Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Connects with Community
This past March, the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sent a clear message to the surrounding community. The region’s Latino population has evolved drastically over the last thirty years. That is why the chamber’s CEO and president, Jennifer Rodriguez, decided it was time to reach out to Latino entrepreneurs in its first ever “one-on-one" public session to learn about the challenges they face.
The session occurred at the chamber’s 29th annual members' meeting. Part of the idea stemmed from the fact that community members typically do not fill out chamber membership surveys. Groups were formed to discuss topics such as the cost of doing business, the lack of access to capital, and finding opportunities and resources that support Latino start-up businesses.
According to Rodriguez, Philadelphia already has a robust business community consisting of Dominican and Mexican members. However, there is also a growing presence of Colombian and Venezuelan start-ups. Overall, there are roughly 11,000 Latino businesses in Philadelphia. They exist in service and professional sectors such as hospitality, accounting, law, architecture, engineering and banking.
Business people came to the meeting with a wealth of ideas. One suggestion involved developing subsidized internships and fellowship programs that create jobs and professional development opportunities for people of color. Another initiative would offer one-on-one coaching to established solo entrepreneurs. Once their start-up grows enough to include employees, they will become employers, employers that can dream of a day off or a family vacation.
One problem always facing businesses with fewer than 10 employees is a lack of healthcare benefits. Another item added to the chamber’s agenda is the possible bundling of healthcare benefit packages for these businesses. As new challenges confront Latino entrepreneurs, the spirit of this groundbreaking session may continue in the form of a mentoring program. By pioneering such a program, the chamber can allow business owners to be matched with other like-minded individuals dealing with similar issues in similar industries.
The future looks bright for Latino professionals in the greater Philadelphia area. There is still plenty to be done. Recent college graduates are starving for paid internship opportunities. In order to reflect the community’s growth and represent its Latino businesses and professionals, the idea of a guide or directory was also floated at the meeting. The results of the meeting will be presented at the State of Hispanic Business report in October. This will help build the chamber’s 2019-2020 Latino Small Business Agenda. We remain committed to serving the Latino business community so return to this space for future posts.
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