The Planet Loves Independent Business, Too

Throughout April, we at Cambridge Local First focus on the small, the large and the unexpected strategies our business members are using to make their corner of the world a little more eco-friendly. Fortunately for all of us that support local business, the very fact that a business is independent means that it is much more likely to go easy on our environment. Why? Well, it comes down to margins and mojo.

Consider this—national and multinational companies build profit margins by focusing on the big impacts and not sweating the small stuff. A chain store keeps its costs down by ordering the same check-out counters, installing the same shelving units, and using the same suppliers for every location. It’s a very effective use of scale and one that makes a few sacrifices worthwhile. So, if you have to ship a little further to get the supplies or use your materials less efficiently at a location, the savings makes up for the cost. The same rubric holds true for a national tax preparation firm or a hotel chain. No matter how many times a CEO re-draws the corporate operations, waste is baked into big business strategy.

But the waste-making strategies that make financial sense for a national chain are dangerous for an independent business. With no national corporate safety net, your independent shop owner keeps his or her eye on every dollar, every order, and every material that comes through the door. For an independent business owner, waste isn’t just a part of doing business; it’s an expense he or she can’t afford.

But there is an even bigger incentive for an independent business to ease its impact on the environment—let’s call it mojo. All business is subject to the chaos of marketplaces; the strange trends and swings that make today’s ferociously successful business strategy into tomorrow’s dud.  But when you don’t have a national brand strategy and a seven-figure revenue stream to back you up, you put extra care into the relationships that sustain you when the unpredictable (predictably) smacks you in the profit margins.

Business mojo is that peculiar magic that comes out of the strong, long-term relationships you create. You nurture mojo by paying a little more to work with the local supplier you can count on. You feed it by passing on the cheaper product that will be next year’s landfill to sell your customers something that will last. You renew it when the neighborhood changes and you change, too, rather than letting those customers jump in their cars to take their custom somewhere else. And you earn your mojo everyday by supporting local initiatives before they become the latest eco-marketing trend. The reliance of local, independent businesses on their communities regularly places them at the forefront of environmental sustainability, even when they don’t make it into news. So, take another look around your local Square, Cambridge. The best in green business is just a pleasant stroll away.

by Amy Witherbee of Revolution Capital, CLF Board Member

April 6th in Harvard Square: “Top Ten Mistakes Employers Make and How to Avoid Them”

Join us April 6, 2017 in Harvard Square for a breakfast seminar with employment law attorney, Amy Carlin, of Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP.

Small business owners and managers must be knowledgeable about state and federal employment laws that impact their businesses.The goal of this seminar will be to provide a practical overview of those laws through a series of fun hypotheticals, focusing specifically on how to avoid the common mistakes that employers make that could (and do!) negatively impact their growth and success. Topics that will be covered (spoiler alert!) include hiring, performance management, wage and hour issues, firing, and accommodating an employee with a disability.

The seminar runs from 9 AM to 10:30 AM, with Q&A until 11:00. Registration is Free.


Amy Carlin is a partner with the Boston management-side labor and employment law firm, Morgan, Brown & Joy. Amy’s practice includes defending employers and managers in employment cases brought by current and former employees, such as discrimination and retaliation claims, violations of the wages and hour laws, and other claims. Outside of her litigation practice, Amy provides advice on employment issues that managers, human resources professionals and in-house counsel face on a day-to-day basis. She also conducts sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training for employees of the firm’s clients, as well as trainings in the best management practices and other employment topics.

