As Latinos grow in Grand Rapids, financial program boosts their businesses

The chamber’s accounting initiative will help change that, said Cisneros.

So that day he brought an accountant with him to sit down with the baker’s owner. The woman, Jennifer Rivas, is a refugee from Colombia who worked in small businesses there before leaving with her family.

Ebenezer and other Latino-owned companies in the program are able to pay less than market rates for the services thanks to funding from a $ 375,000 grant granted to the chamber by the WK Kellogg Foundation (Disclosure: Kellogg is a funder of Bridge Michigan and its parent nonprofit, The Center For Michigan.)

Examples of the financial education business go beyond accounting and spreadsheets: it could mean helping an owner create invoices, compare prices for supplies, or market their products and services.

The aim, according to the grant, is “to grow the growth of Hispanics and Latinx-owned companies in the Grand Rapids area by providing technical assistance with financial capacity”.

Achieving this will help overcome years of injustice.

Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. Small Business Administration said Latino-owned businesses were the fastest growing segment of small businesses in the country. However, according to a study published by the Stanford Graduate School of Business in early 2020, the chances of national bank loan approval for Latinos were 60 percent lower.

The first few months of the pandemic led to other inequalities: About 32 percent of Latino-owned small businesses in the country closed between February and April 2020, compared with 17 percent of white-owned small businesses, the SBA said. When Stanford University researchers updated their report in August 2020, they found that “Latinos have fewer resources to weather the ongoing storm”.

These companies had less cash to spend and were getting half-price paycheck protection loans from white-owned companies, the report said.

Last February, the new Biden administration changed PPP loan guidelines, sending $ 525 billion to small businesses across the country and turning some loans into grants when companies used the funds to keep workers on payroll and other expenses. Some of the changes should help Latino businesses, including a two-week application window for employers with 20 or fewer employees and the ability for non-citizens to apply.

However, despite efforts by the SBA to add funding to underserved businesses, many West Michigan Latino companies are still struggling to realize their profit potential, Cisneros said.

“I don’t think the Anglo community sees Latino businesses as successful businesses,” said Cisneros. “I’m trying to change that. We have an incredible opportunity to change that narrative. “

He cited successful Latino foods as success stories in the community and some restaurants finding ways to promote their food beyond their Latino base.

Yet in this area of ​​Grand Rapids known as the Burton Heights Business District, restaurants with handwritten signs, hair salons, and a Family Dollar are surrounded by empty storefronts for miles to the north.

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