We sat down to discuss closing the wealth gap and how communities of color can recover from the current economic downtown and learned more about the work Martinez is doing as the founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Archipelago Strategies Group.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Can you talk a little bit about your experience coming from Puerto Rico to the United States and what some of the dreams that you had for yourself were?
Josiane Martinez: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and it was kind of tough growing up. My parents divorced when I was four and that led my mom to ask my grandmother for help. She raised me and was an amazing woman—a single mom, an entrepreneur, and really the reason why I succeeded in school and ended up going to college and then coming here to Boston.
What I wanted to do was leave poverty. I knew my parents were having tough times, so I dreamed about moving on in life, dreamed about better access to education, learning English, to be a professional. And yeah, it was tough, but here we are.
In your own words, can you explain what the wealth gap is?
JM: The difference between living paycheck to paycheck and having savings; or, the difference between not having to worry about student loans and paying student loans for the rest of your life. Or simply having to do whatever it takes to pay rent or mortgage or inheriting a house, our home, and not having to worry about that.
Latinos do not inherit a lot of wealth, and that is a reality, and it's a difference from our white counterparts. And so the solution for the wealth gap would be to have more business opportunities for Latinos, more access to doing business with companies and organizations. Also, think about creating ecosystems where communities could support each other, where if I provide a service, I could be hired and then I can hire someone else. I'm proud to say that at ASG, we hired people from the community. We hire women of color, Latinas, and others to be part of the economic opportunities that I'm creating.
What is the role of mentorship in closing the wealth gap and how does that play a part in it?
JM: The role of networking is very important. I have a great coach that is being provided to me via the business equity program, and that mentor is opening doors for me and helping me realize the potential, the full potential, that I have. Part of the issue with the wealth gap is that we might not have the opportunity to get to those doors. So a mentor to me is a person that opens those doors of opportunity for you, someone who is able to connect you, guide you, and provide support the many times when you might not believe in yourself.
Every day you help your clients tell stories through marketing. Why is storytelling so important?
JM: What we do every day is to engage communities. What makes ASG special is that we do our homework. We do our research. We make sure that we understand our community, our targets. And we are constantly learning and engaging. It is important not only to tell the story but also to understand their stories so that we can best put together messages and calls to action that resonate with people. You can only do that if you sit down and listen.
How has this pandemic made the wealth gap even more apparent?
JM: I can't help but to think about cities like Brockton and Randolph and Chelsea and neighborhoods of Boston like Mattapan, Roxbury and East Boston and you know, the one thing that they have in common is the lack of resources. The fact that people can't—they don't have the luxury to stay home or to social distance and work from home because you have to go out every day. These are essential workers, you know? These are our home health aides, these are our grocery store workers. These are taxi drivers. And that makes it difficult for [those communities] to succeed.
What do you think is the most tangible way that people can support a minority business owner or an entrepreneur of color through recovery?
JM: Well, obviously the most tangible way that people can support businesses run by people of color is by using their services or buying their products, providing the opportunity to not just be that company that you want to hire because you need to meet [a] certain threshold but really providing economic opportunity and allowing us to show what we're capable of doing.
What steps do Boston policymakers need to take to ensure minority businesses make it through this?
JM: My message for policymakers and for corporations is that now more than ever, we have to be intentional about hiring minority businesses [and] providing access to contracts for minority businesses because unfortunately, we continue to be at the bottom when it comes to access to opportunities.
Learn more about how Archipelago Strategies Group is addressing Boston's wealth gap and promoting change from the ground up.