Two very different organizations in the South End, the Washington Gateway Main Street (WGMS) and the South End Business Alliance (SEBA) have one goal in common – and that’s to make businesses in the South End thrive. But, how they go about doing that is drastically different.
In an effort to reinvent SEBA and strengthen the power of both organizations, the two organizations will share board members and do a little more collaboration in the future.
Recently, WGMS board member Randi Lanthrop is now sitting on the SEBA Board and in exchange, SEBA President Eve Ward is now on the WGMS board.
“The South End is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in Boston but its gentrifying at such a fast rate,” said Ward. “It’s really hard to open a small business.”
SEBA is an all volunteer membership-based organization whose mission is to organize and unify the voice of SEBA members and to promote a positive business climate in the South End.
The organizations goal is to maximize the visibility and success of all businesses who participate and to encourage interaction between business owners in the neighborhood.
“There is a need to connect,” said Ward. “A lot of people are working from home or alone in their own office and it can be quite isolating.”
There are a lot of graphic designers, architects, artists, freelancers and more who work from home now a days and Ward wants to get them together to network and get to know one another.
So when a new business is opening and the owner has a quick question they have someone to turn to or if someone is looking for an architect or an accountant they have a network of South End businesses they can rely on.
SEBA hopes to do more information sharing and presentations but, at the same time provide more networking opportunities, such as through their monthly coffee meetings.
“The human interaction is important,” said Ward. “There are hundreds and hundreds of businesses in the South End. We want to connect business to business.”
On the other hand, WGMS works with businesses to navigate Boston Main Streets through the Boston’s Office of Business Development. Their work mainly focuses on getting the correct permits, liquor licenses, grants and paperwork needed at the city and state level.
WGMS is non-profit organization primarily made of volunteers who live and work in the community.
WGMS helps developers and business owners on all levels, from large scale development to store front improvements. WGMS helps developers with design and connects them to the local neighborhood groups.
In addition, they work in partnership with Project Place, an ongoing effort to further supplement city services on Washington Street by cleaning sidewalks, to artistic light installations designed to create safer experiences in neighborhood parks.
Now, if a business owner comes to either of the organizations with a problem, members can point to them in the right direction – whether it be a permitting problem go to WGMS or a recommendation go to SEBA.
“Ultimately we all want to thrive,” said Ward.
Ward said when she first became President to SEBA, a lot of people heard of the organization but didn’t know quite what the organization did.
Ward said that one of the benefits of joining SEBA is that you get the chance to meet people, whether it be at social evenings, monthly coffee hours or holiday strolls.
“I met so many people through SEBA that really helped me,” said Ward. “Building relationships can’t just be transactional. You never know when you’re going to need support.”
Ward said that this year, SEBA is going to find their place in the neighborhood.
“SEBA has been different things at different times,” said Lanthrop. “Now, SEBA is defining itself.”
Together WGMS and SEBA want to connect with the South End Forum to reach even further into the neighborhood and create a larger voice with three organizations. The goal is to have the South End set the example of what a thriving business district should look like.
“This will be create an alliance and have a bigger influence,” said Ward. “It’s important to have the voices of the people in the neighborhood but, at the same time have people know what we do. Together we want to represent the businesses as well as welcome people have them feel included.”