Latino. Entrepreneurship: A 21st Century American Economic Engine. A NALCAB Focus on Best Practices for Promoting Small Business Development

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1 Latino Entrepreneurship: A 21st Century American Economic Engine A NALCAB Focus on Best Practices for Promoting Small Business Development

2 2011 Publication by the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders Guadalupe St., Suite 203 San Antonio, TX ph f

3 Latino Entrepreneurship: A 21st Century American Economic Engine A NALCAB Focus on Best Practices for Promoting Small Business Development National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) represents and serves a geographically and ethnically diverse group of nonprofit community development and asset building organizations that are anchor institutions in our nation s Latino communities. NALCAB members are experts in implementing responsible, market-based strategies for creating jobs, developing neighborhood assets and building family wealth. NALCAB s member organizations represent a robust national infrastructure for supporting entrepreneurship in Latino communities.

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5 table of Contents Shining a Light on Entrepreneurs 6 hispanic Economic Development Corporation (hedc) Leading Community Prosperity in Kansas City 9 Mission Economic Development agency (MEDa) Supporting Working Families in San Francisco 12 Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) From Adversity to Economic Prosperity 15 Latino Economic Development Center-Minnesota (LEDC-Mn) Public Markets Generate Profi ts for Entrepreneurs 19 Economic Development Catalyst organization (EDCo ventures) A Promising and Innovative Model 22 Innovation Key to Recovery 26

6 Shining a light on Entrepreneurs Our nation is slowly rising out of a recessionary period that has resulted in staggering job losses and economic hardship for families throughout the country. Latinos, particularly immigrants, were among the hardest hit. Real median income for households of Hispanic 1 origin declined between 2007 and 2008 by 5.6 percent (to $37,913), and the poverty rate increased for Hispanics from 21.5 percent in 2007 to 23.2 percent in These statistics represent the largest decline in real income and largest increase in poverty during this period for any racial/ethnic subgroup. Subsequent to this already disturbing economic trend, the unemployment rate increased from 4.7 percent in November 2008 to 9.8 percent in Once again, Hispanics were disproportionately impacted, in significant part due to the fact that the recession initially concentrated in geographic areas with high Latino populations and in industries with high Latino labor force participation. Unemployment among Hispanics in 2008 was reported at percent, it rose to 12.8 percent in 2009 and, as of December 2010, this rate increased to percent. In a time when job creation is among the highest national priorities, it is important to recognize the role of young businesses in job creation. In Where will the jobs come from? A Kauffman Foundation report -- research found that of the overall 12 million new jobs added in 2007; young firms (one to five years old) were responsible for the creation of nearly 8 million of those jobs. It reports that from , nearly all net job creation in the United States occurred in firms less than five years old. Even without counting job creation from new startups, Hispanic-owned establishments had strong job creation in 19 states, in contrast to other demographic groups, whose businesses lost jobs. 5 These facts combined with the demographic growth and dispersion of Latino communities throughout the United States offer compelling evidence on the important role that the Hispanic community can play in the national economic recovery. In this challenging economic environment, new businesses are crucial not only for a strong national economic recovery, but for the financial well being of many Latino families. Informal businesses sprout in the shadows of mainstream economies because families must survive. Immigrants may not seek help, preferring not to draw attention, and instead choose to work hard and risk everything in order to create their own income. Self-employment spurs farmers markets, equipment repair shops, home daycares, landscaping services and many others. Self-employment offers an alternative to joblessness and provides some flexibility as many struggle to maintain homes with young children and elderly relatives. 1 Hispanic and Latino will be used interchangeably. 2 From a U.S. Census report released in September 2009, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Statistics by Race and Ethnicity Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Employment Situation News Release Small Business Administration, Race/Ethnicity and Establishing Dynamics, No. 369 Ying Lowrey, Office of Advocacy,

