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‘No One Has Navigated Something Like This Before’

Minority entrepreneurs in Boston focus on adapting to changing times

The last time I spoke to a group of people face-to-face was on March 10 in Roxbury’s Nubian Square. I worried that I would be a bad guest.

I am white, and most of the entrepreneurs in the group were people of color. I had just decided to stop shaking hands — and many people were still instinctively reaching out in greeting. News of the Biogen “super-spreader” event at the Marriott Long Wharf hotel had started to break that month, and I was wary of schmoozing at close range. So I spoke about how I cover the startup scene, took questions, and promptly left, without staying to enjoy snacks or soft drinks from a table of shared food.

We all were entering a weird time. The entrepreneurs in the room were part of the Entrepreneurship for All program (known as EforAll), run by a nonprofit that offers training in communities such as Roxbury, Holyoke, Lawrence, and Fall River. They were largely running nontech businesses: making hot sauce and raw honey, designing blazers for women, operating mobile billboards. And they were about to get some firsthand experience in trying to keep businesses alive amidst a pandemic and the closing of nonessential businesses — not to mention large-scale protests against police brutality and a national conversation about racism.