Latino entrepreneurs on the rise in Jackson

2013-05-04T17:50:00Z 2013-05-04T23:15:34Z Latino entrepreneurs on the rise in JacksonThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 04, 2013 5:50 pm  • 

JACKSON — When he's not at his day job in the office of a landscaping company, Mario Suclla builds websites.

The moonlight business endeavor brings in extra cash and provides an outlet for his passion. He has three clients, including Inversion Yoga.

But Suclla, who originally is from Lima, Peru, said Latino entrepreneurs like him face extra hurdles.

For many, networking is a foreign concept. That often means businesses have trouble expanding or finding new clients.

Others struggle with the obvious language barrier.

And sometimes people can't get over the stereotypes of what they think Latinos do for work: cleaning motel rooms, working construction and mowing lawns.

"You feel like some people are surprised," Suclla said of those who find out he has a Web design business.

"Because you are a Latin guy, that doesn't mean you can't use your brain or that you have to be attached to a certain job," he said.

The Jackson-based Latino Resource Center directors are hoping to help Latino business owners and aspirants like Suclla overcome some of these issues.

The nonprofit is hosting an invitation-only workshop beginning May 15. A business expert from Mexico and a representative from the Wyoming Small Business Center will be on hand to help Latino entrepreneurs understand state laws governing businesses and some of the unwritten rules of running a company in the United States.

The number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States increased by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million between 2002 and 2007, the latest year for U.S. Census Bureau statistics. Almost half of those businesses — 45.8 percent — are owned by people of Mexican origin.

While nearly one in 10 Wyoming residents is of Hispanic or Latino origin, just 2.8 percent of businesses in 2007 were Hispanic-owned. But the state's Spanish-speaking population is growing — up 60 percent since 2000. And in the town of Jackson, more than one-fourth of residents, 27 percent, are Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

The business counselors at the workshop this month also will explain how to use local resources, including the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. Area business owners will serve as volunteer mentors.

The workshop was made possible through St. John's Episcopal Church's Small Miracles program, which donated $1,500 to the Latino Resource Center. The center also is using money from its reserves.

The entrepreneurs invited to participate include a tailor, restaurateurs and construction workers. Because of the diversity, the participants' business needs and interest also vary.

"It depends a lot on the type of business," executive director Sonia Capece said.

"Some of these things, like finding your niche and expanding your market, are what we'll talk about in the workshop," she said. "How do they distinguish themselves?"

That could be important for establishments like restaurants and grocery stores, which often can look alike and sell similar goods, Capece said.

For those who deal with English- and Spanish-speaking clients, language skills and cross-cultural business etiquette are a priority.

Carmen Rodriguez, who opened a tailoring business called Alterations by Carmen about a year ago, is going to the workshop.

She gets most of her business by word-of-mouth, but she also doesn't speak much English.

As a participant in the Successful Latino Entrepreneur Program, Rodriguez hopes to practice her language skills and pick up some business tips.

"Everything I have learned and I know is through my clients," Rodriguez, 53, said through a translator.

She is able to communicate with her English-speaking clients with vocabulary she has picked up around the store. Many of her clients are return customers.

But she said learning more could help her go deeper with them.

In Chile, Rodriguez owned a sign business and often made clothes for TV shows and films. She moved to Jackson Hole three years ago and began working at Blue Spruce Cleaners.

"I missed having my own business," Rodriguez said.

She hopes the Latino Resource Center workshop will help her solidify her new company.

Suclla believes that, at the very least, such a program will bring Latino businesspeople together.

"There is not really networking in the Latino community," Suclla said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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