In the spring of 2020, it was clear that small businesses in Boston would need help navigating the economic downturn sparked by the pandemic. At that time, nearly a third of the city’s small businesses had lost more than 75% in revenue.footnote1 So a coalition of 17 organizations came together to found Small Business Strong. Today, the organization continues its mission of empowering small business owners — especially women and minorities — across Massachusetts by providing them with valuable resources and free personalized advice.
The model helped entrepreneurs like Veronica Robles, a Boston-based mariachi singer and musician, retool their businesses to be more flexible and resilient. “My business advisor really helped me to rethink how I can still provide my services to the community,” says Robles, who works with young people at her Veronica Robles Cultural Center. “Now, more than ever, our youth need us,” she adds.
Small Business Strong works in two ways: At the organization’s website, business owners can find information on small business grants and loans, mental health resources and more. Beyond that, they can talk directly with a business advisor, including specialists in their industry, at no cost. The advice covers anything from business restructuring to access to funding to digital marketing and legal issues. For example, when Brighton bakery owner Ari Athanasopoulos was facing eviction after the pandemic shutdown left him unable to pay his full rent, Small Business Strong arranged for legal advice that gave him time to secure loans, negotiate with the landlord and stay in business. “We wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t get the help from Small Business Strong,” says Athanasopoulos.
The organization has resources available for any type of businesses, including family-owned farms, independent artists, retailers, restaurants and bars, and offers help in Spanish, Portuguese and English. As of late 2021, Small Business Strong had supported more than 1,900 Massachusetts small business owners, including nearly 1,200 who worked with advisors. More than seven out of 10 have been women- or minority-owned, and more than 80% had five or fewer employees. Bank of America provides support to Small Business Strong as part of the bank’s long-standing commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.