the city’s Office of Workforce Development.
A Boston nonprofit known for combining baseball training and competition with academic and life skills support for boys has launched a new girls’ baseball program. The BASE, headquartered in Roxbury, started with a focus on boys. Founded in 2013 by Robert Lewis Jr. as an evolution of the longstanding Boston Astros team, The BASE’s vision statement includes “combining sports and academic opportunities to transform the lives of black and Latino boys.” In late 2014, a girls’ softball program was added, growing quickly to 200 participants. But The BASE’s core program remains baseball — and now baseball is for girls, too.
Affordable housing and homelessness advocates, along with a majority of Boston city councilors, are calling for the next city budget to allocate $5 million for a new “housing first” voucher program. The city-funded vouchers would provide rental assistance for homeless families and individuals in Boston in the face of continued funding cuts and long wait lists for federal and state voucher programs.
Seeking like-minded gym partners? He has an app for that!
“Gyms don’t keep people. They’re just not good at it,” says Joel Edwards, founder and CEO of Boston-based Fittus. “I’ve quit gym memberships myself — it’s hard to stay motivated.” To tackle the problem, the 32-year-old Dorchester native created the Fittus mobile application to connect gym members and link personal trainers with clients.
Dudley Sq, Dorchester to be among first service areas
Over the next six years, Boston business and residential consumers will gain a new option for high-speed broadband internet access. Mayor Martin Walsh and Verizon announced last week that Verizon is launching a $300 million effort to replace its copper-based Boston infrastructure with a new fiber optic network.
Summit covers prosperity barriers and solutions
Latinas Think Big, a global network and online platform aiming to advance Latinas’ ventures and careers, held a national summit last week in Cambridge. The event centered on the topic of racial and ethnic wealth disparities and potential pathways to economic prosperity for Latina women in light of the wealth gap.
Affordable housing, immigrant issues take center stage in coalition-run forum
A new coalition of Boston Asian-American organizations hosted a forum March 16 to introduce candidates in the First Suffolk and Middlesex State Senate race to a Chinatown audience. Less than a month remains before the April 12 primary election that will determine which one of seven Democratic hopefuls will advance to the May 8 special election necessitated by the recent resignation of Sen. Anthony Petruccelli.
Infrastructure seen lacking in planning area
The BRA’s Plan: JP/Rox process has involved an unprecedented degree of community participation and inter-agency cooperation, by many accounts, yet has left some JP/Rox community members, including those on the appointed advisory group for the plan, feeling nervous and not fully heard or empowered. Worries abound, from loss of JP’s neighborhood character, to lack of affordability and displacement of existing residents, to a feeling of the processed being rushed or not fully thought out.
A design and branding leader that talks truth by design
How do you rebrand a religion? Daren Bascome, 46-year-old founder of Proverb branding agency, says shepherding the Universalist Unitarian Association toward a new image to engage the Millennial generation counts among the more unusual projects tackled by Proverb, recently ranked as one of the “Inner City 100” fastest-growing firms.
Funds would go to transportation, education
Supporters and opponents testified at the State House last week on a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose an extra 4 percent state tax on annual income over $1 million in order to generate funds for public education and transportation projects.