The Arizona Republic
Sept. 9, 2005
Hispanic chamber links Latino business owners
Mexican candy shops like Juanita Espinoza's La
Familia Imports in south-central Phoenix are popping up all over Arizona.
The rows of imported sweet and sour lollipops and Duvalín frosting, the
bilingual signs and Espinoza's singsong Spanish lure thousands of dollars to her
Carnicerías, mortgage centers, joyerías and carwashes are opening in storefronts
and strip malls, connecting Latinos to products and people of their homelands
and changing the palates of native Arizonans.
For the first time, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is connecting these
Latino business owners with each other. The chamber last month launched
Contactos en Español, a networking event for entrepreneurs who speak mostly
Spanish. More than 250 business owners from across the Valley turned out for the
mixer at La Corona Ranch, 29th Avenue and Baseline Road.
"It was very interesting to learn more about how you can help other people in
your community," said Espinoza, 50, who runs the dulcería near Central Avenue
and Broadway Road. "And talk to other people who have businesses to see how they
The effort to pull together the businesses is unprecedented, chamber officials
said, and is overdue. Of the estimated 58,000 Hispanic-owned businesses across
the state, about 11,000 are owned and operated by Spanish-dominant proprietors,
They range from mariscos, bakeries, tire shops, art galleries, taxi companies,
public relations and marketing firms, boxing clubs, taxi businesses and
discotecas. Even La Corona Ranch, run by General Manager Alex Corona, which
hosts many Spanish language events and other culturally significant programs.
The businesses fill a cultural need but also provide jobs to hundreds and
generate millions of dollars in state tax revenue.
"They're getting to a point right now where they really do need help," said
Harry Garewal, president and CEO of the chamber. "They need to understand how to
protect their own assets. They need a CPA, someone who can help them organize at
a corporate structure . . . and protect themselves, their personal assets and
their business assets. All it takes is one fall in your restaurant and someone
to file an injury suit against you and you could lose everything you've worked
for your entire life."
Espinoza and others want to learn more about the basics of doing business in the
United States: small-business loans, health insurance, workers' compensation and
developing long-term business plans.
The chamber plans on hosting workshops for Spanish-speaking business owners over
the next five months on developing corporations, bookkeeping vs. CPAs, how to
become certified to do business at the state, local and federal levels, how to
write business plans, get loans and grow businesses, and bundling finances to
become competitive for loans.
Improving training and increasing marketing efforts will advance
entrepreneurship among Hispanics, said chamber board member Chris Hernandez,
president of Hernandez Companies Inc. and a Laveen resident.
It could eventually benefit people like Maribel Bueno, 26, who dreams of one day
opening a bilingual Latino coffee shop where students would do homework and
grandparents would read the newspaper. The mixer put her in touch with people
who can guide her through the pitfalls and frustrations of opening a small
business. For now, she's an administrative assistant for Los Olivos Car Wash at
Third Street and McDowell Road and is working to expand the business.
"(At Contactos), you get the knowledge of where to go for help," said Bueno, a
native of Mexico City who now lives near 35th Avenue and McDowell Road. "It was
interesting to see the people who were there that don't speak English, and they
were there with dreams of starting a business. We come here to start a dream
because we don't have the opportunities in our country."