From Book Club to Supergroup

A group of CQ Strategies standing on a dock, smiling at the camera.

It’s like a supergroup of advocates.

Brian Hsiang has an experiential education background, Ita Meno-Baker was a housing inspector, Dr. Sherwood Smith was part of the diversity, engagement, and professional development unit at UVM, and Kathy Johnson was working to break down equity barriers in schools. Paul Yoon joined the group in 2014 while he was a school-based administrator. 

Together, they are all now equal partners in CQ Strategies, a partnership registered as an LLC. CQ Strategies helps organizations become more culturally proficient and equity literate through education, resources, and on-going support. However, 13 years ago, when they first started meeting, they were just a book club centered around issues of equity brought together by Tracey Tsugawa and Dr. Daniello Balón, 2 of CQ’s other founding members. From this unassuming book club the foundation for CQ Strategies was laid.

In 2010, the City of Burlington’s Community & Economic Development Office (CEDO) was looking for help to design a curriculum, facilitate workshops, and provide coaching and support to increase equity in the city. CEDO asked several members of the book club to partner with the city on an AmeriCorps project - and that is how it all started.

Since 2010, CQ Strategies has worked with more than 250 organizations across New England, New York, and Virginia, trained more than 7,500 people, and facilitated more than 500 workshops. Workshops address topics such as race, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, ability, and the interrelated dynamics of power and intersectionality.

CQ has never paid to advertise services. Their work has been advertised by word of mouth, and word continues to get out about their individualized, high-quality services.

CQ selects clients with great care as they will not work with just any organization. “At our best, there is cultural change in the organizations we work with. We don’t want this work to be an add on. We want equity to be part of who they are. That is when we have real success. We don’t want the company to say we have checked that box for training or it’s just that time of year again to do this training. The organizations we are helping need to want to change,” said Smith.

Over the past 13 years, CQ’s level of service, reach, and revenue has steadily increased but the pandemic materially changed things for them. During the pandemic, CQ accessed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through the Small Business Administration. PPP loans were forgivable loans intended to help businesses stay afloat and they were important to CQ.

“As an organization, we are determined to bring a deepened awareness and understanding of social justice, especially racial justice, to the community in ways that are practical and useful. We are grateful to work with so many different people across the region, and we hope our work will inspire others to help make the world a better place,” said Yoon.

The Small Business Administration is proud to name CQ Strategies the 2023 Vermont Minority-Owned Business of the Year.

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.