On Monday, June 20, the Portland Development Commission will kick off the Mercatus Collective, an online platform to highlight local entrepreneurs of color through storytelling and a comprehensive business directory. The launch event, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Service Studio PDX, 2319 NE Glisan Street in Portland is open to the public.

Featured speakers will be Intisar Abioto, photographer/storyteller for Mercatus, and local business owners Chris Guinn and Sita Symonette, who will discuss their involvement in Mercatus and its role in creating a stronger business community in Portland.

The website will feature a directory as well as videos and interviews with entrepreneurs documenting their experiences, presenting a collective narrative on business ownership that up until now has been largely untold.

“Most of the time when we hear about vibrant bootstrapping entrepreneurs in Portland, it’s the dominant culture sharing their stories and aspirations. Rarely do we see the ethnically diverse entrepreneurs in the city sharing their struggles and best practices,” PDC senior business development coordinator Tory Campbell said. “Mercatus is designed to connect this professional community and their talents, goods and services with wider markets and at the same time celebrate the determination, work and resiliency that go into running a business.”

Mercatus began as a collaborative partnership between PDC, Joy Alise Davis of Design+Culture Lab, a graduate of the Startup PDX Challenge, and independent artists, including Portland photographer/writer Intisar Abioto, to develop the visual and narrative components of the website. The project partners hope to develop an inventory of 500 businesses over the next several months.

Local entrepreneurs are invited to become early adopters of the site by submitting their business for an in-depth interview.