Adriana Gonzalez is the President of la Cámara de Empresarios Latinos de Houston (CELH), founded in 1994 to support the growth of established Latin American businesses in Houston (such as restaurants, gas companies, communication and publicity companies and more). We have talked with her about Latino entrepreneurs, their struggles and some advices to build their businesses while getting education.
IN: Do Latinos face extra challenges when they want to create a small business?
Yes, because we come from a type of culture that make us very impulsive. In our countries If we want to open a restaurant, we open it right away. It is difficult to understand that in other countries there is a process to be successful.
IN: How can we change the current trend?
Organisations like baMa o la CELH that give information, education and support are crucial. They need some type of organisation that is going to tell them step by step how to open a business, how to do a business plan, how to do marketing, how to invest, and how to present themselves in front of investors or panels. As baMa, at the Chamber we have several educational programs.
IN: One of your programs is the Programa de Excelencia Empresarial, can you explain us what entails?
It is a series of ten-twelve week classes where every Tuesday night at 7 pm mentors give talks about business plan, strategy, banking, etc. For example, Maria Maso is giving an investing workshop. We have an expert that is going to talk about something to do with business. At the end of these weeks, they must present in front of a panel their business plan and their business ideas. A lot of these entrepreneurs have already a business, but they have never gone through the education, the information and the support phases, so we provide them with so.
IN: Why is it important to have Latinos founders?
Mainly because they are the example for the little ones. The Latino founders are the ones to look up to, and to learn from. They can guide, show others how to get where they are and also give advice on how to put an idea in the market.
IN: At baMa we have the campaign #changingthecolorsofinvestment, and because of that we are hosting a course with CELH, can you explain which are the goals and who should attend it?
There is a lot of people with the money and the ideas that are coming to the US. baMa is then the perfect place to educate themselves and learn how to invest in start-ups that will end up being beneficial for the investors and the entrepreneurs.
IN: What can la CELH add to creating a more inclusive Latino ecosystem?
CELH can find the corporations that are inclusive and the ones where they can learn from one another. As a Harvard study shows, when there is a diverse investing board, decisions tend to be 60% better than those that have a homogeneous board. Additionally, 80% of ideas of that diverse board are doable and have success. This will ultimately create a circle of believing, investing in start-ups and reinvesting in others. We educate, we support and inform, this is the only way to help and receive the investment.
IN: baMa is a member of CELH, what are the benefits of being a member of la Cámara?
They will get education, support, and information through workshops, seminars, and promotions. We bring those corporations and small businesses to different talks and workshops to introduce themselves to the community: they educate while getting promotion and possible future clients.
IN: Have you got any advice for Latino founders that need to attract venture capitalists or investors to start their businesses?
I would recommend having everything in order. You need to show your passion straightforward, getting out your impulsiveness and making sure everything is set up (expenses, profits, and business plan). When you start a business and trying to get capital you must go step by step, do a lot of hard work while not losing you passion. You must keep in mind that you are going to make sacrifices and that you will need to surround you with experts and people that will help you in case you need them.
IN: What are some opportunities that the pandemic has given to Latinos driven markets?
The pandemic has given the opportunity to grow massively because they turned reorganized themselves. A lot of businesses I know, had to sell online, while the shops were closed and are in fact doing much better now. I have also seen opportunities to help each other’s businesses, by given advice or sharing strategies.
IN: What are the challenges of not networking face to face?
As Hispanics we have deeply missed going out and being able to physically touch the other person. Nevertheless, we did not stop having the dinners or events, we changed them to a virtual environment, and more people joined us there. Networking in person is especially important, so at the Chamber when things get slightly better, we will organize something in person.
IN: What do you want to see happening at baMa this year?
I hope that we see a lot of growth. Specially I would like to see more education on how to start investing and how to look for the right company to invest in from the Latinos perspective. baMa can grow and educate them on how to do that.
IN: Would you recommend baMa to more people?
This is a easy question: of course! The opportunity that baMa gives to start-ups and investors is monumental. baMa is a fundamental part of the circle of educating the investors and helping minority-led start-ups to get capital.
Catherine Carey, Communications Manager at baMa