WeWork event highlights successes of black, Latina entrepreneurs
As part of WeWork Boston’s Third Thursday series, a monthly convening event for African American and Latinx professionals and entrepreneurs, two local entrepreneurs last week each led a talk spotlighting their own experiences in business.
Shannan Clarke, founder and CEO of Queen + Baby subscription box service, and Josiane Martinez, founder and CEO of Archipelago Strategies Group, invited event attendees at WeWork’s 1 Beacon St. coworking office space to pick their brains about their respective businesses.
Queen + Baby is a subscription box service Clarke launched in December 2018 to provide breastfeeding supplies for mothers returning to work from maternity leave. The idea for the business was based on Clarke’s own experience in struggling to find an accessible place to pump at her previous workplace.
“I finally convinced my employer to make space for me in a wine storage closet — which was not adequate, but it was better than the bathroom,” she said. “While I’m sitting there every day, I come up with this idea for a subscription box for mothers needing breastfeeding essentials at work.”
According to Clarke, babies need about 32 ounces of milk every day, requiring moms to pump several times throughout the day. Supplies such as milk storage containers, sanitizing materials and lactation teas are needed for the pumping process, but they are not readily available at most grocery stores.
This problem, coupled with lack of access provided by employers to a clean and private space to pump — which Clarke had experienced herself — inspired her to start her own company to advocate, educate and provide supplies for working mothers.
“My big vision, aside from the products provided in the box, is to help breastfeeding working mothers to feel prepared, supported and encouraged,” said Clarke.
Answering questions from audience members, Clarke said she has self-funded her company so far, has tested each product featured in the box and has formed relationships with the vendors of the products.
Unlike other subscription boxes, the products included in the monthly mailed package are consistently featured. “As mothers, we need to know the exact products we’re using,” said Clarke.
While Queen + Baby is in the startup stage, Archipelago Strategies Group, a multicultural marketing firm, already has five years of business under its belt, with clients ranging from MassHealth to the campaign to elect Ayanna Pressley to Congress.
ASG founder Martinez said she began her career working for nonprofit La Alianza Hispana in Roxbury, and while working on her MBA at Simmons College, scored a job working on Gov. Deval Patrick’s re-election campaign.
When Patrick did not seek a third term, Martinez, having worked as a press secretary, launched her own marketing firm, working at first from her dining table.
According to Martinez, when her wife got tired of her setting up office where they were supposed to eat meals, she rented a desk at WeWork in Fort Point and has been there ever since. “We now have a half a basement in Fort Point with 14 total employees,” she said.
Martinez said 70 percent of her employees at ASG are Latinas, as she wanted to “pay it forward,” but she is looking to add even more diversity of ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender. “Their diversity brings the best ideas,” she said.
When asked what strategies made Pressley’s campaign for Congress so successful, Martinez said, “We did not follow the pulse in Pressley’s campaign. The pulse follows the same people who are always going to vote. We created a new electorate.”
It was believed by many that Latinx, Haitian and Chinese constituents would not turn out to the polls, and other campaigns did not invest in reaching those communities as much as the Pressley campaign did with Archipelago Strategies Group’s help. “If you don’t reach out to diverse communities, they’re not going to vote,” said Martinez.
In contrast with Clarke, whose business is still a newly launched solo venture, Martinez is in the process of delegating more responsibilities to her team. “I’m figuring out how this can survive without Josiane spending a lot of time on each client,” she said. “I finally have an operations manager who has taken a lot of administrative work off my plate.”
The Third Thursday series launched at the end of January, and last week’s event was the third installment, according to Izzy Jacques, community lead for WeWork Boston. Featuring women entrepreneurs, last Thursday’s “WeTalk” event was in honor of women’s history month.
The next one, scheduled for April 18, will follow a different theme, but as always, Jacques said, has the goal of “creating a platform, opening up our spaces and facilitating conversations.”
On the web
Queen + Baby: www.queenandbabybox.com
Archipelago Strategies Group: http://discoverasg.com/