It’s not uncommon for banker Lucy Escobar to encounter potential clients with shoe boxes full of receipts from their businesses.
“They’ll understand that they have to pay taxes, but they don’t know where to start,” said Escobar, a Key Bank manager.
Helping members of the Latino community move and take their business to the next level is precisely why Escobar and others have formed the Latino Business Alliance (LBA). Assisting businesses in transition is just one of many goals the organization is intent on meeting, said Jose Gonzalez, a broker with Tu Casa Real Estate Corp.
“We want to connect people within the business community dealing with the same issues, sharing information and learning from each other, but we also want to be educating other businesses and organizations about culturally competent community outreach,” Gonzalez said.
The founders plans on offering its services to any organization – business, non-profit, or school – in the Mid-Willamette Valley interacting with the Latin community.
Maintaining a sense of cultural competence was one of the reasons LBA founders were careful in selecting their name. Business organizations in the U.S. are often labeled as “chambers,” but such a word would likely drive members of the Latino community away rather than invite them in.
“‘Chamber’ is an elitist word [within Latino communities] and the word ‘alliance’ connotes understanding and sameness,” said Baltazar Molina, a broker with Tu Casa and another founding member of the group.
Latino members of the Willamette Valley community face many barriers as they attempt to do business, some are self-imposed, others originate within the community ethos, and some come as the result of ignorance, Molina said.
“Part of our job is building confidence within the community and reminding people that they can be treated with dignity and respect,” he said.
One aspect key building that sense of respect is ushering Latino business owners into the next stages of their business, Escobar said.
“The Latino community doesn’t have the support that is sometimes needed when you’re preparing to start a business,” she said.
Gonzalez added that many Latino business owners simply don’t think of their businesses as a business.
“Most businesses are started to give themselves a job, they look at it as a job,” Gonzalez said. “It could be anything form the landscaper working out of his truck to the business down the street that’s been there for years – sometimes their accounting system is what they have in their back pocket.”
By setting down stakes at the intersection of commerce and community, the founders of the LBA are hoping to create an interconnected community that strengthens not only the Latino population, but Salem and beyond.
They are actively recruiting new members and looking for individuals capable of representing Latino businesses in outlying communities.
“When you become a trusted resource in the Latino community, they come to you for all sorts of reasons,” Gonzalez said. “We want to reach the point where people in the community are asking organizations why they aren’t members of LBA.”
For more information about the Latino Business Alliance, visit e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-895-1239.