7 The need for entrepreneurial activity in our national economy is at its height. Yet, the ability of small business people to access capital and other tools they need to start and expand businesses is at its lowest in many years. These challenges are compounded for many Latino small business people due to barriers including language, a lack of credit history and discriminatory environments, especially for immigrants with little knowledge of local, state and federal regulatory structures. With modest resources, NALCAB s member organizations provide high-quality, culturally-relevant training, tools and services that catapult individuals into vital income generating small businesses that create jobs and benefi t entire communities. Specifi cally, NALCAB member organizations support business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs by: Providing training and individualized technical assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners their business development that including fi nancial literacy, responsible credit management and tax assistance; Acting as cultural mediators by helping Spanishspeaking entrepreneurs understand how they can unlock their own business potential by understanding regulatory structures, integrating with mainstream fi nancial services institutions and learning English; Facilitating access to capital through micro lending, loan packaging and venture capital investments; Developing commercial facilities and neighborhood corridors that attract concentrations of consumers necessary for sustained business growth; Leveraging regional, national and international business partnerships that expand resources and bridge communities. NALCAB members work is innovative and responsive to the realities of the communities they serve. This publication highlights how that work is advancing economic recovery in U.S. communities. It is NALCAB s intention to shine a light on some of the best practices of our members entrepreneurial programs. These practices are results-oriented and replicable. The programs weave culturally and linguistically relevant practices with common sense ideas that unlock wealth potential within communities often dismissed as unlikely to succeed. Small business growth is a crucial pillar that will support an authentic national economic recovery. The true measure of a sustained economic turnaround is job growth. Specialized technical assistance and training can signifi cantly improve the chances of success for a small business. In addition, NALCAB has learned that creating cultural bridges and understanding increases that success and fuels local economies. We are grateful to Sam s Club for their generous support of NALCAB and its member organizations, including the development of this publication as well as the production of a segment of the PBS series To The Contrary that featured NALCAB member organizations. The televised segment can be viewed online at 7

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9 LEaDing Community Prosperity in Kansas City Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) Cristina Herrera and Jose Orozco, proud business owners and HEDC clients stand in their store Herrera s Restaurant and Supermarket. Since the early 1990s, blighted urban commercial corridors in the Kansas City metro area have undergone a striking transformation. Where there were empty storefronts and few shoppers on the sidewalks, today there are Latino-owned restaurants, clothing stores, event halls, bakeries and restaurants. A recent study by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) found that more than 30 percent of previously vacant buildings are now occupied by immigrant businesses in an area recognized for its diverse and rich culture, the Northeast area of Kansas City, Missouri.6 The now bustling streets and increased tax base have turned these areas from headaches for local government officials into nodes of economic vitality from which future urban development will grow. What happened? The three county areas around Kansas City -- Jackson County, Missouri, and Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas -- has experienced significant growth in the Latino population, an experience that is reflective of national demographic trends. For example, in 1990 these three counties had a cumulative Latino population of 36,892 people. In 2009, that figure jumped to 116, While there has been a thriving Latino community in Kansas City for more than one hundred years, the recent growth has been driven primarily by immigration. In 1993, the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) of Kansas City was founded to develop the economic vitality of this community and is today recognized as a crucial catalyst for economic success in the region s Latino community. HEDC utilizes a holistic approach to enterprise development and emphasizes building bridges between clients commercial enclaves and the community at large. HEDC s programs, partnerships and advocacy have succeeded to create a unique and award winning business development program model that has boosted economic activity, which serves the entire community of Kansas City. According to the US Census American Communities Survey Estimates, 72% of the foreign born in Jackson County, Missouri, Johnson County Kansas and Wyandotte County, Kansas arrived since 1990 and 52% of the foreign born in these three counties are of Latin American origin. 7 U.S. Census Bureau website American Fact Finder 6 9

