A 2021 Diversity Directory of local businesses owned by women and minorities is available to Cantabrigians looking for everything from pastry and home decor to acupuncture and computer repair, with listings up by 54 percent over the previous edition to 145 entries, said Theodora Skeadas, executive director of Cambridge Local First, a nonprofit with a membership of more than 450 local member businesses.
“We are especially proud” of the large jump in diverse-owned businesses in the directory, Skeadas said, crediting CLF interns and volunteers Andrea Lamas-Nino, Katherine Wang, Laila Salman and Alex Smith, who collaborated on it for months with city government.
In addition to the usual PDF format, the directory has been made available by the city as a searchable database. “The city has taken the extra step to make the directory even more user-friendly by making it filterable online,” Lamas-Nino said, calling it especially important because the database covers “a wide range of sub-industries – like home furnishings, electronics, fitness centers.”
Over the past summer, Black Lives Matter protests made it more common for government and private groups to point shoppers to black-owned businesses; Cambridge Local First did it June 3, though with listings that went beyond Cambridge’s borders and included other businesses owned by people of color in general.
Cantabrigians can use the new directory the same way – shopping while promoting upward economic mobility among business owners of color and of Portuguese descent, members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans and people with disabilities. “By shopping at diverse-owned businesses, consumers are simultaneously investing in the economic growth of diverse communities,” Skeadas said.
Help for businesses under strain
Wang also hoped the directory could be of help to businesses during trying times. “Creating this diversity directory was a particularly significant work because the pandemic shutdown had devastating effects on small local businesses, and businesses owned by women and minorities tended to get neglected,” Wang said.
The directory can bring “much-needed attention to the struggling businesses,” Salman said, “and it provides the Cambridge community with a reference to the local businesses in their areas that they probably didn’t know much about.”
Salman said she hoped the directory would encourage others to “explore Cambridge while supporting our diverse local economy.”
Entry into the diversity directory, which follows guidelines consistent with the state’s Supplier Diversity Program, is free for business owners.
This story was published in collaboration with the nonprofit small-business network Cambridge Local First.