Commonwealth 2017

The Question

How can the Commonwealth of Massachusetts help potential small business owners navigate licensing and permitting requirements for new companies?

The Team

  • Artyom Anikyev
  • Brian Etienne
  • Maria Julia Gutierrez
  • Nisha Swarup
  • Kate Welsh

The Story


Meet Carlos. He’s a 56 year-old Massachusetts resident who lives in Springfield, MA. His dream is to start his own microbrewery. Carlos has been excited about this project for years now and is finally making his dreams a reality. He has found a great location for a local taproom, has initial funding, and most importantly, has perfected his signature craft ale. In his mind, all he needs to do is fill out some paperwork and, he will be able to share his craft ale with others.

Despite having a great idea, Carlos needs help getting his business started. For example, Carlos needs to register his brewery with the state as well as obtain all the required licenses to operate as a food establishment and liquor establishment. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts wants to provide the tools, services and expertise to help entrepreneurs like Carlos. That's where we come in.

After interviewing entrepreneurs, we were able to synthesize some user insights that informed our design process:

  1. Entrepreneurs invest significant time, energy and resources in learning what they need to do.
  2. There is no single touchpoint that entrepreneurs get information from.
  3. Entrepreneurs rely on their networks for just about everything.
  4. The government isn’t an entrepreneur’s first call for help.
  5. Users fear penalties for breaking rules they don’t know about.

We then prototyped a Crowdsourced FAQ Platform (which you can try here!), and believe that our clients can use this as a starting point for Massachusetts’ entrepreneurs. With our prototype ready, we headed over to Burlington, MA to meet with a three-time small business owner who is very involved in the City’s Chamber of Commerce. He was excited when he saw that he could browse questions by popular topics and not only by search bar and mentioned that this would be the perfect tool to refer Burlington entrepreneurs to. In a second user test, we discovered that our user preferred the search bar to the popular topics method, validating our assumption that different users have different preferred searching methods.

We hope our work supports change among our clients and has been a successful test case for a user-centric approach to government. We look forward to following the Commonwealth’s ongoing efforts to support entrepreneurs and hope that our contribution will make life a little bit easier for people like Carlos.


final insights presentation

user insights presentation