According to a Hispanics in Business 2014 study, Latino-owned businesses across the United States are growing more than twice the national average since 2007. The growth is significant because it shows that Latinos are increasingly becoming a major source for employing America’s workers and thereby becoming even more essential to the health of the U.S. economy.
“We are not only noting how many Latino businesses are in Dane County, but we are really paying attention to just how different Latinos are – there are cultural Latinos, first-generation Latinos, immigrants … they all have different needs and they all have a different visions for what they want Dane County to look like in the future,” Mayra Medrano, president of the Latino Chamber of Commerce, tells Madison365. “That’s why the Latino Chamber of Commerce is so important in Dane County; so we can have conversations with all these different types of Latinos and help them utilize our local talent to help their businesses.”
The successes of Latino-owned businesses and entrepreneurs will be celebrated at the Latino Chamber of Commerce Annual Gala this Saturday, Feb. 13, at The Edgewater Hotel in downtown Madison. Four “Latin@preneurs” will be honored at the event. “Two of them already have been announced and two are being kept a secret so that it adds to the suspense factor of the gala,” Medrano says.
Founded in 2003, the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County represents the Latino and non-Latino business community in the greater Madison and surrounding cities. They assist and promote the interests of its members and community through advocacy and programs that make an overall impact to Dane County’s economic growth. The diverse relationship of its active members and partners includes small business owners, corporate representatives, and government leaders.
The Latino Chamber has been busy building partnerships in Madison including, most recently, the Healthy Retail Access Program, which works with the South Madison Farmers’ Market, Center for Resilient Cities, and Mercado Marimar grocery store on S. Park St. “We know that there are these food deserts throughout the city of Madison and some of them are in the areas of communities of color where people simply don’t have access to healthy foods and produce,” Medrano says. “How can we build those partnerships so Mercado Marimar grows as a business and provides healthy food to the Rimrock Road corridor? That’s what we’re doing with the Healthy Retail Access Program. The Latino Chamber want to keep doing this kind of civic engagement and developing partnerships to not only help businesses but to help the overall community.”
The Latino Chamber of Commerce provides many services including business assistance, mentoring, consulting, workshops and seminars. Medrano sees a lot of Latin@preneurs at their starting points who need help getting launched in Madison but she also sees people coming to the Chamber to help take their businesses to the next level.
“We’ve had a lot of Latin@preneurs who have had successful businesses for ‘x’ amount of years that have a primary customer base that is almost all Latino but are looking to throw their net over a larger area,” Medrano says. “The Latino Chamber of Commerce can help them in many ways whether it be helping them with their marketing plan, with their networking, or finding the people that they need to talk to … something they wouldn’t have had thought about prior.
“The Latino business owner is always changing and evolving and we have to make sure that we are meeting all of their needs,” she adds.
Volunteers have been a large part of the Latino Chamber of Commerce’s success and Medrano says that she will be sure to honor them at the Gala Banquet event.
“Volunteers have been a very integral part to the success of the Latino Chamber of Commerce and we want to be able to thank them and honor them for their countless amount of hours they have devoted throughout the year to us,” she says.
Sarah Sosa-Acevedo will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award. Sosa-Acevedo was a volunteer consultant on the 2015 Latino Art Fair at the Overture Center where over 400 people attended to see unique creations by Latino artists. As a result, two Latino artists were featured in a three-month exhibit at the Overture Center. Sosa-Acevedo oversaw the installation of the exhibit.
“Sarah did incredible work on the Art Fair and she helped us bring in all of the local Latino artists and figure out what they needed from the Chamber,” Medrano says. “She helped them sell their artwork that day. It was just such an important event to show our community just how much talent we have in our area.”
The LCC will also honor Latin@preneurs of the year and Latino Business of the Year. “Those are the surprise awards,” Medrano says. “Not even the winners know that they’ve won!”
Jorge Hidalgo, owner of Hidalgo Autos and Wilde East Towne Honda, will be the keynote speaker. “Jorge will sharing some of his perspective on how he became a professional with Harley Davidson and how he realized that he wanted to become a Latin@preneur and he opened up Wilde East Honda,” Medrano says. “He’ll talk about his background and his vision.”
The event will also involve great networking, great food, and great music. “And with any Latino event, you know there’s always some dancing involved,” Medrano smiles.
Medrano hopes to see some new faces at the event.
“I always reference Oscar Mireles’ book I Didn’t Know There Were Latinos in Wisconsin when I get to meet all of these Latinos who have been very hard working and humble and behind the scenes,” she says. “I think that it’s important that the millennials and younger realize that we have great entrepreneurial talent here in Madison and they paved the way for us.”
The event will also be a great chance to network and for community members to learn about the Latino Chamber of Commerce.
“Our number-one goal moving forward is working on growing our capacity to meet the needs of our changing demographics,” Medrano says. “We want to keep working to increase our membership, too, but what I really want to focus on is the value-added services piece. We want to make sure that we can walk into a Latino business and easily show them all of the tangible benefits and the tangible results from being a member of the Latino Chamber of Commerce.”
The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County will host its 2016 Gala Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Edgewater Hotel. Cocktails start at 5:30 p.m.; dinner and awards program at 7 p.m. followed by Hora Loca at 9 p.m.