Resources for Historically Disadvantaged Businesses

Historically Disadvantaged Cambridge business owners

The Economic Development Division offers business development services to Cambridge small businesses. Staff assist businesses from many business sectors, offering special resources for businesses owned by historically disadvantaged persons (women, people of color, veterans, individuals that are disabled, and members of the LGBTQ+ community).

Below you will find information about events, workshops and trainings, marketing opportunities, and applying for government contracts from the City of Cambridge, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the federal government.

While opportunities from the federal government and Commonwealth of Massachusetts often require businesses to be state certified as a diverse business through the  State’s Supplier and Diversity Office (SDO), many resources from the City of Cambridge are eligible to all who self-identify as a business owned by a historically disadvantaged person (woman, person of color, veteran, individual who is disabled, and member of the LGBTQ+ community).  Please review each resource for information about whether a state or federal certification is required to participate.

Events for Historically Disadvantaged Businesses

National Black Business Month

Join the City of Cambridge in celebrating National Black Business Month in August to recognize the importance of Black and Brown businesses to local communities and to the national economy.
Events, workshops, and networking opportunities will be held throughout the month to provide resources to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs. Community members may join the celebration by supporting Black-owned businesses and other entrepreneurs this month and beyond.

For a full list of events and to register, visit the National Black Business Month News brief.

Local Vendor Fair

Every year the Community Development Department (CDD) hosts a Local Vendor Fair, a networking opportunity for independent and small businesses who  self-identify as a business owned by a historically disadvantaged person (woman, person of color, veteran, individual who is disabled, and member of the LGBTQ+ community). This event is typically held in person and is a great way to share information about your business’s ability to provide catering, cleaning service, IT support, marketing help, and more to large companies in Cambridge.

Purchasing department representatives from area institutions, universities, and large companies attend to share information about their contracting needs and purchasing policies. Representatives from the City of Cambridge and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) will also be on hand to answer questions. 

Event planning for the 2022 Local Vendor Fair is underway. Registration and event details will be posted in the near future.

Workshops and Training for Historically Disadvantaged Businesses

How to Become a Vendor with the City of Cambridge

Host: Cambridge Purchasing Department

Tuesday, May 4th 3:30 - 4:30 PM (online)

Are you interested in learning more about how to do business with the City of Cambridge? Attend this workshop to learn how to become a vendor with the City and how to find current bids available to vendors. This session is free to all.

This webinar is anticipated to be offered again in August 2021. Please check back for details.

How to Respond to a City Quote or Bid

Host: Cambridge Purchasing Department

Friday, May 7th 9:30 - 10:30 AM (online)

Are you interested in submitting a proposal on a City of Cambridge solicitation of quotes or invitation for bids, but  not sure where to start? Join us at this session to learn more about the common items needed when responding to a solicitation of quotes or submitting a bid. This session is free to all.

This webinar is anticipated to be offered again in August 2021. Please check back for details.

How to Certify your Business with the State

Host: Supplier Diversity Office (SDO), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Pre-Certification Workshops are offered online. Visit the Pre-Certification Workshop page for a full list of upcoming webinar sessions.

The Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) currently certifies certain diverse business categories (Minority (MBE), Women (WBE), Portuguese (PBE) and Veteran (VBE) businesses) inhouse and has agreements with third-party organizations that certify these same categories and others that certify other business categories (Service-Disabled Veteran (SDVOBE), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTBE) and Disability-Owned (DOBE) businesses), all of which must meet certain certification criteria.

This free workshop is designed for businesses that are interested in learning how to apply for SDO certification. Attendance at a Pre-Certification Workshop is required before a business may apply for certification as a Minority, Woman, Veteran, and/or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. This workshop will provide information on how to begin the certification process. Certification may help your business to:

  • Become more marketable for government entities
  • Learn about new government bidding opportunities
  • Create Business to Business (B2B) partnerships

Marketing Opportunities for Historically Disadvantaged Businesses

Cambridge Business Diversity Directory

The Cambridge Business Diversity Directory is intended to celebrate and highlight the diverse, and historically disadvantaged, independent and locally owned small businesses, entities, and sole proprietors whose place of business is in Cambridge.

