I was momentary disillusioned after some news on recent violence and economic data, and then a gala had my cup running over with my joys….
And so the story begins- as a recovering-banker turned entrepreneur, 2015 brought me to the annual MD Hispanic Chamber Business Awards gala. NO, DON’T STOP READING… This is not a customary rubber-chicken ho-hum evening. The event was emblematic of the demographic typhoon sweeping our country. In Maryland alone, there are over 40,000+ Hispanic businesses and over 17% of the population is Latino… And 1 in 4 Kindergarteners TODAY are Latino.
Since the food is so delicious, most folks are tolerant of the population growth, but my goal today is to serve a bearer of great & positive news and resources- to highlight the business and cultural opportunities stemming from this explosive growth, and to dispel the concerns typically associated with lack of exposure.
What opportunities you say? Well, Hispanic Businesses are being established at three times the national average and these entrepreneurs will need accounting and legal service, just to name a few needs—
The growing student body and their families have over $1.5 TRILLION in purchasing power—
NOW, do you begin to see? How do YOU engage them? Sell to them??
Hispanics are NOT monolithic, not all of us speak “Mexican” nor dance Salsa. Some don’t even speak Spanish— But some common denominators include loyalty, relationship-driven and a shared culture deeply rooted in family that over-arches business and economy. Traditional marketing isn’t as effective on the Hispanic segment and there are unique opportunities.
As the evening continued, Speaker Mike Busch was acknowledged with the Chairman’s Award for promoting legislation to empower businesses; US Congressman Chris Van Hollen was the Finalist for the Legislator of the Year for his work to improve economic opportunities for minority businesses and for his involvement in opening the dialogue in the Cuba-USA Relations. The Chamber wisely acknowledged the need for a strong partnership with our legislators to ensure the business climate in Maryland is conducive to growth and as such, celebrates those elected officials whose primary platform is advancing a business-friendly Maryland.
Of course, without the support of our non-profit neighbors our community cannot thrive- House of Ruth, CASA of Maryland were among the nominees because these organizations support our folks, and not just Latinos, but ALL types of people. The awarded Finalist was The William & Lanaea Featherstone Foundation for their program to teach adult participants how to use computer and technology- in short developing a qualified work-force.
And the backbone of commerce are our businesses: The Small Business nominees included 121 Communications, David Rosario’s State Farm Agency and the named Finalist being SPAGnVOLA Chocolatiers for their ‘decadent’ cocoa manufacturing and retail operations of gourmet chocolates. I highly recommend these chocolates!!
Nominees for Business of the year included established CR Dynamics, CertaPro Painters and the named Finalist was Theresa Alfaro Daytner of Daytner Construction Group- An inspiring story of success, a woman in the male–dominated field of construction AND a Latina mother of six; Theresa is a visionary and a mentor to many!
Some unsung heroes were happily acknowledged, including the Finalist, the generous Catalina Rodriguez-Lima, the Director of Immigrants and Multicultural Affairs for Baltimore City, supporting the Mayor’s efforts to attract growth to Baltimore City; A true upcoming leader in our region.
I was joyous.
I was proud.
I was filled with potential for the future that was manifesting and in fact, had already arrived!
As we all know, this future would be accelerated with strategic partnerships and several corporations are wise to collaborate, supporting programming and events to advance these businesses, which do foster economic growth in the region. BGE was one of nominees, for their innovative Focus 25 program that cultivates businesses to become vendors for BGE; and the cycle continues- nurturing economic progress in the Baltimore Region. The Law firm of Ober Kaler was the named Finalist for their consistent and continued support of educational events to support the business community in Maryland.
A big shout-out goes to the Daily Record for having the foresight to create this platform for me to share news and stories relevant to the business community- and yes, I wrote “BUSINESS” not “HISPANIC BUSINESSES” because the resources, best practices and highlights I will cover in this column will hopefully benefit African-Americans, women, Caucasians, millennials— It’s about opportunity, ambition and the desire to succeed and that, My Amigos, crosses the boundaries of color and ethnicity.
Till next time.