EGLESTON SQ.—The state’s first-ever class in business English for speakers of other languages (ESL), a collaboration between Egleston Square Main Street (ESMS) and Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street (HJSMS), graduated six small business owners last month.
“I’ve been able to have English-speaking clients,” Rosana Rivera, of Latino Beauty Salon in Egleston Square, told the Gazette. “Before, I didn’t feel that confident.”
“It’s the best thing that’s happened to Spanish-speaking merchants here. I’m so glad to have had that class. I’m looking forward to more,” she said.
A partnership between the two Main Streets organizations and the YMCA of Greater Boston’s International Learning Center and its Egleston Square branch, the 16-week pilot program was launched late last year.
The six graduates, all small-business owners in the Egleston Square and Hyde/Jackson Squares neighborhoods, are all Spanish speakers from various professional backgrounds. They include a restaurateur, baker, barber, salon owner, esthetician and specialty goods store owners. Their level of English varies.
The class was designed to help them better communicate with English-speaking customers, as well as to network with other businesses and to deal with permitting and licensing processes.
The concept for the course first came about when then-Executive Director of ESMS Betsy Cowan joined with HJSMS and surveyed merchants. They learned that limited English capacity was listed as the primary constraint while trying to generate additional revenue, create new jobs and access new technology programs.
Cowan joined the City’s Office of Business Development in December.
“We came on once we knew there was potential for a class, at the invitation of Egleston Square Main Streets,” HJSMS Executive Director Gerald Robbins told the Gazette.
“We originally had 23 students sign up and attend a preliminary class, but that got whittled down to six once we found students willing to concentrate on business topics and that had a similar level of English,” Robbins said. “We referred the other students to another beginner class that was already being taught at the Egleston YMCA.”
The cost to participate was $60 and was supplemented by the YMCA of Greater Boston and a grant provided by the Boston Main Streets Foundation, as well as support from Boston Private Bank and Trust Company and the City of Boston.
“We hope to continue this [program] here and in other communities that need it. We need funding and don’t have it right now, but we are looking and would love to continue it,” Robbins said.
Among those praising the new program is Mayor Martin Walsh.
“I want to thank Egleston Square Main Street and Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street for creating this pilot program aimed at increasing opportunities for Boston’s immigrant business owners,” Walsh said in a press release. “There is a great need for this kind of supportive program, and I know that it will have a significant impact on these graduates, who can now communicate more effectively with more of their customers. I look forward to working with the Boston Main Streets Foundation to increase these opportunities in our commercial districts.”