Latino small businesses are still among the fastest growing segments of the U.S. market with more than 3 million companies and a huge potential of new opportunities.
For the tenth year in a row, The Latino Coalition (TLC) will partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to present America’s Small Business Summit in Washington D.C. in June to discuss the challenges.
Hector V. Barreto, chairman of The Latino Coalition, spoke with VOXXI about the importance of this year’s Small Business Summit as well as Latinos’ growing role in business ownership across the U.S.
Activities and events at the June summit are designed to encourage new small business partnerships and to provide guidance and inspiration to company owners or contributors. Items on the agenda include numerous speakers, daily breakout sessions, a Young Entrepreneurs Academy Competition, and B2B National Procurement Matchmaking.
Latinos in Business
As chairman of The Latino Coalition and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Barreto has plenty of experience advocating for Latinos in business.
He explained that the first day of this year’s Small Business Summit is comprised of “what we’d call Latino Coalition Day. That day, we’re really going to focus heavily on what’s happening in the Latino community. It’s still one of the fastest growing segments of business in the U.S., with 3 million companies. That means about $500 billion in sales, and the segment is growing quickly. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of need and a lot of opportunity for Latinos in small business.”
New Opportunities: Energy and e-Commerce
Barreto noted that energy and e-commerce represented two exciting areas of expansion at this year’s summit.
Discussing the importance of energy, in particular, the TLC chairman explained a first for the event: “We’re going to have, for the first time, a major panel on energy. We believe energy is going to be one of the new economic booms in the country, and more and more businesses are going to get involved in the energy sector. We want to make sure that small businesses are seated at the table and get those opportunities.”
Barreto also pointed out the increasing importance of an online presence in entrepreneurship: “One of the opportunities we want to talk to small businesses about this year is e-commerce. This is a one trillion dollar industry worldwide, but a lot of small businesses still struggle with ‘how do I build my website, how do I create a shopping cart, I need someone to help push traffic to my site’…”
He went on to explain that one of the ways for businesses to do just that is to look into Lucrazon, which is essentially “e-commerce in a box: all of those things I just mentioned can be provided for you in this package.”
Several agenda items during the summit speak directly to online marketing and presence, including Wednesday’s breakout session on “Online Reputation Management” and Thursday’s general session with speaker Jim VandeHei, who will discuss “Rising to the Top of the Digital Media Industry.”
Wednesday’s agenda will also feature a Young Entrepreneurs Academy Competition Luncheon, during which six finalists from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.
Barreto discussed the importance of supporting children and teens who might go into business: “We want to motivate and inspire young people so they understand that one of their options is to be their own boss. A lot of young folks are very creative, very innovative, they’re motivated, and they want to do something on their own.”
“You know, my father, Hector Barreto, used to say ‘When we go to the bank and ask for a loan, they say we don’t have a track record. But I’m never going to have a track record, because they never give me a track to run on.’ So part of what we’re trying to do with young people is give them a track to run on: give them that motivation, that foundation. Even if they don’t go into business for themselves, we think we’ll prepare them well for whatever they end up doing.”
Supporting Small Businesses: The Four C’s
Looking at America’s Small Business Summit as a whole, Barreto hopes that attendees will walk away with the “four C’s: capital, capacity, contracts, and…[lowered] costs.”
He explained a few of those goals further: “At these events, we present them [businesses] with the tools they need to succeed. Small businesses need access to capital, so we help facilitate access to loans; they need capacity building, so we do a lot of training through small seminars.”
In talking about lowering costs and getting contracts, Barreto pointed out that dealing with increased regulations can be very expensive for small businesses and can take up time that might otherwise be used to secure contracts or network. The summit will include a regulatory panel, during which experts will “work with small businesses on some of the key regulatory issues.”
Finally, the TLC chairman noted that he hopes the summit will “turbocharge the small businessman or woman.”
“One of the things I learned at the Small Business Administration is that a lot of businesses don’t make it past the first four years because they don’t know what they don’t know. Our goal is surrounding small businesses with the tools and information they need so that they can be successful past those first four years…those small businesses are the engine of America, and it’s critical that we support them over the long term.”
America’s Small Business Summit will be held from June 11th-13th; participants can register on The Latino Coalition’s website.