10 As the only organization in the Kansas City metropolitan area providing bilingual business development in support of Latino entrepreneurs, HEDC is also the only entity in a four-state region certified to provide First Step FastTrac business training courses in English and Spanish. Over 18 years, HEDC s work has assisted more than 800 microenterprises 8 in industries from food service, auto service, construction, tow trucking, and commercial cleaning to architectural design, event rentals, accounting, technology, and translations. Entrepreneurs Soar with Effective Communication HEDC s Business Development Program provides bilingual and bicultural assistance to entrepreneurs in the Kansas City metropolitan area. HEDC offers oneon-one technical assistance and counseling and support to existing micro-businesses, helping them to address problems related to expansion, regulatory change, economic difficulties, and marketing. HEDC implements the Primer Paso FastTrac, a nationallyrecognized Spanish-language business development curriculum, works with entrepreneurs to help them start, sustain, or grow their microenterprises in the greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area. HEDC adapts programs that fit the needs of clients. For example, many participants signed up for entrepreneurial training have families and jobs. HEDC thoughtfully builds schedules and curriculum with these needs in mind. Tutorial workshops and personal attention is offered to those interested in the extra help. HEDC continuously works with area municipalities to facilitate policies that encourage entrepreneurship, and will be welcoming to new and current businesses. These policies are intended to embrace emerging communities and are facilitated by the growing economic power of all area businesses. HEDC counselors help clients with a wide range of tasks, from translating their signs into English, to obtaining a business license using a Mexican consulate identification card, to completing legal and regulatory forms correctly. HEDC counselors also help entrepreneurs to get the word out about their goods and services. Because of the often-intensive support that HEDC clients receive from experienced business counselors, and because of the rigor of HEDC s Primer Paso FastTrac business development course, more than 85 percent of the students graduate from the program, and success rates for eventual entrepreneurs are higher than among comparable start-ups. To achieve these results, HEDC limits class size to fifteen 10 HEDC clients listen attentively to How to Open and Grow Your Business training session held in conjunction with 2010 Global Entrepreneurship week in Kansas City. participants. HEDC is highly responsive to the needs of participants. For example, because many of the entrepreneurial students have other full time jobs and families to care for, HEDC conducts 6-hour courses on Saturdays with meals. HEDC consistently surpasses graduation goals and had 100 percent of its clients graduate from its most recent small business program. HEDC fills a key niche in Kansas City s economic development environment by serving low-income and often limited English proficient participants. HEDC s greatest asset is its team of counselors who spend the time necessary to educate and inform our businesses. They are both talented and passionate about making sure our client s needs are addressed, states Ramirez. They go beyond just translating a curriculum designed for English speakers into Spanish. The team provides mentoring and culturally appropriate training to support and meet the needs of current and aspiring entrepreneurs, beamed Ramirez. HEDC s bilingual team has more than 40 years of business and community development experience and is multi-disciplined with backgrounds, not only as entrepreneurs themselves, but also in adult education, business administration, organizational development psychology, management and leadership. HEDC also maintains relationships with clients with active businesses and obtains their feedback to continually improve programming, including enhancing computer-related training and providing periodic up-to-date business seminars. This partnership is producing dividends. In November 2009, 45 entrepreneurs, representing six different localities around the region, attended HEDC s workshop to enhance their operations, expand their market reach, and network in the community. 8 According to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, a microenterprise is a business with 5 or fewer employees and start up capital of $35,000 or less. These are HEDC s primary clients.

11 Building Bridges across Communities Not only can we boast the most successful entrepreneurial graduate rate in the three-county region but our graduates are also leaders in the community and are engaged in the local economy says Bernardo Ramirez, Executive Director of HEDC. Business owners are encouraged to join the local Chamber of Commerce and to participate in partnership with mainstream business community members. Working together as in any true community has gradually led to an integration of products and services extended way beyond the traditional enclaves. HEDC continues working with local governments to facilitate policies that foster entrepreneurship and help clients to understand how different localities regulations impact their businesses. Public policy changes that embrace emerging communities is facilitated by the growing economic power of Latinos and their emerging ranks as businesses owners and civic leaders. HEDC s partnership with a local college provides a setting for English skills training, computer knowledge, and other advanced education support with individual business plans. This collaboration allows HEDC to market its services to non-traditional students. An additional benefi t is the fact that the college s staff is majority non-latino, as are many students; this environment serves to build social capital for HEDC clients, bridge cultures and further root them in their local community. HEDC s success and reputation, and especially the organization s ability to build strong partnerships with majority-owned businesses around the region, are changing what it means to do business as an HEDC business client in the Kansas City metro area. In 2009, HEDC collaborated with the Johnson County Library System to open a satellite offi ce within one of the library branches. This satellite offi ce not only works with existing and aspiring entrepreneurs but also allows staff a convenient location from which to scout locations for emerging businesses, conducts outreach to businesses in need of support, and connects microentrepreneurs to governmental and private sector resources. Broadcasting Financial Lessons En Español Communicating the importance of keeping receipts for business expenses may not be compelling entertainment for most but HEDC has managed with its collaboration with the local Spanish language radio station to generate enthusiastic audience participation around fi nancial literacy and what it takes to open a new business in the greater Kansas City Metropolitan area. One quarter of our classes will be fi lled by individuals who heard us on the radio says Ramirez. A weekly half-hour live call in show in the Greater Kansas City area focused on micro-businesses, El Momento Empresarial (The Entrepreneurial Moment) program airs on Mondays at 7:00 p.m. and was developed by HEDC to expand communication reach to Spanish speaking businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs starting, sustaining and growing a business. The show (currently undergoing a restructuring) reaches over 40,000 audience listeners in the Greater Kansas City area. the Future of Economic Development in Kansas City The need for HEDC s work continues to grow. It is expected that the 2010 Census will reveal signifi cant population growth among the Latino immigrant community. At the same time, some analyses suggest that rates of entrepreneurship among Latinos are rising as well and more quickly than for any other ethnic or racial group (from 0.33 percent in 2006 to 0.40 percent in 2007). 9 The reality of the low wage job market with oppressive working conditions and poor employer relations also continues to drive up entrepreneurial activity among Latinos. The hallmark of HEDC s work is the leadership role that it takes in shifting attitudes and behaviors in bridging communities, and in demonstrating the value that HEDC clients bring to entire communities in busy storefronts, revitalized business districts, and stronger localities that have enhanced the economic health of the region. HEDC participated in a national consortium of NALCAB members that secured $3.7 million under the US Department of Commerce s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP), which will provide funds to build and staff a public computer center that has a wide range of small business resources. NALCAB also assisted HEDC in securing a $259,000 Community Economic Development Grant to establish a small business incubator, which will help foster small businesses and in and of itself will create 12 new jobs in the greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area. HEDC has the foundation, the expertise, and the relationships to meet this growing demand, navigate the ever-changing regulatory and economic environments, and continue its valuable work of helping entrepreneurs make communities stronger, more vibrant, and more prosperous. For more information on the HEDC visit: kchedc.org 9 Kauffman Foundation (April 2008). Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. 11

