DENVER, Colorado — Across the country, there is a push to increase the number of Hispanic business owners. The Census reports that 19% of the country identifies as Hispanic, but they account for only about 6% of business owners.
Now, a new program is trying to increase those numbers.
“I am originally from Mexico City,” said Ana Marina Sanchez, the owner of Ana Marina Studios. “I was born and raised in Mexico City, and I migrated to the U.S. when I was fifteen years old.”
Sanchez is what some would call the American Dream. She is making a living, following her passion and is her own boss.
“I love making jewelry because it’s a way for me to connect with other people,” Sanchez said. “My work is enrooted in my cultural heritage.”
Sanchez has only been running her own business for two years. Becoming an entrepreneur can be difficult for anyone, but it can be even harder for the Latino community.
“I actually started making jewelry when I was undocumented,” Sanchez said. “I was an undocumented student, and I was getting a bachelor’s in history and Latin American studies. When I graduated, I wanted to pursue a master's, but because I was undocumented, and it was very difficult to continue to pay out of pocket so a way for me to make money and tap into my creativity was jewelry.”
According to the U.S. Office of Advocacy, small businesses account for 44% of the country’s economy.
However, the Annual Business Survey reports only 5.6 percent of those businesses are Hispanic-owned.
It's something Harry Hollines, the chief strategy officer at the Latino Leadership Institute (LLI), wants to change.
“Latino’s compute about $2.6 trillion to the GDP to the United States, and that’s still coming from 45% of small business,” Hollines said “If you remove that GDP, it could literally crush the economy today. That’s how significant the contribution the Latino community is.”
LLI launched a business accelerator program called the Latino Entrepreneur Access Program, or LEAP, because they believe the Latino and Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities are the catalysts for the future economic vitality for the country.
“When you become a more powerful tax base, it’s much bigger than entrepreneurship, you get to address other inequities in your community,” Hollines said. “About 96% of Latinos are solo entrepreneurs. Only about 4% have employees, that’s when you get growth and scale. So, how do you start to help those founders grow and scale in their program? The answer is with the access to the financial social and technical capital. And we have a fourth we identified in cultural capital.”
LEAP can help Latino entrepreneurs grow their businesses by giving access to help, resources and investors.
According to data by Crunchbase, funding to Latino entrepreneurs has stalled at about 2% of overall investment in startups.
LLI believes investing in these entrepreneurs is investing in overall Latino community wealth.
Sanchez’s business has been able to grow, and she has already hired her first remote employee to help her with her shop.
“There’s so much that Latinos can share,” Sanchez said. “But by creating their own businesses I feel like they are establishing generational wealth that can also get trickled down to future generations.”