Government Affairs Committee February 2017 Update

While the drama continues at the national level, we are focusing on some significant accomplishments here in Cambridge and keeping an eye on upcoming legislation in the state.  Here is your Cambridge Local First Government Affairs update for February, including:

  • Central Square Re-zoned
  • Trash Pick-up, Lab Spaces and More
  • Business/Business District Grants Available
  • Cheaper Filing Fees
  • Welcome to the Board
  • Your Employee Wants to Be Involved

Central Square Re-zoned

After decades of frustration and a year of very hard work by business owners, landholders and residents, the Central Square District has new zoning laws. Among the new provisions are a greater floor area ration (FAR), which will let many of the Square’s owners add the extra floor or two to existing buildings, some new leeway for creating rooftop decks and balconies, easier (of-right) permitting for dancing and entertainment establishments on Mass Ave, a limit on the amount of Mass Ave or Main Street frontage that can go to banks and financial institutions, some parking and loading waivers and an exemption from FAR for small (under 1,500 sq. feet) retail spaces. Notably, the Formula Business provision was not attached to this round of zoning. Borrowed from other towns in Massachusetts, that zoning provision would have required chains and franchises to moderate the large-scale branding on store fronts to fit the Square or face a Planning Board permit review. The City Council, Planning Board and Ordinance Committee voiced strong support for the provision and are working closely with Cambridge Local First, Central Square Business Association and others to come up with a version that will be as effective as possible.

Trash Pick-up, Lab Spaces and More

Cambridge Local First and our partners in the business associations, resident associations and City leadership are studying an array of City policies that could provide better support to local, independently owned business. Among the ideas we are hearing and discussing are the return of City pick up for commercial trash and recycling along main thoroughfares. The City did once include small business pick-up as part of its services but stopped a number of years ago. We believe the return of this program could help alleviate a little bit of the pain of sky-high, triple-net rents in our city.

Business owners and residents alike have been dismayed to find that one of the most profitable uses for commercial space in our city is laboratory facilities. Cambridge Local First is part of a City-wide discussion about whether zoning needs to be updated to eliminate lab use in significant sections of the city.

What else could the city do to alleviate the high cost of doing business in Cambridge? We are working closely with other business associations and City leaders to explore everything from favorable tax treatment to better communication in the policy-making process to less onerous regulations. And we are drawing ideas locally and from Independent Business Associations around the country. If you have an idea, let us know.

Business/Business District Grants Available

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority is taking grant proposals to “support specific physical improvement projects that better Cambridge’s built environment for the benefit of all the city’s residents, workers, and visitors. Grant money will come from the Forward Fund. Those applications are due Wednesday, March 21, 2017 at 5:00pm

The Economic Development Division is offering Small Business Challenge grants in increments of $1,000 forfor well-designed projects that bring together neighborhood business interests around shared goals of improved design, promotion, and business resilience in a commercial area.” You can find out more at: The deadline for that application is March 8th 2017, at 5:00 PM (EST).

Cheaper Filing Fees

At the State level, Senator Brownsberger has filed SD.1403, a bill that would create a sliding scale for LLC filing fees. This would make that fee cheaper for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Welcome to the Board

The Board of Directors of Cambridge Local First welcomes new Board Members Patrick Barrett, III (JLB Realty), Susan Labandibar (Community Member), and Maria Montgomery (Cambridge Trust Bank)

Your Employee Wants to Be Involved

Did you know that any employee of CLF business member is welcome to join a Cambridge Local First committee? If you have an employee who has great ideas to share and want to be part of the action, send her or him our way. Committees include Government Affairs, Public Outreach, Business Member Relations, and Business Seminars. And, of course, we can always make room for you, too. All committee members are welcome to participate in person or by phone. Send us an email to get involved.

