By Veronica Cool @VeroCool
May 7th, 2014 -The economy is rebounding… Yet business confidence is still not on par, and this hesitancy prevents the full recovery that all are awaiting. But amidst all of this paralysis, there’s a group of entrepreneurs that are bucking the trends: The Hispanic business owner. Truly innovative and resoundingly optimistic, so much so, that Hispanics are establishing businesses at 3 times the rate of the national average based on data from the Pew Research Center.
My expectation is that this number will increase as more Latinos leverage the resources provided by agencies like the US Small Business Administration, from the loan guarantees to the bonding insurance and export/import assistance. Particularly now that Maria Contreras-Sweet has been sworn in as the Secretary for the SBA, who founded ProAmerica Bank, a Community bank based in LA and was herself an entrepreneur. Launching the Contreras-Sweet Company, she has lived, struggled, risen to the opportunities.
Her experiences will certainly shape the course the SBA in the upcoming years and as former Chairman of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of commerce, serving the 40,000 Hispanic businesses in the region, my hope is to see many more programs geared towards minority business enterprises, primarily Hispanics. There is a tremendous need for:
- Education, financial literacy – What do I need to do to establish my business the right way? Insurance? Licensing requirements? Clearly this data is available on the website and thru pamphlets. More is needed, delivered in a grassroots fashion. Outreach efforts would be more effective with a local chamber of commerce distribution strategy reaching many more entrepreneurs.
- Accessible Funding Sources Legitimate and competitively priced. Obviously great programs already exist but are hindered by regulatory constraints placed on lending partners. A secret of the banking industry is that the SBA has not modified its underwriting standards, reduced cash flow requirements or adjusted the declining-revenue trend guideline, even though these past years have pummeled businesses. TODAY, these businesses need the concessionary SBA guarantees that will mitigate the risks in the eyes of the lenders. Lenders undoubtedly must maintain a quality portfolio of loans, after all they are lending out my own money & my abuela’s hard earned savings. Plus regulators are perpetually monitoring the portfolios for any poor performance. How about a Loan Fund administered AND FUNDED by the SBA for borrowers that wouldn’t qualify for traditional loans? Modified underwriting guidelines, parameters to accommodate damaged credit history, low or negative cash flow, lack of collateral. Plainly understanding that this is an economic investment in creating viable & sustainable employers. Micro loan programs administered thru state or nonprofit agencies are not wide-reaching and the duplicative expenses across the country are simply a sad waste of resources.
- Certification & Procurement Support– with the Federal Government being the biggest contractor in the US, Hispanic businesses can benefit tremendously from 8(a), Hub zone, Women-owned and all the other certifications available. Simplifying the process and continuing to provide support during the application process is a MUST.
- Reciprocity– A coup for Contreras-Sweet would be to finally create a reciprocity system for all certifying agencies. Imagine this: Cool & Associates LLC is a Minority Business Enterprise in the eyes of Baltimore County, the State of Maryland AND the US Government with ONE application. Just ONE! And if we wish to dream and dream BIG, let the same certification be acceptable to the Private Sector companies that focus on Supplier Diversity. Who is with me?
Based on Mrs. Contreras-Sweet’s track record with the US Census, CA Transportation Agency and ProAmerica Bank she has a wealth of expertise to successfully re-launch the SBA as the economic vehicle that can not only stabilize the American economy but begin the era of prosperity, especially for Hispanic Businesses.
Veronica Cool is the founder of Cool & Associates LLC, a business management firm specializing in financial wellness & effective diverse segment marketing. A Social Entrepreneur hailing from the Dominican Republic with over 20 years of commercial banking experience, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @verocool.