12 PRoMiSing innovative MoDEL SUPPoRting a Working Families in San Francisco Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) Elena Ramirez, MEDA client and Teresa Garcia MEDA consultant pose with clients. Elena Ramirez, a struggling childcare provider fi rst came to the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) for help establishing a bookkeeping system for her business. Elena resides in the Mission District in San Francisco where MEDA is located and the heart of the Hispanic community. Previously keeping her fi nancial transactions on pieces of paper, Elena received technical assistance, which helped her to organize her business, learn electronic fi nancial record keeping and accounting. Elena soon returned to MEDA to expand her business license from caring for 8 children to 14 children. The assistance included loan and grant packaging, writing a business plan, and calculating a project budget. With support from MEDA, Elena secured $30,000 in grants and loans to make the changes to her home needed for her new license. Elena was able to double the number of working families she could serve which doubled her revenue stream. Expanding her childcare business also enabled Elena to employ two additional assistants. In 2009 alone, MEDA assisted 512 businesses with technical training. These services create positive ripple affects in the community. Entrepreneurial success not only increases economic opportunities for low to moderate-income Latino entrepreneurs. Successful small businesses may also provide valuable services and create jobs for the San Francisco community. MEDA was established approximately 40 years ago to improve the economic and social conditions in the neighborhood by stimulating investment, enhancing the business environment and creating jobs. The Mission District has long been a vibrant gateway neighborhood for immigrants, but also a home to some of the city s highest poverty rates. Median household income among Latinos in particular in San Francisco was $23,000, as compared to approximately $43,000 overall. 12 Historically, MEDA s core competency was primarily in supporting small businesses in the Mission and participating in economic development projects. A commitment to maintaining the cultural richness of the Mission District and providing economic opportunities to its residents led the organization to do more. In the last 10 years

