Without a doubt, minority small businesses were hit the hardest by the COVID-19 health emergency. One in five Colorado business owners (20%) closed their business or lost a significant portion of their revenue due to a temporary closure. Of these, 34% had problems obtaining a loan in the first stage of the stimulus bill, according to a survey by We are UnidosUS.
Another study, conducted by this organization and Color of Change, indicates that for 46% of Latinx small business owners, receiving a grant from a private relief assistance program, offered by a private or not-for-profit, would be a great help for their businesses to overcome this crisis.
The good news is that Colorado entrepreneurs are not alone in this fight; they are supported by organizations such as The Latino Chamber of Commerce (LCC). This nonprofit is supporting Latinx businesses to apply for grants, and it’s making sure their Board of Directors is part of the reviewing committee.
It is also helping Hispanic businesses to apply for licenses and permits to expand operations outdoors. And it’s sharing online seminars with topics that are relevant to support the Latinx business community to stay afloat during the pandemic, e.g., applying to funds (including ITIN holders), and the digital divide (how to use zoom). In a more social sense, it’s offering public health seminars, online and in Spanish, to ensure that people understand the threat of the virus.
Building Bridges to Connect the Latinx Biz Community
This organization, founded in 2005 and based in Longmont, Colorado, promotes business opportunities, networking, advocacy, and business development services for its members through strategic initiatives. The Chamber also seeks to reduce the gap between the Latinos and other communities to achieve social capital development.
“The Latino Chamber of Commerce bridges the gap between Latinx and non-Latino businesses,” explains Berenice Garcia Tellez, secretary of the LCC. “They call us ‘cultural brokers’ because we understand the Latin culture and, at the same time, we know how to handle the American system. We are connecting cultures and communities through businesses”.
The main beneficiaries of this nonprofit are Latinx businesses in Boulder County. It has 120 members, 20% of them are Hispanic/Latino. But it also collaborates with non-Latinx companies that want to do business and reach out to this growing entrepreneurial community.
“Although we are a member-based organization, we strive to reach out and bring resources to the Latinx community and entrepreneurial families through our programming and platform,” explains Berenice.
The Latino Chamber of Commerce: Six objectives, one mission
The Chamber carries out various activities to promote the development of its members’ small businesses. Some of them are Expo Latino, bilingual business skills classes and training, a resource fair, door-to-door outreach, and volunteering known as ‘horas sociales.’
By joining this nonprofit, small business owners access benefits to improve and develop their businesses towards new directions and markets. The most significant advantage of joining, says the specialist, is that this is the only countywide Chamber of commerce, which grants greater access to other businesses and allies.
Latino Chamber of Commerce’s six verticals of support are:
- Learning. Seminars, workshops, and other bilingual events to improve the knowledge and skills of entrepreneurs, focusing on Latino issues and culture.
- Resources. Disseminate and provide accurate information to the Latinx business community through the use of cultural broker skills.
- Events and after hours. Their ‘horas sociales’ are held quarterly at various locations throughout Boulder County, attracting a variety of business people and providing new networking opportunities.
- Media recognition. Members are recognized at events sponsored by the Chamber.
- Coaching. They support their members with financial education, business development, and applying for funds.
- Advocacy. They are elevating the Latinx voice at the table.
What motivates those who work at the Latino Chamber of Commerce?
“On the one hand, the development of Latinx business leaders and the creation of economy and wealth for these communities. But also having the privilege and opportunity to lead and guide the changing face of economic and business development in the Latino community”, explains Berenice.
“The Latinx business community has so much to offer and is a major contributor to the local, state, and national economy of this country. They have the right to apply for grants and subsidies,” emphasizes the specialist.
Thanks to a door to door outreach and word-of-mouth, the Latino Chamber of Commerce has gained trust among the Latinx community. That’s how they gather their needs and, thus, develop programs and high-impact initiatives. Although there is a long way to go, they are beginning to see the fruits of their efforts, as more and more Latinx businesses request support and participate in city and county relief initiatives. Another result: racial equity lens is being applied in the grant process, e.g., applications in Spanish, outreach in culturally relevant channels.
“Our beneficiaries and their families are obtaining accurate information about COVID-19 and have the tools to keep their businesses running”, says Berenice with enthusiasm –she was recognized by the city with a diploma for going ‘above and beyond’ to support Latinx businesses–.
As part of the organization’s future plans, they intend to contribute to the creation of a directory of Latinx businesses in the county, with granular data that reflects the contribution of these companies to the local economy to raise awareness and continue to grow their impact. They also aim to develop projects to create an equitable workforce, connecting young Hispanic graduates and entrepreneurs with meaningful opportunities in the marketplace.
“I personally would like the Latino Chamber to be well-positioned in the region as a platform Latinx biz could reach out and find answers to their questions and concerns,” says Berenice.
If you require more information about this institution, wish to become a member or are interested in contributing to it, go to www.latinochamberco.org, write an email to [email protected], or call +1 720 238 6799.