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A banner year for business

Local firms, new and old, make their mark in Boston

Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson
Sandra Larson is a Boston-based freelance journalist covering urban/social issues and policy. VIEW BIO
A banner year for business
Faithlyn Scarlett of Faith’s Naturals in Jamaica Plain. (Photo: Sandra Larson)

Throughout 2017, the Banner’s business pages highlighted local entrepreneurs, those risk-takers who have set up shop to offer services and products from branding to beauty supplies, fitness to fences, sweets to soul food. Some hung their own shingle in an area of accumulated training and experience, while others took a leap from one field to pursue something completely different.

Author: Sandra LarsonBobin Nicholson of Eye & Eye Optics.

Author: Sandra LarsonJoe Sumrell of Inside Out Fitness Concepts.

Interspersed with individual business profiles, we covered some of the programs that offer assistance and training, incubation and pop-up space to budding entrepreneurs.

Here is a sample of business stories the Banner covered this year.

Food, drink and entertainment

Someone, somewhere will always need, want and love food and beverages, and it’s no surprise that a number of local entrepreneurs have chosen to turn their food-related skills into a business.

Dorchester native and avid baker Teresa Maynard left a full-time job to follow her passion with Sweet Teez bakery in 2016 and garnered accolades in 2017 at the Boston Food and Wine Expo and the New England Dessert Showcase. Schoolteacher and entrepreneur Cassandra Morgan celebrated the first year of Dudley’s Seafood Market, which she launched after spending time soaking up knowledge from the experts at Boston Fish Pier. Attorney Bev Armstrong left the biotechnology industry to turn her hobby of craft beer brewing into Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer.

Savvor Lounge, opened by Eddie Firmin in 2014, continued to offer Caribbean-Southern soul food along with music and dancing downtown, while longstanding Slade’s in Lower Roxbury changed ownership and is now in the hands of Darryl Settles and Teryl Calloway. In Dudley Square’s Bolling Building, Dudley Dough said farewell as 2017 drew to a close, but several new restaurants are in the works there, including a yet-to-be-announced new venture in the building’s long-empty flagship space. In Cambridge, Dennis Benzan and Hector and Nivia Pina, the team behind Vejigantes, Merengue and Doña Habana, opened La Fábrica in February, adding Spanish-Caribbean food and jazz to Central Square.

Health and beauty

Some local entrepreneurs cater to those on a path toward better health and well-being, from body building to skin care. Joe Sumrell and his team specialize in building strong bodies and winning attitudes at Inside Out Fitness Concepts. Handcrafted organic and natural products are the specialty of Faithlyn Scarlett, founder of Faith’s Naturals in Jamaica Plain, and Bernette Dawson, whose Made Organics products can be purchased online and at pop-up markets.

Professional services

While a number of the businesses we covered are retail and food businesses, others provide services. Bobin Nicholson, owner of Eye & Eye Optics, capitalized on two decades of experience as an optician and supervisor at Harvard Vanguard when he went into business for himself in 2010. Zamawa Arenas launched her branding and marketing consultancy Flowetik this year after 20 years with a full-service marketing firm. Kristen Ransom emphasizes inclusion and diversity at IncluDe, the software design and development agency she started in 2016.

Building and fixing

For McCoy Fence Company, 2018 will mark 30 years in business for founder Ralph McCoy, whose daughters now are integral parts of the operation. Domingos DaRosa represents a newer generation, serving customers across Eastern Massachusetts with DaRosa Property Maintenance LLC, the property maintenance and repair business he founded in 2015.

Author: Sandra LarsonCassandra Morgan of Dudley’s Seafood Market.

Author: Sandra LarsonPaulette Ngachoko pours samples of her Cameroonian peanut sauce at a Food Biz 101 pitch event.

Author: Sandra LarsonMcCoy Fence Co. founder Ralph McCoy with daughters Donyetta McCoy and Yolanda Anderson.

Businesses giving back

Some entrepreneurs place special emphasis on assisting other small businesses and nonprofits or helping to lift others in the community. Outside the Box Agency founder Justin Springer helps nonprofits get their messages out with creative digital storytelling. Abeeku Barrow, founder of Boston Cleaning Services, is creating jobs for local teens. And Kai and Chris Grant provide a venue for local entrepreneurs to sell their wares at Black Market, which opened in Dudley Square in June and is poised to expand in 2018.

Support for the risk-takers

While some navigate the new territory of business ownership on their own, many entrepreneurs we spoke with credited their success in part to accelerator and incubator programs and other initiatives to help launch and grow businesses.

The City of Boston’s Office of Small Business Development in June launched a series of small business workshops in city neighborhoods, starting with Mattapan. Mass Innovation Nights put the spotlight on tech entrepreneurs of color at a networking and business showcase event in Grove Hall. Cohorts of food entrepreneurs learned the basics in Food Biz 101, a training program cosponsored by CommonWealth Kitchen and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, while Santander Bank began its “Cultivate Small Business” initiative, also targeting food entrepreneurs. Eastern Bank’s new Business Equity Initiative, led by Glynn Lloyd, offers capacity-building loans and technical assistance to existing black- and Latino-owned businesses. And the Boston Ujima Project launched formally with an aim to build a new community-controlled economy in Boston’s neighborhoods of color.

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