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Business growth in Mattapan

City workshops help local entrepreneurs with expertise

Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson is a Boston-based freelance journalist covering urban/social issues and policy. VIEW BIO
Business growth in Mattapan
Keisha Glover, owner of the Pink Shoe Lounge, speaks during a press conferance to announce the creation of the Boston Small Business Center. (Photo: Mayor’s Office photo by Jeremiah Robinson)

Author: Sheryce Hearns/Courtesy City of BostonThe Small Business Center staff at the Mattapan Public Library: (l-r) Gabriela Herrera, Spanish interpreter; Thomas McDonough, Neighborhood Business Manager; Bea Dambreville, Administrative Assistant; and Esther Paul, Haitian Creole interpreter.

Author: Sheryce Hearns/Courtesy City of BostonKurtis Milton receives one-on-one consulting at the Mattapan Community Health Center from Charles Vlahakis of Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation.

On the Web

City of Boston Office of Small Business Development:…

2016 Citywide Small Business Plan:

Imagine Boston 2030: https://imagine.b…

The city of Boston’s Office of Economic Development has launched a 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 initial nine-week series in Mattapan will be followed by similar series in East Boston and Roxbury.

Boston is home to 40,000 small businesses that generate $15 billion in annual revenue, according to the city. Entrepreneurs of color comprise 32 percent of all Boston businesses, generate $2.7 billion in revenue and employ 32,000 people. Thirty-five percent of small businesses in Boston are women-owned.

Still, the local small business ecosystem contains some gaps in equity and opportunity for would-be entrepreneurs. The city’s 2016 citywide small business plan identified the creation of a Small Business Center as a strategy to help remedy such gaps, including access to public and private small business resources; professional networking opportunities for entrepreneurs of color, immigrants and women; and technical assistance on relevant legal, operational, financing and licensing issues for business startups.

The Mattapan series began last month with two workshops at the Mattapan Community Health Center — “Is Entrepreneurship for You?” and “Starting a Small Business: Big Legal Questions” — and a session at the Mattapan Public Library called “Financial Check-up.” All sessions are free and open to anyone interested.

Irene Harris, 42, of the South End, is considering starting a foot reflexology business. Her brother heard about the upcoming Mattapan workshop and suggested she attend, she said, and she came to the Big Legal Questions session on June 27.

The legal workshop included two presentations: one by a lawyer covering topics such as choosing a name that’s not in use elsewhere and navigating the city’s licensing process, and one by a small business owner sharing tips on the “nitty gritty stuff you have to look for when signing a business lease,” as Harris put it.

“He had very good insight into how we should negotiate a deal and how to look at the small print,” she said in a recent interview. “What I took away from that is, ‘Don’t rush.’ Initially I was rushing, feeling I need a space [right away]. Now I feel that if I don’t have a space yet, it’s not meant to be.”

Harris said she appreciated receiving expert information as well as learning about many other resources available for free to small business, such as SCORE, which offers mentoring by retired businesspeople. She hopes to attend additional workshops as the Small Business Center series continues.

“I feel it’s really good ground to start on,” Harris said. “It’s good to get prepared, so when the day comes where a location is ready for me, I’m ready to go forward.”

Another takeaway, Harris noted, was that starting a business is not easy. While she praised the Walsh administration for offering the workshops, she hopes the city will continue to make the business startup process easier to navigate.

“There’s a lot of legal issues. I wish the city would make it easier, make people feel like it’s not a huge mountain to climb,” she said.

Upcoming Tuesday sessions in Mattapan include “Lean Business Planning” (July 18), “Resources for Immigrant Entrepreneurs” (July 25), “Access to Capital” (Aug. 1), “Running a Food-Based Business” and “Starting a Restaurant” (Aug. 8) and “Winning Public Contracts & Growing Your Business” (Aug. 15). In a Thursday session on July 20, the nonprofit Tech Goes Home will cover small-business-relevant technology topics. For more information, contact Shaina Aubourg at 617.635.4164 or, or register online at

The Small Business Center series stems from the citywide small business plan and Imagine Boston 2030. The program is supported by the City of Boston and Bank of America, which has provided a $100,000 grant supporting the launch of the City of Boston Small Business Center as well as a series of neighborhood recognition events aimed at raising the visibility of local businesses.

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