The City of Somerville currently has an open call out for women and minority business owners.
Why? It’s looking for local business people to include in its upcoming Diversity Catalog, which is planned to debut this October or November and will exist on the city’s website, featuring marketing information about each company.
“The city of Somerville is a very diverse community. It’s important to highlight and support minority and women-owned businesses,” says economic development assistant Daniela Carrillo. “It’s a way to display the beautiful mix of people and cultures that make Somerville such a vibrant city.”
Carrillo says the catalog is not being created because these businesses aren’t being patronized — in fact, they are. Instead, the catalog is an act of solidarity with business owners who may have faced different challenges along the way. The city was inspired by similar successful initiatives in Cambridge and other areas.
Allison Tanenhaus, a longtime copywriter, wants to increase her digital art business Slogans for Nothing and is using the catalog as a promotion tool as she branches into a new industry. “I’m trying to build my vocabulary of different designations to become savvier of different ways I can market myself,” she says.
Tanenhaus also mentions that the Green Line extension through Somerville has caused traffic and construction in Ball Square, making it more challenging to get to local businesses. The catalog will serve as a reminder to support community commerce, even if it’s a bit harder to get to.
But, the catalog is not just about online promotion. The city currently receives federal funds to pour into programs for small businesses. Carrillo says, “We’re hoping that with the data we collect, we’ll be able to understand the needs of those businesses and what programs we can create to satisfy those needs.”
In the past, the funds have been used to provide technical assistance, business mentorship and financial advisement to local business owners. The catalog will hopefully allow the city to more effectively connect businesses with resources.
Though the catalog isn’t based on data of inequitable patronage, diverse business owners undoubtedly face more challenges in the professional world.
“When I worked in in-house marketing, and we’d have to do some kind of iconography representing business, it always a guy in a suit with a tie or a briefcase,” says Tanenhaus. “We have a much richer community that’s full of talent.” The Diversity Catalog is just another way of celebrating that talent and correcting the overarching narrative.
The catalog is open for submissions until September 13. The only criteria are that the business be 51% woman-owned, immigrant-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQIA-owned or disability-owned and that it be located in Somerville. Businesses do not have to have a brick and mortar; online shops, consultants and home-based workers can participate as well.
Carrillo says they hope to have 100 businesses included at the launch, which is also timed to promote holiday business. Once the catalog is active, businesses can apply online on a rolling basis.