Women of color entrepreneurs are striving and thriving in Boston

October 10, 2017

The following article was written by students in the PLAN course: Boston’s Women of Color Entrepreneurs

The following article was written by three first-year undergraduates enrolled in Lecturer Areen Shahbari’s Boston Course, “Boston’s Women of Color Entrepreneurs” (BWCE): Vanessa Burns, Dominque Mendes, and Sakina Musa.

The Boston courses are designed to introduce first-year students to the wide variety of experiences and resources the city of Boston has to offer while preparing the students for the rigorous academic challenges they will face ahead.

In the BWCE course, students met and interviewed many of Boston’s women entrepreneurs of color and wrote profiles highlighting their experiences, accomplishments, and challenges. The report we feature here looks at the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs of color in Boston and the resources the City of Boston provides to help women be successful.


In the field of business and entrepreneurship, developing new endeavors can pose challenges for any inexperienced person. For women of color in the United States, it is no surprise that entrepreneurial pursuits are particularly difficult to establish as they can face discrimination based on both gender and race. Despite programs that are being put in place to help women entrepreneurs succeed, they still face barriers to funding, accessibility to resources, and networking.

According to the Center for Global Policy Solutions report, “The Color of Entrepreneurship: Why the Racial Gap Among Firms Costs the U.S. Billions”:

"Although the number of minority-owned businesses is increasing dramatically, America is currently forgoing an estimated 1.1 million businesses owned by people of color because of past and present discrimination in American society. These missing businesses could produce an estimated 9 million more jobs and boost our national income by $300 billion. Thus, expanding entrepreneurship among people of color is an essential strategy for moving the country toward full employment for all."

Even in Boston, known as one of the more progressive cities in regards to funding, accessibility, and networking for women of color who seek assistance with entrepreneurship, there are challenges. The Boston Globe, identifying disparities, reports in March 2016:

"Many of Boston’s 40,000 small businesses, particularly those owned by women and minorities, are struggling to grow because of city red tape and a lack of access to capital and professional expertise and services, according to a city-commissioned study…

The analysts found that more than 95 percent of businesses in Boston have fewer than 50 employees or less than $5 million in revenue, forming the backbone of the city’s economy. Collectively those companies generate around $15 billion in revenue annually and employ 170,000 workers—or about 44 percent of total employment by private, for-profit businesses in Boston."

To read the rest of Vanessa, Dominque, and Sakina's article, check out the Spring 2017 issue of Management Magazine.