The SBA Salutes Hispanic Heritage Month

SBA Celebrates Black History Month

The Celebratory Webinar Features Hispanic Business Owners and Highlights Agency Resources

Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, honors the contributions of Hispanics to the U.S. economy and culture – contributions that are especially significant in franchising. Hispanic-owned franchises generate 1.6 times more sales and employ 1.5 times more people per location than their independent counterparts, according to an International Franchise Association (IFA) and Oxford Economics study. To help these franchisees network, the IFA established the Hispanic Latino Franchise Leadership Council as part of its Diversity Institute. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has also taken notice of Hispanics’ entrepreneurship and influence on the economy. 

SBA Webinar

To commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, the SBA hosted a webinar to highlight the agency’s Hispanic-focused resources and Hispanic entrepreneurs’ accomplishments. According to the Joint Economic Committee Hispanic Entrepreneurship and Business Brief, nearly one in four new businesses is Hispanic owned. The nearly 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses contribute more than $800 billion to the U.S. economy. In addition, the number of Hispanic business owners increased 34% compared to just 1% among non-Hispanic business owners. Despite this success, Hispanics still have difficulty accessing capital, a situation the SBA strives to fix. 

Following are some takeaways from the webinar and details about presenters, including moderator Gabriel Esparza, a trade specialist at the SBA.

The Panelists

Gabriel Esparza, Associate Administrator, SBA’s Office of International Trade 

Gabe Esparza, SBA webinar

As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we continue to support American small businesses in leveraging opportunities as our economy steadies and investments are made.

Esparza leads the SBA’s efforts to expand U.S. exports by providing technical assistance to small-business exporters. He is a Mexican American who has strong connections to Hispanic entrepreneurs. He pointed out that the more than 60 million Hispanics in the U.S. have more than $2.8 trillion in buying power, and if they were their own country, they would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

“As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we continue to support American small businesses in leveraging opportunities as our economy steadies and investments are made,” Esparza said. But he stated that there is more work to do and also discussed the pandemic’s greater impact on Hispanics because they tend to work in front-line industries. 

Esparza introduced the two other panelists, business owners Eduardo Ortiz and Alejandro Ramirez, who praised SBA resources and told about their journeys to business ownership. 

Eduardo Ortiz, Coforma

Eduardo Ortiz, SBA webinar

The burden to launch a business can sometimes seem insurmountable. It is not. Stick with it. It will be worth it.

Eduardo Ortiz, originally from the Dominican Republic, is CEO and founding partner of Coforma, an IT services and consulting company based in Washington, D.C. Coforma customers represent diverse industries: healthcare, immigration, veterans’ services, and voting and civic engagement. Ortiz said he has spent a lot of his adult life in what he calls civic tech. “It’s a space where a number of organizations bring services, solutions and products to work with other organizations that are providing direct critical services to people,” he explained.

Ortiz, who served in the Marine Corps from 2008 until 2016, said his digital company wasn’t slammed by the pandemic as severely as many businesses because its nearly 100 employees can work from anywhere and don’t operate on the in-person frontline. But Ortiz acknowledged that a considerable number of companies couldn’t fully function as remote businesses. “Many small businesses are still struggling to survive today,” Ortiz said. “Based on the domain in which they are operating, the impact has been different.” 

While tech-focused enterprises weren’t as harshly affected, Ortiz advised business owners to make employees as safe as possible and provide resources if they get sick. As a Latino business owner, he said he encourages his employees to support fellow Hispanics and credited his hardworking attitude to his upbringing in the Dominican Republic.

Coforma is an SBA 8(a) Business Development program-certified company, a designation for economically disadvantaged businesses that reduces competition for contracts. Ortiz networked with colleagues to discover this SBA program. Although Coforma is self-funded, he voiced the belief that institutions should help underserved communities have better access to capital by making the process less burdensome. 

For aspiring Hispanic business owners, he advised that they persist despite challenges such as language barriers and lenders’ tight purse strings. “The burden to launch a business can sometimes seem insurmountable. It is not. Stick with it. It will be worth it.” 

Alejandro Ramirez, Universal Spartan, LLC

Alejandro Ramirez, SBA webinar

The SBA has helped me out in so many ways of getting those [Hispanic- and minority-centered] contracts that I couldn’t get before.

Alejandro Ramirez is a retired U.S. Army combat officer and the owner of Universal Spartan, LLC, in Vine Grove, Ky. His company, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, markets itself as a one-stop federal government product sourcing solution for tactical, IT, medical and electrical equipment. Ramirez developed the concept of Universal Spartan to build a business that allowed him to spend more time with his family and create a legacy.

When asked how his business and the Hispanic community fared during the pandemic, Ramirez mentioned three specific struggles: employment, financial stability and supply chain disruptions. Universal Spartan adapted by migrating to virtual operations because it couldn’t rely on going to trade shows, military bases or government buildings to do business.

Like Ortiz, Ramirez and his business benefited from the SBA’s 8(a) program. To get help with starting a business, Ramirez connected with the Elizabethtown Small Business Development Center (SBDC) near the Army base where he had served and participated in the SBA’s Boots to Business program. There are 68 SBDCs around the country that provide technical assistance and more to small businesses. “The SBA has helped me out in so many ways of getting those [Hispanic- and minority-centered] contracts that I couldn’t get before,” Ramirez said. 

For assistance with government contracts, Ramirez contacted the Kentucky Procurement Technical Assistance Center. While Universal Spartan is a self-funding business now, Ramirez has nonetheless experienced difficulty accessing capital, a major obstacle for Hispanic business owners. Because Ramirez came to the U.S. from Colombia when he was 8 years old and didn’t speak English, he also knows firsthand how intimidating a language barrier can be when dealing with government contracts. Despite such challenges, he advised aspiring Hispanic entrepreneurs to be persistent, analyze and assess every risk, and have a guiding philosophy. “My goal is for all Hispanic-owned businesses to have their own leadership philosophy.” 

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Haley Cafarella is a passionate journalist and writer for IFPG. In her role as content and marketing specialist, she creates original articles for FranchiseWire and Franchise Consultant Magazine. Her specialties include educational articles about buying a franchise and franchise consulting. She also reports on franchise professionals who were recently promoted or hired through FranchiseWire’s popular HireWire series.

Haley has contributed to a variety of regional publications, including Quo Vadis, New Brunswick Today, and the Trenton Monitor. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Rutgers University.
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