13 we (MEDA) have evolved from a small creative development organization into a robust direct services organization which has grown from serving 70 to approximately 3,500 individuals per year! states Executive Director, Luis Granados. In 2008, MEDA s board of directors recognized the organization s evolution and chartered a more ambitious future course by adopting a revised strategic framework. Recognizing the demographic growth and geographic dispersion of Latinos and immigrants, MEDA s board expanded their target area beyond the Mission District to include all of San Francisco. MEDA s leaders also recognized the need to create a pathway toward asset development for low-income people and how important closely integrated partnerships with other agencies would be towards that end. MEDA has since pursued projects, programs and partnerships that have positioned the organization at the cutting edge of the asset building industry and has expanded its impact exponentially, including leading the development of a national network of broadband-enabled small business support centers. integrating asset Building and Entrepreneurship MEDA helps entrepreneurs in San Francisco start and expand their businesses though bilingual and culturally-relevant one-on-one consultations and group workshops that address topics such as business assessment, business planning, fi nancial projections and budgeting, marketing, access to capital and lease consultation. MEDA has developed an approach and associated curriculum that begins with fi nancial education and includes access to a wide range of consumer education, savings opportunities and tax preparation assistance as a part of a comprehensive approach to preparing aspiring entrepreneurs. MEDA also understands that a full spectrum of family support services may be necessary for low-income people in crisis who are not necessarily engaged in MEDA s small business development program. This recognition drove MEDA to develop the Plaza Adelante, a 21,000 square foot communitybased, one-stop asset development center in San Francisco s Mission District. A $10 million acquisition and rehabilitation effort, Plaza Adelante houses multiple nonprofi ts that offer a wide range of asset building and family support programs. By co-locating in the same building, these agencies are able to achieve an unprecedented level of integration of their services, saving time for their clients and increasing the effectiveness of their services. The tenants share facilities including conference rooms, individual consultation spaces and break rooms. Plaza Adelante also offers the nonprofi t tenants a tool for sustainability. Each of the tenants has a co-ownership opportunity by giving them the option to purchase an equity share in the building. Plaza Adelante has also become home to MEDA s newest business incubator project El Mercadito. With twelve small commercial spaces, El Mercadito offers new businesses monthly rents in the range of $270 to $1,000 an extraordinarily affordable opportunity in the high-cost Mission District. Again, co-location offers the opportunity to provide intensive support to these growing businesses and ensures a level of foot traffi c that will strengthens their market opportunities. Granados said, We re stepping up to the plate, we have a bigger vision and approach for bringing other organizations together to focus on developing the community. By integrating all of our services we will be able to improve the lives of our residents. the Latino Microenterprise tech net In March 2010, acting as the lead applicant for a national consortium of community-based, nonprofi t economic development entities, MEDA was awarded $3,724,128 in federal funding to establish a network of 17 public computer centers in 10 states that will provide technology access and training for lowto moderate- income Latinos, with emphasis on serving micro entrepreneurs. The U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) selected the MEDA/ NALCAB Consortium under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Public Computer Centers grant program. NALCAB played a central role in organizing this consortium MEDA and the other participating NALCAB member organizations are taking new strides in bringing culturally relevant, fully bilingual broadband access and small business training to low-income Latino and immigrant communities. The BTOP project is addressing key issues for small business and demonstrates the federal government s prioritization The project is addressing key issues for small business and demonstrates the federal government s prioritization on job creation and providing services to Latino micro-entrepreneurs. 13

14 on job creation and providing services to Latino micro-entrepreneurs, notes Luis Granados, Executive Director of MEDA. While bilingual access and training are important, MEDA and the NALCAB network are moving above and beyond simple access and are focused on developing true innovation that bridges digital access with microenterprise training- a simple yet critical formula for success in today s economy. In diffi cult economic times, self-employment is a viable, and sometimes the only option. Through entrepreneurship, individuals can generate income, improve the well-being of their household, and create jobs. For more information on MEDA visit: medasf.org. Patricia Torres seeks guidance from Jim Escobedo, MEDA s Business Development Consultant. Childcare Business Booms in San Francisco MEDA refi ned its services and identifi ed a real market need for the San Francisco community. Female clients with young children could care for their own children and earn money by caring for others children. MEDA provides a specialized training for childcare providers called the Family Childcare Business Development Program. The Family Childcare Business Development has been very successful and was recently featured in a PBS nationally televised program, To the Contrary. The program highlights how, with MEDA s guidance and business development services, women have developed viable day care businesses and even expanded their licensing, staff and facilities to care for San Francisco s working families. MEDA believes quality childcare is an integral part of a healthy community. Services have been tailored to include a vital family childcare providers training, a service in high demand in San Francisco. The Family Childcare Business Development Program assists providers and early childhood educators to establish and grow successful operations. Through individualized consultations and workshops, trained consultants identify childcare providers needs and develop strategies and systems to address them, free-of-charge, every step of the way, in English or Spanish. MEDA works with child care providers to develop a handbook that outlines policies and practices for the business and the parent. This handbook reinforces MEDA s business development workshops and coaching that are specially designed to Demographic profile of MEDA childcare providers: 98% are women 31% are female head of household with children 83% need exclusive assistance in Spanish, their native language 48% are startup family child care businesses 31% have annual revenues of $20,000 or below (overall median household income is $29,000) The average household size is 3.46 persons help providers create viable, and sustainable family childcare businesses. In collaboration with other childcare agencies, MEDA is addressing a tremendous need and is extending its technical assistance program to Spanish speaking family childcare providers who are challenged by language barriers in conventional training programs. 14