Government Affairs Committee January 2017 Update

As we start 2017, the Government Affairs Committee is keeping abreast of proposals before the City of Cambridge which may impact locally-owned independent businesses.  Here are a few highlights and items of note from happenings in the City:
Central Square Restoration Petition
This zoning petition, also referred to as the Sater Petition, seeks to implement changes to Central Square’s zoning that have been discussed over the last 10+ years as part of multiple reviews of the Square.  Cambridge Local First is supportive of the Petition in general and its “Formula Business” requirements in particular.  The Petition and the Formula Business language, if adopted, would require a Planning Board review and input for any business meeting certain criteria such as having 10 or more locations in Massachusetts or 20 or more globally or sharing a common trademark or logo.  Businesses that do not meet the definition of a Formula Business would not be subject to a Planning Board Special Permit Review.  This will provide, in our opinion, small, independently-owned businesses with some valuable relief when seeking to open in Central Square.
This Petition is set to expire on March 1st unless acted on by the Council.  We encourage you to ask the City Councillors that you know or are your customers to support this Petition and the Formula Business language.
Inman Square
Inman Square is a difficult place for those who seek to traverse its tangled main intersection whether that be by foot, bicycle or automobile.  The City is working on plans to redesign the intersection with several options for enhancing pedestrian and cyclist safety.  Each of these plans has pros and cons to their designs.  If your business is in Inman Square or has you traveling through Inman Square frequently some of these proposals may have more of an impact on your business than others.  The redesign of Inman Square is going to happen, so we encourage you to review the options and provide your feedback, including any impacts to your business before a final design is selected.
We will link to the proposed designs on the Cambridge Local First website and we encourage you to look them over and provide feedback either to CLF or to the City.
The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority 2017 Forward Fund

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority’s Forward Fund (the Fund) is a microgrant program intended toreinvest development funds generated in the Kendall Square Urban Renewal Area to fund pilot projects by non-profit organizations, community groups, innovative thinkers, and small businesses across the City of Cambridge. The Fund supports innovative civic improvement projects and creative physical interventions that better Cambridge’s built environment for the benefit of all the city’s residents, workers, and visitors.

The grants available for 2017 are the Civic Experimentation Capital Grant, with an award range of $5,000 – $25,000.  The second available grant is theCommunity Infrastructure Captial Grant, also with an award range of $5,000 – $25,000.  The grants are available to help support projects that create, maintain, or enhance Connections within Cambridge. 

This is a great opportunity to implement projects in your particular part of Cambridge while having them funded by the Forward Fund.  For more information visit the Forward Fund.

(Above taken almost entirely from CRA’s Forward Fund site.)
City Council Election Year
Its another odd year which means a City Council Election this November.  While that seems like a long time away, there is already a growing list of candidates who will soon be seeking your input, support and contributions.  CLF will once again be surveying the candidates on a variety of issues that impact locally-owned, independent businesses and their employees and will make the responses available to our members and the general public.
Join the Committee
We are always looking for new members to join the Government Affairs Committee and we welcome anyone who would like to undertake the work of making doing business in the City easier, reducing red-tape and working to have the voice of independently-owned, local businesses heard when the City considers changes to regulations to join us.

Look of Local 2016 Wrap Up

Over 100 guests joined us for our second Annual Look of Local Fashion Show on September 27th at the Garment District in Cambridge. Almost 20 businesses participated in our show, featuring everything from a fairy themed gown to a beautiful lingerie set.

Guests enjoyed delicious food and drink from Ole Mexican Restaurant in Inman Square and Cambridge Spirits in Kendall while perusing our pop-up fashion marketplace with 10 local vendors. DJBoom kept the party going with bumping music and Amador Bilingual Voiceovers MCeed. 

Several businesses contributed to help make this event a success. First and foremost we must thank our lead sponsor, New Leaf Legal and our hosts at the Garment District. The goodies for our gift bags were contributed by Cambridge Spirits, Irving House at Harvard, Cambridge Naturals, Harvest Co-op, Nift, and Kim Samuels (who also did makeup for the evening).

dscf6699Board President, Rachael Solem, introduces the evening's show!

CLF Executive Director and Board Members celebrate a successful event!

dscf6696Some of our beautiful vendor tables from Esmeralda Lambert, Boomerangs, and Singing Stones. 

dscf6778The gorgeous women of Rumba y Timbal!

dscf6786The designers of Simone Simon pose with their models. 

dscf6792Dianellie of Demand Di and Boomerangs poses with her models.


Our first three looks are all from local designer Simone Simon. First we have Molly, Cherry and Nana. She founded a women clothing line with structure and a passion for materiality and movement. For her, fashion is architecture:  it's a matter of proportion.



 Cherry Modeling Simone Simon.


Nana Modeling Simone Simon.


