• City of Boston is making strides in helping women-led businesses succeed

    By: Crystal Haynes

    Updated:

    BOSTON - According to data retrieved by Women Entrepreneurs-Boston, or We-Bos, a city of Boston initiative launched by Mayor Marty Walsh to convene and support female-owned businesses, today, 18,709 woman-owned businesses employ 26,209 people in the city.

    The city understands the challenges that women face when leading their own businesses, and also understands the power that these entrepreneurs have and the contributions they make to the city, especially financially. 

    Women-owned businesses account for more than $4 billion in sales and contribute almost $7.6 billion to the Gross City Product, according to We-Bos. Women-owned businesses also increase consumer spending by $1.4 billion and provide more $208 million in tax revenue.

    However, the program also states that 1 dollar out of every 23 dollars in commercial bank loans goes towards these businesses, while only three percent of venture capital investments go to female-led businesses. 

    Berlhey Narcisse knows that struggle all too well, as she started her dream with a complete leap of faith. 

    "Back in November 2015, I quit my 9-5 job and i wanted to be a wardrobe stylist," Narcisse says.

    Less than a year later, her business, Bel Monique, was born - a digital magazine that's extended from workshops to editorial photo shoots celebrating women of color.

    To Narcisse, Bel Monique is everything she always dreamed it would be. Bel means beautiful in Haitian Creole and the name Monique is an homage to her late aunt who passed due to lung cancer. 

    "(She was) a mother, a wife, a nurse, an activist but she was also very loving and happy and confident and I looked at her like, 'that's womanhood,'" Narcisse says as she remembers her late aunt. 

    To Narcisse, this businesses is not only just important for her but for the women she helps and for what it stands for. 

    "We are connecting with women of color and embracing each other and celebrating each other and I wanted to do more of that," Narcisse says. 

    Even though Berlhey is working towards her dream more and more each day, doing more comes at a cost.

    She runs her entire operation from her personal computer and hires staff on a as-needed basis. She says she leans on her sisters for help a lot.

    Women make up the majority of the population in Boston, but own only about a third of all the businesses. That was the focus of the We-Bos event aimed at identifying disparities in the business world for women and focusing on solutions. 

    Mayor Marty Walsh says a lack of investment is at the center of the issue, which is why the city has partnered with I-Fund-Women, a crowd funding platform for women's businesses. 

    "It's about encouraging business communities and leaders to invest in businesses and I would just challenge them to look at the success rate," said Mayor Marty Walsh. 

    "They tip-toe around that and it's not a bad thing. If they're offering quality and value of the service you provide somebody, financial support is huge. Businesses only last so long without capitol without people supporting them emotionally," Narcisse says.

    To learn more about the We-Bos program, you can go to their website at http://we-bos.com/

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