The directory presents information about business ownership, location, goods and services offered, and unique features in a way that is easy to search and share. Whether it is an institution or large company looking to hire women-owned catering companies or a Cambridge resident wanting to shop local at retailers owned by people of color, customers can easily find the diverse businesses they are looking for in the Cambridge Business Diversity Directory. The Cambridge Business Diversity Directory is not intended for solicitation purposes.

To view a copy of the 2021 edition of the Cambridge Business Diversity Directory, click here.

At the direction of CDD, the 2021 Cambridge Business Diversity Directory was marketed and updated by the staff of Cambridge Local First (CLF), a non-profit network of 450+ local and independent businesses in Cambridge. 

The Cambridge Business Diversity Directory is now also available as a searchable database through the Cambridge Open Data platform. Business name, category, keyword, and ownership type (woman-owned, minority-owned, LGBTQ+ - owned, veteran-owned, disabled-owned, or Portuguese decent-owned) are all searchable fields. The Open Data Set allows for information about diverse Cambridge businesses to be shared with researchers and academics doing policy work, mapping, and other activities that rely on large amounts of data.

List Your Business in the Cambridge Business Diversity Directory

To keep pace with the needs of these unique businesses, as well as the customers eager to support them, the Cambridge Business Diversity Directory has undergone some significant improvements from its past iteration as digital document. Most notably, directory entries will now be presented in two ways: 1) on a digital dashboard and 2) as a Cambridge Open Data Set.

The digital dashboard allows for custom reports as well as a more engaging platform for presenting business information. The Open Data Set allows for information about diverse Cambridge businesses to be shared with researchers and academics doing policy work, mapping, and other activities that rely on large amounts of data. Click here to view the Open Data Set.

To be considered for inclusion in the upcoming digital dashboard and the Open Data Set, please click here to be taken to the intake form.

All respondents must meet the stated eligibility requirements to be confirmed for inclusion. Entry in both the directory dashboard and the Open Data Set is free.

Upon receipt, staff in the Community Development Department (CDD) will review the information provided and make a determination regarding eligibility within one month of receipt. The Cambridge Business Diversity Directory dashboard and Open Data Set will be updated on an ongoing basis.

The digital dashboard is anticipated to go live by no later than January 2022. Entries submitted now through the intake form will be reviewed and saved while the digital dashboard is under construction.

For any questions regarding the Cambridge Business Diversity Directory, contact Christina DiLisio at cdilisio@Cambridgema.gov or 617/349-4601.

Applying for Government Contracts

City of Cambridge Purchasing Office

The Purchasing Office is responsible for implementation and administration of the City’s centralized procurement processes, ensuring that all purchases of goods and services are made in accordance with State law and City Ordinance and are open, fair, competitive, and obtained at the lowest possible cost. The Purchasing Office promotes the use of Commonwealth of Massachusetts contracts when appropriate and encourages participation of and outreach to minority, local and women-owned businesses.

The Purchasing Office manages the Vendor Registry, an opportunity for local and state vendors to participate in the City's procurement of goods and services. When the City solicits a bid for your category of goods or services, your company will be sent notification of the bid.

To view the Vendor Registry Form, click here.

Click here for more information on the City of Cambridge's purchasing policies.

State Supplier and Diversity Office (SDO)

Each year state agencies purchase millions of dollars’ worth of products and services from businesses that have been historically disadvantaged.

To participate in these opportunities, each business must be certified through the State’s Supplier and Diversity Office (SDO).

The Commonwealth's Supplier Diversity Program (SDP) includes the following designations: Minority (MBE), Women (WBE), Service-Disabled Veteran (SDVOBE), Veteran (VBE), Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender (LGBTQ), Disability-Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE), and Portuguese-Owned Businesses (PBE). To learn more about these certifications, click here.

Click here for information on upcoming state training sessions.

The state also has a Small Business Purchasing Program (SBPP). Learn about the goals and benefits of the SBPP and how to apply to be a program participant here.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

You may take for granted that your company is a "small business." The distinction is important if you wish to register for federal contracts as a small business. To learn about how to certify your business as a small business and other federal contract opportunities, click here.

For More Information

If you have questions about any of the resources on this page, contact Rona Abrahams at