Liliana is wearing a bra and underwear set from Stella McCartney's Fall collection from Forty Winks


Elisenda is wearing a navy blue quilted Cassie pencil skirt with a colorful Irma tunic tied off to the side. She competes the LuLaRoe ensemble with buttery soft leggings to keep her warm on her commute to work!


From the racks of The Garment District, Lena Christopher is modeling an eastern influenced bohemian tunic ensemble from the1960s, with sheer sleeves and fine embroidery of gold, baby teal and light rose. A two piece ensemble that could very likely have been worn to a hipster jazz club of that era, it is updated with a new contemporary belt of teal and gold, and accessorized with a vintage gold sequined clutch, all from the Garment District.


Vyvy is modeling a beautiful midnight teal dress with a cinched waist from The Garment District. To complete the look, she is wearing a necklace from Boutique Fabulous.: Made by local artist Carole Sousa in Brookline, MA, this stunning necklace is a cluster of frosted glass and AB coated stones with a unique chain.


Lindsay is modeling a fun and flirty dress from Susanna and  of Porter Square. Open since 1982 Susanna is known for its stylish non-mainstream clothing, well designed accessories, and the wit and wisdom of its helpful staff. She is also sporting wedges from Sudo Shoes.


Deb, owner of Nomad, models the Nestor Skirt from Grub - combining modern asymmetrical lines with a flamenco flair. Paired with casual street wear like this USA-made Prairie Underground "Sportwardian" turtleneck and quilted vest from Mystree, you've got a fantastic ensemble. Add a handwoven bag from Colombia and Cottage and Pearl Designs necklace for the complete look!


Also from Nomad, this next look can go from day to night: the "Jules" mini skirt from Prairie Underground paired with the double-layer jean and tweed "Art Jacket" from Baci makes for a perfect Fall outfit. Jewelry from JEWELS of Santa Fe and Marrakech top it off with a statement!


These three looks have been provided by Boomerangs Cambridge, a thrift store owned and operated by the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. Our first model, Corina, is wearing a vintage faux fur coat, a blue button down shirt, and a plaid yellow skirt.


Our second model, Angela, is wearing a faux leather biker jacket and a vintage floral patterned jumpsuit, also from Boomerangs. Both looks were styled by Dianellie Alexander.


Lastly from Boomerangs, Justin is sporting a purple top and sports coat, along with blue plaid pants. A day to night look that is sure to turn heads at the office or an evening out.


The wrap dress was handcrafted by gather here craft associate, Emma Fritschel. The dress pattern is by papercut patterns designed in Australia. She is accessorized by IK Bio jewelry, with a Necklace, earrings and rings.


Johan is sporting a Black diamond quilted two piece jumpsuit by Demand Di.


Another gorgeous look from Demand Di

Molly with a look from JocelynMercedes. JocelynMercedes is where the catwalk meets the sidewalk. We provide a wide range of unique, upscale and trendy clothing & accessories added daily to accommodate the everyday fashionista.


Designer Suzanne Watzman models her pintucked bamboo jacket in bright blue for her Tamaryn Design label. Shown over Second Yoga black jeans, and artprint tanktop. Convertible brown leather tote by Lolona Morse, accessorized with imported pink striped silk scarf. Her designs are available at Clothware

Up next is The Garment District and Boston Costume’s dapper representative, Rags the cat. Rags is proving he’s the “cat’s meow” as he strolls down the alley in this 40’s inspired pink, pinstripe zoot suit. This two-piece look is completed with white spats, a stylish watch chain, and a black wide brim fedora. You’ll need a saucer of milk to cool off this hot look.


Zoe is wearing a green dress with a fitted in the bodice, from African Gift Items in Central Square. Her shoes from the garment district, and a bracelet from Singing Stones.


Her sister Bobby is wearing a turquoise dress and bracelet also from African Gift Items.



Conscious Elegance gives new life to textiles through creative repurposing and sustainable sourcing. This fairy costume, entitled, 'Queen Mab', was crafted from reclaimed vintage wedding dresses, hand-dyed and re-assembled."


Liliana models a look for Rumba Y Timbal


Another beautiful look from Rumba y Timbal

dscf6757Final Look from Rumba Y Timbal