Latino Entrepreneurs on Track for Success
With jobs still scarce in the current economy, many Iowans are creating their own employment — particularly important in Des Moines, Henry, Lee, and Louisa counties, where unemployment ranges from 5.8 to 10.7 percent and poverty rates range from 11.2 to 14.7 percent. Many reports on economic development predict that by the year 2015, more than 20 percent of America's rural population will be self-employed. In southeast Iowa this growing entrepreneurial economy includes many of Iowa's newest residents, enterprising Latino immigrants in small communities who are very diverse in age, skills, and education. Economic developers, service providers, and educators are realizing that one set of guidelines and services' may not meet the needs and concerns of these diverse entrepreneurs.
According to the Ewing Kauffman Foundation, investments in entrepreneurship education often will lead individuals on a path to self-sufficiency, preparing them to hold good-paying jobs, raise their families, and become productive citizens. Marketing skills, business skills, and mentorship are critical components to entrepreneurial success.
ISU Extension supports economic growth and works to improve quality of life by encouraging business development, helping to create jobs, and expanding entrepreneurial activity. In July 2010 the New Iowa Center approached staff at ISU Extension and the Small Business Development Center in an effort to collaborate and offer micro-enterprise/entrepreneurship training for Latino business owners. The group decided to use First Step FastTrac® material from the Kauffman Foundation to help provide entrepreneurship and business education specifically targeted to Latino entrepreneurs.
With the help of a grant through the Community Vitality Center, the classes were offered for 11 weeks in the fall of 2010. The grant provided funds to purchase books and handouts and reimburse guest speakers for travel expenses. First Step FastTrac® classes began in September 2010 and covered topics including business concepts, feasibility plans, products and services, market analysis, cash flow, sales projections, and profitability.
Last year Hispanic-owned Iowa businesses generated sales receipts of $288 million and had a combined payroll of $54 million. The ten participants in the First Step FastTrac® class represented a diverse group of current and perspective businesses ranging from party supply to insurance, retail, taxi, engineering, import/export, and construction. The New Iowan Center provided translation for the group when necessary and the curriculum was available in English and Spanish. During the course of the program, participants met with representatives from local financial institutions and economic development organizations, as well as successful entrepreneurs and mentors.
The group was uniformly positive about the training and several participants plan to attend further training on Quick Books and account management. Participant comments included the following:
- "I hope to open an engineering consulting business and this helped me think about the steps I need to take to get there. How will I price my services? How will I market and expand my business?"
- "I learned how to market and sell my product."
- "Location is very important in retail and I am going to be very cautious about signing a contract for my new business."
- "I have always dreamed of owning a business and now I do. This class introduced me to a lot of resources to help me start my construction company and get connected with the right people. I now employ five people fulltime and we have a long-term contract. The future looks pretty good!"
Mary M. Weinand, ISU Extension Family Resource Management Specialist, 319 931-5087
Himar Hernandez, ISU Extension Community Development Specialist
Janine Clover, Small Business Development Center
Victor Oyervides, New Iowan Center