15 Moving a PRoMiSing innovative MoDEL From Adversity to Economic Prosperity Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) Yvette Zaragoza, LEDC Training and Outreach Manager takes a hands on approach learning client s business. On May 5, 1991, a much disputed shooting of a Central American immigrant by a police officer during a Cinco de Mayo parade sparked days of riots and civil unrest. The resulting disturbances reflected the underlying tension felt among low-income, Latino immigrants a tension deeply rooted in desperation for jobs. As a response to community need, the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) was formed. The vision of the founders was to create equitable access to jobs and economic opportunities. For the last 20 years, LEDC has realized this vision and significantly increased the participation of Latinos and other immigrants who are now positively contributing to the extraordinary economic opportunities that our nation s Capital has to offer. LEDC is nationally recognized for developing successful entrepreneurs, supporting the growth of thriving small businesses and for its complementary efforts to preserve stable housing. LEDC s mission is to drive the economic and social advancement of Latinos and other underserved residents in the Washington metropolitan area towards financial independence and community leadership. They provide educational and financial resources so that clients may support their families, achieve financial independence and become engaged community leaders. LEDC works closely with clients so they may be part of the decision-making processes that impact their communities in the DC region. LEDC has accomplished its mission by using diverse strategies and programs such as housing and financial counseling, tenant organizing, and advocacy. LEDC began as a one-man shop in 1991 and has evolved into a regional organization with multiple programs serving thousands of people. Today, LEDC has 30 full-time staff members, has developed a large donor base and has an annual operating budget of $2.7 million. In 2010 alone, LEDC has provided technical assistance and training to over 600 small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs and disbursed 71 microloans to small businesses totaling $782,500 across the Washington D.C. region. LEDC plays a pivotal role in multiplying public-private partnerships to ensure ongoing economic opportunity for low-to-moderate income Latinos and other underserved 15

16 In 2010 alone, LEDC has provided technical assistance and training to over 600 small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs and disbursed 71 micro-loans to small businesses totaling $782,500 across the Washington D.C. region. residents in the Washington metropolitan area. Recently, with NALCAB s support accessing capital, LEDC received $40,000 from a Sam s Club grant which helps provide intensive services to 50 Latina entrepreneurs expanding their small businesses. Entrepreneurs in action LEDC offers in-depth courses and workshops for entrepreneurs who want to hone their business skills in areas such as conducting a feasibility study, business planning, marketing, accounting, customer service and the tax code. Classes are formatted like facilitated workshops. Everyone, no matter what their socioeconomic and education background within the class, is encouraged to participate and answer questions from their own experience. This type of format equalizes discussion among participants and acknowledges the richness of peoples personal experiences. This practice enhances comfort, learning and generates lots of creative ideas! says Emily Coronado, Director of Small Business Development for LEDC whose professional background includes adult education. LEDC offers business training to potential entrepreneurs utilizing a curriculum entitled Emprendedores en Acción (Entrepreneurs in Action), which integrates personal fi nancial skills, budgeting and general business skills building such as marketing, accounting and business planning. As clients implement their business plans, LEDC staff provides a wide range of support including preparing for income taxes, obtaining business licenses, accessing fi nancial resources, securing professional services such as legal assistance, marketing consulting, accountant and real property searches complementing the training with tangible, tailored services. Facilitating Capital for aspiring Entrepreneurs LEDC understands that even with high quality technical assistance, aspiring entrepreneurs need access to credit and loan capital to start and grow their business. As a certifi ed Community Development Financial Institution, LEDC provides micro-loans from $500 in value up to $50,000 to start-ups and existing businesses that have diffi culty obtaining credit from mainstream fi nancial institutions. There is also help for individuals who are self-employed and need to establish credit through the Credi-Start loan program, which offers individuals with little or credit history with a loan of up to $ at 14 percent and a payment plan of 6 months. LEDC began offering microloans in 1997, initially drawing its loan capital from a consortium of local lenders. LEDC s lending efforts had limited success until 2006, when the program underwent a substantial overhaul, including careful re-examination of its criteria for making loans based on its client profi le and industry best practices. Also in 2006, LEDC became a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Microloan Intermediary. This move lowered its cost of capital and provided the organization with the ability to expand its lending programs and business training efforts. The resulting increase in loan activity was dramatic. While LEDC s loan portfolio has experienced strong growth, it has also had its challenges. Delinquency and default rates increased during the recent LEDC s micro-lending since In 2010, 71 loans, $782,000 were disbursed to D.C. entrepreneurs

