By Steven Froias
For the NBEDC

NEW BEDFORD, MA – Vineyard Wind 1 staged from the Port of New Bedford. Hundreds of new or adaptive reuse housing units under construction in the greater downtown area. South Coast Rail train stations getting ready to receive passengers at two locations. Restaurants from the south end to the north end opening for business. Retail outlets opening in once overlooked spaces such as Fieldstone Marketplace.

All of these and many more have made headlines recently – a steady drum beat of economic development in New Bedford that’s enviable.

Look behind those marquee headlines, however, and you’ll find another cohort of business people with smaller but no less powerful ambitions. A creative group of women entrepreneurs who have determined that New Bedford is the place – and has the literal and imaginative space – to entertain their dreams and provide a platform for their own success. The economic impact may be smaller, but the social and cultural significance is just as meaningful.

The New Bedford Economic Development Council is especially pleased that these women entrepreneurs have seized upon opportunities like NB100!, the grant program that assists city start-ups, to help them reach their individual goals – and thus enrich the city and region.

We’d like to introduce you to three of them here. We believe the value they bring to New Bedford is just as important as the larger development projects that routinely grab headlines, because they are women who rock and push the boundaries of what’s possible in New Bedford today.

Author Cara Bean is currently enjoying success with her recently published book, Here I Am, I Am Me: An Illustrated Guide to Mental Health. An educator as well as an author and artist, she created the guide as a vehicle for teens to better understand emotional and mental health issues. Upon publication, Cara was an Artist-in-Residence at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, where she held meaningful workshops with teens exploring the themes in Here I am, I am Me.

“I’m grateful for the NB 100! Grant. It has enabled me to enjoy more freedom to pursue my book tour for Here I Am, I Am Me: An Illustrated Guide to Mental Health, which debuted on April 2, 2024,” she writes. “My goal was to connect with kids and families through workshops and presentations. Since the book’s release, I have been part of over 25 events at bookstores, libraries, and schools in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Canada. There are upcoming events and workshops planned in Ireland, the Northwest, and with local venues.”

The 270-page book, so fully illustrated that it resembles a graphic novel or comic book, is available at local book stores and through Amazon.

Pam Shwartz says NB100! allowed her and New Bedford Food Tours co-founder Sara Gonzalez the chance for them to do some outsourcing, “which freed me up to have the bandwidth to do things like develop this new tour of the north end.” That would be the North End New Bedford Food Tour, which joined the original slate of culinary treks on June 22.

New Bedford Food Tours take patrons on guided culinary tours of New Bedford and South Coast restaurants. In addition to the delicious sampling that takes place downtown, in Fall River, and now in New Bedford’s north end, the tour serves up a generous helping of local history and culture along the way.

Having settled on the idea behind New Bedford Food Tours, Pam and Sara decided to enter the EforAll pitch contest in summer of 2021 to test the idea’s viability – and were awarded first prize. They then enrolled in the Winter 2022 EforAll Business Accelerator, learned the ins and outs of starting a new and viable business, and launched to foodie delight soon after.

As avid travelers they dreamed of taking a food tour similar to the ones they’d experienced both in their previous home city and internationally and discovered that the best way to make that possible was to start their own right here in New Bedford. You can be part of that tasty journey at

Kathi Chase wanted an art studio that provided something else to fellow creatives. She writes, “With the mounting addiction epidemic in our country, I wanted to provide a different type of studio. A studio that offers a sober option for enjoying the creative process.”

The road to K & A Creations began for Kathi during the Covid-19 pandemic. At loose ends, she began to exhibit her paint and craft creations at the farmers market and was encouraged to take it a step further.

So, K & A Creations became a full-fledged studio in The Kilburn Mill, south end New Bedford, offering an array of classes and art camps. She found success thanks to her unique approach to savoring the journey that’s critical to the artistic process.

In fact, she outgrew her space at Kilburn and recently moved to a great space across the river that she could not pass up. And while we always want to see a dynamic community and business leader stay in New Bedford, we recognize that when our neighboring towns do well it fulfills New Bedford’s role as a hub for the entire region – which benefits the larger community.

Kathi states, “The NB100! grant was helpful because I was able to repay myself some of the funds used for my startup costs of my business. I also used a portion of it to go to a training retreat to increase my knowledge and advance my business.” Follow the advance at

From between the pages to on the menu and into the wider world, these creative thinkers and innovative entrepreneurs are each burnishing the New Bedford brand in their own way. They embody the idea that the city which makes news as a commercial fishing leader, offshore wind energy center, and regional economic hub is also something simpler yet more profound:

A place where any dream can be pursued and fulfilled.

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