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Adrienne Benton leads fastest growing inner-city business

Morgan C. Mullings
Staff reporter covering state and local politics. Report for America Corps Member. VIEW BIO
Adrienne Benton leads fastest growing inner-city business
Adrienne Benton COURTESY PHOTO

A small, Boston-based consulting firm has been recognized for its rapid growth in the technology space. Onyx Spectrum Technology, founded by Adrienne Benton, provides IT solutions while contributing to organizations like the Dimock Center, Fenway Health and more. Roxbury’s Initiative for a Competitive Inner City ranks Onyx number 18 on its Inner City 100, for its four-year revenue growth of more than 500%.

Benton went to Rutgers University to study urban planning and public health, became a hospital administrator and later found her way from Memphis, Tennessee to Boston when she was recruited for a position at Boston Medical Center.

Arriving in Boston was a culture shock to Benton, who had previously lived in Black-majority or more diverse cities.

“It was very visibly segregated. The higher up you got, the fewer people of color that you saw. I’m talking about in terms of income,” she said.

Benton says the experience of working in Boston prepared her for workplaces that may not immediately value her as a Black woman. Today, she expresses pride in Boston’s Black community.

BMC would later become one of her first clients after founding Onyx in 2004. Work ramped up in between 2006 and 2008, when the recession came and companies and government agencies needed additional support to adapt.

“That’s how we got into legacy electronics repair, refurbishment and manufacturing, because we found that there’s a void with government in terms of … what we call ‘whole life’ or sustainability for those products,” Benton said.

As technologies started to change more rapidly, large agencies needed help transitioning older things out, like Windows software on a laptop or phone wiring systems.

Benton says. “These are situations where these companies want to keep their customers happy, and even if they don’t get them to transition right away they know eventually they’ll probably be getting something new. But they’re not ready.”

In these cases, Onyx can use its capabilities to support old tech until a company has all the resources to upgrade.

Onyx now has a facility in Lawrence, with 10,000 square feet of assembly space to continue providing products that bridge that gap in technology.

Benton was shocked to see Onyx at number 18 on the list of fastest growing businesses.

“I didn’t think we would, because our revenue is so much lower than a lot of the other companies. But the good thing is that they use factors that included the percentage of growth over the last five years.”

The firm recently secured a deal with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the San Francisco equivalent of the MBTA.

“They actually have some legacy equipment that they were not able to find and organization to support, and they finally found us.”

Aside from her commitment to each of her clients, Benton is focused on improving the life of her small team of advisors, their families, and the surrounding community.

“During COVID we’ve supported organizations that are feeding people. When the gas line eruption happened in Lawrence, we contributed to several organizations there that help to either provide clothing for people or housing.” Benton said.

Her heart for helping her neighbors began with her neighbors supporting her when she was starting her business.

“If you’re an entrepreneur and if money’s not coming in you wonder, ‘How do I take care of my basics?’ So I went to my neighbors and I asked questions about how I could connect in.”

They agreed to provide WiFi or electricity in urgent situations, and her family stepped up to support as well.

Though it took time for her business to continue securing long-term contracts, Benton looks forward to sustaining the growth that ICIC has recognized in her business.

“I’m definitely always keeping sights on how to provide some community benefit, because I believe that if my life is improving, my team’s life needs to improve, my family’s life needs to improve, and my community’s life needs to improve.”

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