17 recession, and several clients were also challenged by the possibility of foreclosure on their home mortgages. LEDC staff recognizes that the absences of credit history or weak credit histories are a challenge for most of their entrepreneurial clients. Staff focuses strongly on how to educate clients on the importance of credit status as a financial asset. For those entrepreneurs applying for a micro-loan, the process of assessing what clients need begins with a one-hour session. LEDC- staff utilizes personalismo (building harmonious relationships) throughout its credit counseling sessions and establishing trust with clients. Latina entrepreneurs share ideas on childcare business during Entrepreneurs in Action brainstorming. Staff is trained to approach sensitive topics with dignity and respect on the importance of responsible credit management. The outcome of the session may vary depending on the personal assessment results. Clients with little or no credit history may qualify to borrow money through Credi-Start loan (up to $ for 6 14 percent interest). Clients with credit blemishes are provided guidance on how to address and repair these their credit challenges. Applicants who lack documentation of income and expenses may work with a Business Consultant to learn how to set up basic recordkeeping systems that they may use for their business finances and taxes. After the assessment, clients spend an additional three to four hours with staff reviewing their business model and covering basic budgeting issues. In all cases, potential clients leave LEDC with more information and support on how to further their individual goals. In some cases, LEDC staff is able to identify clients who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments and can then provide them with important referrals to other services including LEDC s foreclosure prevention counseling and support. The staff at LEDC has learned that the key to success with its entrepreneurial clients is multi-faceted and requires a triage approach. Assessing clients needs, providing appropriate services and then integrating and embedding key financial training while also offering important services such as assistance with recordkeeping and marketing is crucial to the strength and stability of the entrepreneurial client. What a Difference a Storefront Makes LEDC complements their technical assistance and lending activities with a storefront improvement program that is funded and supported by the District of Columbia s Department of Housing and Community Development. The goal of the program is to improve the physical appearance of largely Latino business corridors in the District. Storefront facade improvements make businesses more attractive to shoppers and enhance new investments, thus increasing wealth and employment opportunities. It s a great way to integrate and introduce business redevelopment within a community. Once the business owners see the change in storefront facades they often become more aware of the interior of the business ---everything from the store s décor to inventory takes on a new level of importance. The newly renovated storefronts instill more pride. Once the storefront is in place, community members will often come in and congratulate the business owners. New storefronts are uplifting for a community that has suffered blight and poverty, says Coronado. 17

18 Benjamin Velasquez of Catering by Benjamin While in a chef s top hat and a crisp, white apron, Benjamin Velasquez explains how he immigrated to Silver Spring, Maryland 27 years ago. Benjamin s tells the story of his fi rst days in the United States and how he left his native El Salvador at the age of 19 to escape the perils of civil war. He describes his world as having been turned upside down. Leaving behind his initial ambitions to become a lawyer, Benjamin s fi rst job in D.C. was as a dishwasher. When you are a dishwasher, you re all wet, and you don t know if you re wet because you re sweating or because of the water from the pots and pans, Benjamin says. After four years Benjamin was promoted to line cook, then front line chef, and ultimately became the kitchen supervisor. It was then that Benjamin decided to enroll in a culinary arts school on the weekends while holding down two jobs during the week. Benjamin studied the art of European and Asian cooking from chefs at international embassies. He also worked at the Washington Hilton Hotel, which provided Benjamin the unique experience of cooking for American heads of state. These diffi cult but rewarding years allowed him to learn the preparation of food from diverse cultures and develop his specialty international and European cuisine. When the Rosemount Center, a bilingual Head Start Center located in Mount Pleasant, offered him the opportunity to cook for their 150 students and 40 teachers as an independent contractor, Benjamin seized the opportunity to obtain the necessary regulatory documents and start his catering business. Catering by Benjamin began with informal catering jobs for local churches in the community. With LEDC s guidance and access to micro-loan capital, Benjamin successfully expanded his catering business, improved his cooking facilities and hired additional staff to support the growing popularity of his catering business. LEDC s fi nancial assistance also helped Benjamin purchase a new cargo van that now allows him to transport food from his kitchen space to catering events around town. Like many others in the service industry, the economic crisis has caused business to slow. Benjamin is optimistic that the loyalty of his regular customers will help him survive the diffi cult months. In the meantime, Benjamin continues to serve as a teacher at the local international culinary arts school. Benjamin enjoys teaching students the art of cooking. Many of them are immigrants. I love teaching. It s rewarding to see my students understand and learn about the beauty and richness of world cuisine. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to see them develop skills and contribute their own unique recipes to the menu, says Benjamin with a wink. For more information on LEDC-DC visit: ledc-dc.org Building a Business Á La Carte 18

