Two Black vendors at the 114th National NAACP convention landed significant contracts with the city of Boston. Now, more than five months after the convention, Ricardo Pierre-Louis, founder and CEO of Privé Parking, and Rose Staram, owner and founder of Dorchester-based event firm RoseMark Production, are reflecting on the city's commitment to Black businesses.
Following the convention in July, Staram shared that RoseMark was hired by the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts for a two-day event.
“But they are a Black-owned business. So RoseMark has yet to be contracted again in Boston by a non-Black-owned business, which is a little disappointing. But we are striving forward,” Staram said on Boston Public Radio.
For Staram, pre-convention business in Boston was virtually nonexistent. Despite her work at prominent events nationally and internationally, breaking into the local business scene proved challenging.
“It’s who you know and who likes you. And unfortunately, if you're not in that cycle, then it's very hard to get into that cycle,” said Staram.
Pierre-Louis shared that the convention helped him gain exposure. Privé Parking received two grants totaling $20,000. With that, he was able to get his company’s website completely redone. Privé Parking also became a member of Meet Boston, an organization dedicated to big meetings and conventions.
While Privé Parking landed a one-day contract for a Christmas tree lighting in Downtown Boston, there haven't been any since.
Both vendors agree that there's more work to be done.
“We were at a press conference where [Mayor Wu] showcased that she had made some strides with contracting Black vendors. We're very proud of what she's done. But there's a lot more work. The state has a lot of work to do. Boston Convention Center has a lot more work to do,” Staram said.
Looking ahead, Pierre-Louis hopes to land a future parking garage and parking lot management contract with the Boston Planning & Development Agency. For several years, he said, the contract has been awarded to a publicly traded company in California.
“Is it just going to be the same guys who began this contract for the last 15 years, or is there really going to be a difference and change?” Pierre-Louis said.
“It's so funny to hear that 'you can't find talent in Boston. There's not enough Black people that are entrepreneurs.' No they're out there. We just have to bring them in and give them the opportunity,” Staram said.