Be the Change Community Action: State of Small Businesses in Cambridge


Be the Change LogoAlthough most people don’t know this, entrepreneurship in general has been declining in America for decades. In the 1950s and 1960s (the golden era of small businesses) there were over 150,000 new businesses created annually. This number was less than 20,000 in 2018. Cambridge is no exception -- Cambridge is experiencing dramatic economic change, with exciting growth, but with increasingly prominent barriers to entry for small businesses. These include: (1) changing consumer preferences, as consumers increasingly purchase retail goods from online providers, drives traffic away from our Main Streets and online; (2) An increasingly unstable and unaffordable commercial rental market that compounds the problem, as international real estate and financial entities are increasingly investing in our cities, and consequently driving up commercial rents and displacing local businesses; (3) multi-decade bank consolidation diminishes funds for local business development; and (4) Cambridge's Retail Strategy report, published in 2017, describes significant "leakage," which means that consumers in Cambridge are not able to conveniently find products in various retail categories such as clothing, hardware, and durable goods in Cambridge. However, a thriving small business sector is vital to Cambridge's sense of self. Theodora Skeadas, the Executive Director of Cambridge Local First and Pardis Saffari, Senior Economic Development Manager of the City of Cambridge, plan to highlight the challenges facing local and independent businesses, the issue of vacant storefronts, and what work is being done to tackle these compelling local issues. 

Theodora Skeadas is the Executive Director of Cambridge Local First, a non-profit that promotes a local economy community by educating the public and government about the significant environmental, economic, and cultural benefits of a strong local economy. She is also an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she works on issues of cyber security in the Middle East and North Africa region. She concurrently works as an independent political consultant and campaign manager, having strategically advised and managed campaigns for Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor and Cambridge City Council, among others. She recently graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School with a Master in Public Policy, where she studied International Trade and Finance. 

Pardis Saffari has been with the City of Cambridge for over 12 years and currently holds the position of Senior Economic Development Manager, which includes the implementation of the city's Retail Strategic Plan and being a small business liaison for the City of Cambridge. Prior to her current role, Pardis worked on the development and implementation of a variety of the city’s small business programs including, small business grant programs, educational training for entrepreneurs, and technical assistance to small business owners and residents. Prior to Cambridge, she worked in the City of Lowell and in Downtown Crossing, Boston. Pardis is a Cambridge resident and loves to explore and shop at local businesses. Pardis holds an MBA from Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business and an Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy from Tufts University. More information on Pardis is here. Pronouns: She/her/hers.  

20% of sales from 3PM-5PM will be donated to Cambridge Local First

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Event date: 

Sunday, January 26, 2020 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Event address: 

Porter Square Books
25 White St.
Cambridge, MA 02140