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Small business wins of 2018

MWBEs in Boston launched, expanded and scaled up

Karen Morales
Small business wins of 2018
Befekadu Defar opened Fasika Cafe in Dudley Square in March 2018. — Banner Photo

In 2018, minority-owned businesses across Boston saw significant growth, expansion and development. In addition, several entrepreneurs of color launched new ventures this past year, adding hope of increasing local economic empowerment that could help curb residential and small business displacement.

Economic activity livened up Roxbury’s Dudley Square with two new restaurant openings and a new discount grocery store. Ethiopian restaurant Fasika Cafe opened in March; Soleil, a southern food joint by local restaurateur Cheryl Straughter debuted in June; and healthy food store Daily Table has been providing affordable groceries to the area since last January.

Kendra Blackett-Dibinga’s new Boston yoga studio is one of five she and her husband own on the East Coast. — Banner Photo

Kendra Blackett-Dibinga’s new Boston yoga studio is one of five she and her husband own on the East Coast. — Banner Photo

Mayor Martin Walsh’s Office of Economic Development, which currently works with 17 minority- and women-owned business enterprises through its technical assistance programming, highlighted six businesses that opened this year by Latinx entrepreneurs: JC Fruit Shop, Cacao, 100% Delicias Express, 21 Plus Smoke Shop, JPizzle Kitchen and Juicygreens.

Also noteworthy is the launch of Ivyees “Everything Honey,” the first woman of color-owned retail business to open in Boston’s North End neighborhood, this past November. Owner Ivy Lawson offers up skin care, hair care and other wellness products made with organic, raw honey.

A very niche venture, BarberTime Media Network is a minority-owned business that launched in 2018 to provide digital advertising and streaming media content for barbershops and salons. According to BarberTime’s website, the company aims to “create a better branding experience for our ad partners, better deals for their consumers and create residual income for the barber or stylist.”   

Local expansion and growth

Other businesses, such as Sweet Teez Bakery, Happy Supermarket and BikramYogaWorks successfully scaled up or expanded. Teresa Maynard, founder of Sweet Teez Bakery, fulfilled a 48,000 mini-pie wholesale order for Whole Foods this past year, her biggest order yet, with the help of a growing team.

Happy Supermarket on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester, owned by brothers Francisco and Jose Fernandez, now has a second location on South Street in Jamaica Plain called Happy Supermarket II. The City of Boston’s ReStore Boston program helped complete the architectural facade of the new storefront.

National Bikram yoga studio chain BikramYogaWorks opened up a Boston location in October, their five other locations dotted along the East Coast. The founder of the studio, Kendra Blackett-Dibinga, is a Dorchester native.

City business resources

Small business owners in the city, particularly entrepreneurs of color, face many challenges, including access to capital, access to legal counsel and navigating city permitting and licensing processes, and City Councilor Kim Janey held several public hearings in 2018 to address these issues.

Soleil owner Cheryl Straughter replaced Tasty Burger in Dudley Square’s Bolling Building in June 2018. — Banner Photo

Soleil owner Cheryl Straughter replaced Tasty Burger in Dudley Square’s Bolling Building in June 2018. — Banner Photo

Walsh and the OED held a workshop series through the Small Business Center to assist new entrepreneurs in starting, maintaining and growing their ventures. The free workshops were offered throughout the summer in East Boston, Roxbury and Mattapan.

“We are so thrilled to see so many new and growing small businesses that are minority- and women-owned and definitely reflect the diversity and uniqueness of Boston’s residents and neighborhoods,” said Natalia Urtubey, director of small business at the OED. “To address the evolving needs of Boston’s small businesses, we are proud to expand our technical assistance resources to support more non-traditional and micro-enterprise businesses.”

Independent business resources

In June, nearly 280 minority-owned businesses received pro bono legal consultation and technical assistance from attorneys of 14 different firms at BizGrow, an event hosted at Suffolk Law School by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.

Latinx entrepreneurs in Massachusetts have found a new resource in PowerUp Latinx Biz, an economic empowerment initiative led by attorneys and community organizers Betty Francisco and Eneida Roman. The initiative launched in October and is connecting Latinx business owners with resources such as capital. 

And right before 2018 ended, The Boston Ujima Project launched the nation’s first democratic and community-controlled investment fund. Hoping to raise $5 million by 2020 with investments from working-class Boston residents and large accredited investors alike, Ujima Project members themselves will be able to provide loans to Boston entrepreneurs of color, maintaining a stake in the development of their own neighborhoods.

In 2019 and beyond, efforts to mitigate gentrification and displacement from Boston’s currently booming development and housing market will continue to focus on economic empowerment and small business expansion for residents.

On the web

  • Soleil:
  • Fasika Cafe:
  • Daily Table:
  • Juicygreens:
  • Ivyees:
  • BarberTime Media Network:
  • Sweet Teez Bakery:
  • Bikram Yoga Works:
  • Office of Economic Development:
  • BizGrow:
  • Latinx Biz:
  • The Ujima Project:
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