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Hispanic Chamber launches MedioDía business workshops

June 19, 2015
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A series of informative and motivating business workshops begins this week to connect Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs with development resources.

The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Empowerment Committee is launching a collaboratively developed business educational workshop series known as MedioDía — Infórmate y Actívate on June 25 to provide key information and resources to Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs.

MedioDía — Infórmate y Actívate not only is designed to inform, support and motivate Latino entrepreneurs to develop sustainable and thriving businesses in the region, but it also seeks to address a language barrier concern.

Omar Cuevas, financial center manager at Fifth Third Bank and executive board member of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said planning for the workshop series was prompted several months ago when a number of stakeholder organizations in the small business development arena in Grand Rapids discussed how to strategically reach Latino business owners.

“We found out the reason why some of these organizations are not having the number of Latino business owners participate is because of the language barrier,” said Cuevas, who also serves as the chair of the education and empowerment committee.

“The Latino business owner is a growing segment in the community. We tried to find ways to reach them, and by being able to collaborate and come together, we would be able to put a series of workshops in Spanish we would deliver by using a series called ‘MedioDía — Infórmate y Actívate.’”

Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of the Hispanic Chamber, said although the region has an abundance of business development resources for entrepreneurs, there is a gap in resources for the Spanish-speaking community.

“The Chamber exists to form a connection or a bridge between the rest of the businesses in West Michigan and connect them to this booming population in the business community,” said Gonzalez. “A lot of Hispanic entrepreneurs are first generation. They speak English (and) have been in the country for 10 years or so, but they still prefer to do most of their business in Spanish.”

Leveraging partnerships with a number of organizations, Gonzalez said the Chamber developed the workshop series for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs because although the businesses may have the best products or best services, they may lack knowledge about business administration or how to leverage tax software.

“More and more Latino-owned businesses are opening their doors in West Michigan, and we are excited to partner with like-minded organizations to offer the same resources to the Hispanic community to make a significant economic impact on our region,” said Gonzalez.

Organizations that participated in designing the series include Emerge West Michigan, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Spring GR and GR Current, according to a press release.

Based on input from collaborative partners and Latino entrepreneur feedback, Cuevas said the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber selected key topics to feature at each of the workshops.

“We looked at topics like how to leverage social media for marketing, making sure the entity is set up correctly, and taking advantage of any potential tax benefits. We wanted to make sure we brought someone from our health department to talk about how to set up standard operating procedures in regard to their business and meeting health code requirements,” said Cuevas.

“Then we moved on to other things that could help business owners be more savvy in regard to taking care of their customers. We are also going to be looking at other topics, like procurement.”

Launching the series with a discussion on public relations and social media, the first MedioDía — Infórmate y Actívate will take place June 25 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at LINC Community Revitalization Inc., 1167 Madison Ave. SE.

Additional workshops will cover topics such as customer service, legal considerations and sales management.

“We are very strategic in how we set the workshops up. We wanted to make sure we helped these organizations to provide them with future clients, as well,” said Cuevas. “We will be rotating our workshops at our different partner locations … so they will have a chance to experience it and potentially see the value in continuing to work with those organizations to help their business.”

Each of the workshops is free for chamber members, includes lunch, and has a capacity of up to 30 individuals. Based on the level of interest, the Chamber is willing to develop additional cohorts to accommodate growth, according to Cuevas.

“We want to have more of an intimate setting so they have an opportunity to ask questions and make sure they have a good experience overall,” said Cuevas.

“I think we are going to find some individuals or business owners are going to start coming to these workshops and then invite other colleagues or business owners, as well, and that is a good problem to have. The idea is we want business owners, after an hour-and-a-half of instruction, to be able to go back and apply this to their business.”

The series will culminate in an Idea Pitch Competition held in December and conducted in Spanish. Spring GR, GR Current and Emerge West Michigan are partnering with the Chamber to plan the business competition, according to Cuevas.

“This is an example of true collaboration among the other organizations that someone could consider are fighting for the same clients, but at that table we really see people committed to helping entrepreneurs — in this case, Latino entrepreneurs — be successful,” said Cuevas.

“When your purpose, your objective is to do that, then the silos come down, and this is an example of organizations looking to do the right thing to have an impact in our community that will eventually lead to additional jobs that we need, and successful business owners.”

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