Graciela Rocha grew up with an entrepreneur dad. Throughout her childhood, the conversation at the family table revolved around his many businesses, and their financial problems and successes. Even the whole family helped the father when he lacked employees to carry out the activities of one or another project that he had started.
It was natural that she also started her own business at an early age.
Her circumstances as a single mother and student also pushed her to seek a better livelihood for herself and her daughter, and she has never stopped struggling to get ahead. She is no stranger to the challenges and the adversities that minority entrepreneurs live in the United States, but also, the belonging to resilient and hard-working communities.
Along with running her beauty salon, she collaborates with Good Business Colorado (GBC), an association based in Denver, Colorado. Since 2017, its mission is to become the voice of values-driven businesses advocating for a prosperous economy, equitable communities, and a sustainable environment, in order to influence local, state, and federal policy.
Good Business Colorado members are business owners and entrepreneurs interested in rolling up their sleeves to build a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable Colorado.
“A business not only provides earnings for the owner. It generates employment, it is part of us, and if it has profit, it can reinvest in our community,” shares Graciela, who serves as Business Engagement Specialist in the organization.
“Our members know that business success cannot be measured by profit alone, and that true success means that our planet, communities, and bottom lines are all thriving”.
GBC’s mission is not an easy one: to push to ensure that the voices of small businesses in Colorado are being heard and included, as decisions are made without taking them into account. “It has happened to me as an entrepreneur: they approve things and we don’t know about them, and then we have to find out how to comply with the law.”
There is also the factor of mistrust since business owners do not believe in politics. “They don’t want to get involved since they have their own problems, such as lack of access to capital, poor financial education, or even legal or residency status,” explains Graciela.
Another challenge that minority entrepreneurs must overcome is their lack of knowledge of doing business “the American way” with all the necessary licenses in order. There is also their lack of experience and strategies to carry forward their businesses, something that Graciela can relate to.
“My dad learned along the way. That’s one of the reasons he had so many problems managing his business and making profits,” he recalls. “Sadly, this is a story that repeats itself throughout our community.”
That is why Good Business Colorado’s mission becomes so relevant. What collaborators like Graciela do is generate connections with entrepreneurs and business owners to know their needs and give them support and advice so that their businesses prosper, while taking their voices to the Capitol to be heard.
COVID-19 Impact and Response
The health emergency revealed many failures in our system. One of them is the language barrier, something that many minority entrepreneurs suffer, especially Hispanics.
As the Good Business Colorado specialist explains, much of the information about the restrictions or the applications for financial support were not translated into Spanish or other languages, but they asked the owners to sign them in order to access the support. “It’s incongruous,” she warns.
“Every entrepreneur should be able to go to his city department and access these supports. It should be a right. That’s why we believe in the mission of raising those voices”.
To mitigate the negative impact of COVID on the Colorado business community, Good Business Colorado works closely with the Energize Colorado Gap Fund. Together, they ensure that available resources (more than $25 million in grants and loans) go to the small businesses that need it most but were unable to receive financial assistance, whether it was due to paperwork problems, poor profitability, or simply because the application was only in English.
Another one of their programs used a philanthropic fund to support business owners who were denied financial assistance because of their immigration status.
Connections with value
“If you are values-driven and you care about equality, the well-being of your staff, environmental care, and you implement these things in your business, we want to support you,” says Graciela. “We are reaching out to businesses not only in our area but elsewhere in Colorado to join us. We want to expand the echo beyond our circle”.
To achieve these connections, GBC does more than person-to-person efforts. They are exploring the possibility of developing an app to link the resources of non-profit organizations with businesses seeking support.
The app would be developed by a local technology entrepreneur. The idea is to make it very user friendly to encourage those connections and help build user trust. Also, it would be bilingual.
The goal of Good Business Colorado is to create networks of trust. If you are interested in becoming a member or promoting the impact of Good Business Colorado, you can contact them at [email protected], [email protected], https://goodbusinesscolorado.org or calling (303) 847-7797 and (720) 917-4900.