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Boston Strong: Investing In The City's Economic Vitality, One Small Business At A Time

Boston's small businesses are at the heart of our city’s economy and community. We can't take them for granted. (Xynn Tii/Flickr)MoreCloseclosemore
Boston's small businesses are at the heart of our city’s economy and community. We can't take them for granted. (Xynn Tii/Flickr)

General Electric’s decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to Boston is a symbol of Boston’s strength in the innovation economy. But just as important was Melissa Phillips's decision to open Little Brown Bear Academy in Roxbury. Phillips and her two assistants offer early education and care to 10 boys and girls, providing healthy meals and snacks, a robust learning curriculum and a nurturing environment. These services have a lasting impact by preparing children to succeed when they step foot into the classroom.

Boston’s approximately 40,000 small businesses generate roughly $15 billion in revenue and create 170,000 jobs annually.

Businesses like Little Brown Bear Academy are the backbone of neighborhood economies. Boston’s approximately 40,000 small businesses generate roughly $15 billion in revenue and create 170,000 jobs annually. That’s why the city of Boston is just as focused on supporting our local businesses as in recruiting international heavyweights.

In March, the city unveiled a new Small Business Plan that includes setting up a small business center and hotline, helping businesses find capital and real estate, and developing programs to incubate business ideas from women, immigrant and minority entrepreneurs.

Early education and childcare offers a unique glimpse into how a professional cluster develops at the neighborhood level and how it can be supported. Roxbury has 106 early education and care businesses that serve approximately 2,000 children, according to the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children. These range from family child care owners like Melissa Phillips to comprehensive early learning centers.

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These providers face unique challenges beyond meeting the state and local regulations that allow them to operate. They must deal with wage and benefits issues, educational requirements, and paperwork for state and federal voucher and subsidy programs. This has been a persistent struggle for at least the past decade.

To help navigate these challenges, the city, Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children, the University of Massachusetts Boston and Tech Goes Home teamed up last year to launch the Early Education and Care Small Business Innovation Center at Madison Park High School. It will strengthen the financial viability and shared networks of these small business owners, who are predominantly women of color.

No small business owner should be taken for granted.

The center is working with Melissa Phillips and 16 other women who collectively operate independent early education, preschool and day care programs that serve approximately 200 children in Roxbury. It is providing customized business support and access to technology based on a useful platform developed by Tech Goes Home.

These are strong, caring women who do a profound service to children and families in the neighborhood. We know many more examples of this commitment are found throughout all of our neighborhoods. Though they are “small” businesses, they have the power to change the lives of thousands of young children in their communities. They ensure that our children are healthy and ready to enter kindergarten and get on the ladder to success.

No small business owner should be taken for granted. The shops, companies and organizations they operate are at the heart of our city’s economy and community.
By bringing together our city’s efforts to support small businesses with the Early Education and Care Small Business Center and other community partners, we can build a stronger future for Boston’s small businesses along with the families and neighborhoods they serve.


This op-ed was co-authored with Marie St. Fleur, president and CEO of the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children.


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