Business, Features

Mayor’s Office hosts disparity study for Boston business owners

The Boston Mayor’s Office of Economic Development hosted an outreach meeting on Friday where small business owners were encouraged to testify their experiences owning a business in Boston. 

Pop-up store Black Market Dudley in Roxbury, where the Boston Mayor’s Office of Economic Development hosted a business outreach meeting on Friday. VIOLET GIDDINGS/ DFP FILE

The City of Boston has commissioned BBC Research & Consulting, Nunnally & Associates, Kelley Chunn & Associates and Bevco & Associates to conduct the disparities study to determine whether barriers exist for small businesses owned by women and minorities. 

The meeting was held at Black Market in Roxbury’s Dudley Square. 

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh attended the meeting, at Black Market in Dudley Square in Roxbury, pointed out the various economic changes Boston business owners have faced in the past decade. 

“We’re going to continue hopefully to have that incredible economy to continue to create opportunities and really close achievement gaps,” Walsh said.

The study, according to the City of Boston, “will build on progress made through the City’s Economic Inclusion and Equity Agenda, which helps policymakers strengthen or adjust current policy to further remedy disparities.” 

John Barros, chief of economic development for the city of Boston, said in an interview there have been numerous steps taken to ensure the study thoroughly accounts for all Boston businesses.

“We really did a lot of work in researching and talking to people to understand the challenges of studies and why studies fail,” Barros said. “What makes studies stronger, what makes them better, and what will allow cities to succeed in their studies.”

For the study, Barros said his office completed a two-phase process in an effort to compile business data, wealth utilization and business availability in the city.

“A lot of the ways that people find jobs or awarded contracts are designed for larger companies with more experience and with more capital,” Barros said. “We have to be more creative in how we create opportunities for everyone.” 

Bertha Pantoja, an attendee at the meeting and the founder of BP design, a landscape architecture firm, said she has struggled as a new small business owner in Boston.

“I’m a new small firm so the biggest challenge is that all the RFP(Request for Proposal) are for people with much more experience,” Pantoja said. “Even though I have done the work outside of my own business, and that they need a bigger insurance and a bigger bond so when they put the [RFPs] are too big for me to even get there.”

While Kai Grant, co-founder of Black Market, said the number one obstacle facing female- and minority-owned businesses is acquiring capital, she also emphasized that finding a space to sell products also poses a challenge. 

“Rents here in Dudley are $35 per square foot, which is one of the reasons why we have our marketplace,” Grant said, “where they can rent for a lot cheaper.”

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