Latino business owners in Boston still lack access to vital resources

PhD. Boston’s Rosa Calcaño owns two companies, but getting them up and running isn’t easy.

Like many other business owners who attended Boston’s inaugural Latino Small Business and Entrepreneurs Summit on Thursday in Seaport, Carcano said she faced hurdles such as getting resources to resolve the legal details and banking issues of her business.

“It’s a roadmap that we lack, hand in hand. It’s a guide,” said Calcaño, who owns Better Breathing Dental Studio and runs La Cumbre Global de Liderazgo, a faith-based leadership group.

Her colleague and friend Ivelisse Minlletty is looking to open a nonprofit. “We had so many resources available in the city and nobody knew where to go,” she told GBH News. “They didn’t reveal it. It wasn’t there, so it was also very challenging. And we were very resourceful, but We still don’t know.” Minlletty said the city needs to invest more in communicating with local business owners.

Latin businesses often struggle to connect with lenders, said Jorge Andrade, vice president of commercial banking at Eastern Bank. “A lot of us are first-generation, or even just immigrants, and it’s like, ‘Who do we trust and who do we not trust?'” he said.

Carina Lopez grew up in Boston and opened her consignment clothing business Rose JP in 2018. Running her business has been a roller coaster ride, moving locations, then closing it down and reopening it again, selling only online.

Lopez, like her colleagues at the summit, said she spent hours scouring the Internet for resources to help her business, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She said she was ineligible for pandemic relief because her business was too new to qualify.

Lopez said city officials didn’t reach out by knocking on doors and meeting with businesses where they work. “People are busy running their businesses,” she said. “They don’t go out looking for stuff because you have to be busy every day.”

Speaking at the meeting in Spanish, Mayor Michelle Wu said one of her passions is breaking down barriers and giving communities access to what they need most.

When asked how to better publicize the resource, Wu said it was important “to make sure that we not only extend our outreach to the residents and businesses where they are now, but also encourage people to think about opportunities in other parts of the city, especially in It’s in the high-traffic areas of the city, where there are vacancies that need to be filled.” That’s part of the reason the event takes place at the harbour, according to event organizers.

The free summit, held for the first time this year, is hosted by El Mundo Boston and The Innovation Studio, and offers business professionals multiple information sessions on everything from marketing tips to applying for loans. The summit attracted more than 200 attendees, most of which were held in Spanish.

El Mundo President and CEO Alberto Vasallo said the summit has three goals: connect business owners with life-changing resources; ensure cities and states understand the importance of Latino small businesses; and bring Latinos to the seaport — — A neighborhood in Boston where the vast majority of residents are white.

At the start of the summit, Vasallo asked the crowd how many had never been to the harbour. About 15 hands flew. “When you say ‘harbour,’ people say ‘what is that’?” Minretti said.

To get Latinos into the harbor, El Mundo offered $50 to the first 100 registrants to cover parking and gas.

Asked about the inaccessibility of the seaport, Wu said: “We are pushing intentionally … to make sure that more of our businesses that are owned by residents of color are actually reflected in the space here. But there is still There are big gaps that need to be filled and the region is still there.”

Daniel Enriquez Vidaña, president of Innovation Studio, said the choice of the harbor location for the event was strategic, as was hosting the conference in Spanish. “Events like this will make people feel safe and comfortable to be in different places in different neighborhoods in Boston and be able to touch things they thought they couldn’t touch,” he said.

Vidaña said the biggest hurdles facing Latino businesses include accessing resources, securing funding, and preparing proper loan financial documents. Vasallo backed up that claim, saying Latino business owners have historically been denied loans or not applied at all. East Bank’s Andrade said many applicants were struggling financially with personal credit and documents when applying for a loan.

“They think that because it’s a business, my personal status really has nothing to do with it. It’s 100 percent like that,” he said.

Vidaña said that in the future he hopes to host more summits focused on specific business areas, as well as more conferences in other languages ​​such as Spanish and even Haitian Creole.

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