19 generating innovative MoDEL Profi ts for Entrepreneurs in Public Markets Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC-MN) An organic fruit display at the Produce Exchange at the Global Market; an LEDC-MN s public market. In recent years, Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC-MN) has been recognized around the country for its success and innovation in spurring small business and economic development in impoverished areas in Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota. LEDC-MN is best known for launching cooperatively owned public markets, or mercados, as an economic development tool. LEDC s early organizing efforts evolved into training and technical assistance programs for businesses in these markets and throughout the Minneapolis area. A mercado is a shared indoor or outdoor space where entrepreneurs and merchants have stalls or stores to sell a wide range of products everything from fresh produce and baked goods to handcrafted items and music. LEDC also provides technical assistance and training services to business owners. Since 2006, over 1,696 aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners have created of more than 650 businesses and 3,250 jobs. A decade before its formal incorporation as a nonprofi t, LEDC-MN began as a community-based organizing effort to create economic opportunities for immigrants. In 1994, members of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesus congregation in South Minneapolis, mostly Mexican immigrants, began meeting in the church basement to discuss the problems they saw around them. Low wages, abuse by employers and street crime all plagued the immigrant community. A consensus emerged from these meetings and that was that economic opportunity was at the heart of improving their lives and neighborhoods. Ramón León, one of the original Latino small business owners in the community, emerged as a community leader that embodied that consensus and now serves as LEDC-MN s Executive Director. As a small business owner, I knew the power that businesses can yield and how, when successful, can benefi t an entire community, stated León. In the beginning, LEDC-MN set upon identifying talent and skills from within its community and then moved into improving technical and leadership skills among promising entrepreneurs. With the help of Interfaith Action organizers and with technical support from Neighborhood Development Center, the Whittier Community Development Corporation and Project for Pride in Living, LEDC drove 19

20 What once was a crime ridden neighborhood characterized by boarded up buildings is today a vibrant commercial corridor that has experienced a 200 percent surge in real estate values, an increase in revenue from sales taxes of 16 percent per year and a 40 percent decrease in crime in the last 6 years. the redevelopment of a dilapidated shopping center into the Mercado Central, an indoor marketplace that housed 47 businesses. Primarily Latino consumers come from across the city and the state, some commuting up to two hours, to shop in this distinctly Latino Mercado. Sharing resources within the confi nes of a mercado lowers overhead costs, creates costshared marketing, which increases profi ts and creates affordable spaces for low- income entrepreneurs. Opened in 1999, the Mercado Central offered a unique shopping experience and created a concentration of foot traffi c that allowed its tenantowner businesses to thrive; several have since grown their annual revenue well beyond a million dollars. León expressed the complex impact of the project, It is diffi cult to defi ne the source of the success of the Mercado Central. In reality, it is many things. It is economic development. It is community organizing. It is leadership. It is a hybrid of all of these elements. LEDC formally incorporated in 2003 and went on to catalyze the development of several more public markets and commercial corridors in the Twin Cities including the enormous Global Market that occupies the ground fl oor of the former Sears Building on Lake Street. to the real needs of our entrepreneurial clients. We developed our training based on what our customers need and those needs may vary depending on their particular situation. Services may range from accounting to crisis intervention says Daniel Bonilla, Latino Academy Director for LEDC-MN. Sending someone home to fi ll out onerous paperwork doesn t work for our community. How can you expect success when you have complex and potentially controversial issues to deal with before you can even start a business such as licensing, certifi cations and identifi cation? continues Bonilla. LEDC-MN staff sits down with each client individually and takes the time to understand individual needs, states Bonilla. Our model is one based on empowerment and that is to spend quality time with each client so they understand an entire process and can learn how to do things for themselves. Our goal is to create clientele that seldom has a need to return for services. Some fi nancial providers profi t from perpetuating the need for clients to return so they can continue charging for services, states Bonilla. The concrete indicators of LEDC-MN s success are in plain sight on Lake Street in South Minneapolis, which is home to three of LEDC-MN s public market projects. What once was a crime ridden neighborhood characterized by boarded up buildings is today a vibrant commercial corridor that has experienced a 200 percent surge in real estate values, an increase in revenue from sales taxes of 16 percent per year and a 40 percent decrease in crime in the last 6 years. LEDC- MN provides more than 32 trainings annually, from basic fi nancial education that includes accounting, marketing, business planning and cash fl ow management to advance trainings, including strategic planning and business expansion. Beyond bilingual services offered to entrepreneurs programs are customized and developed to fi t client needs. For example, new entrepreneurs are trained according to their level of experience and education and are divided into start-ups, intermediate and advanced business instruction. Our curriculum must respond Minnesota community residents celebrate El Día de los Reyes with a piñata at the mercado. In addition to supporting new businesses, LEDC- MN places a signifi cant focus on sustaining and expanding existing businesses. Paying closer attention to stabilizing existing businesses yields greater job creation. As a result of LEDC s focus on existing businesses, staff has created a customer survey tool that assesses the individual needs of an existing 20

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