Arizona is home to local business leaders of diverse backgrounds and expertise, and the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program is designed to support local Latino business owners.
Local First Arizona, a nonprofit that supports local business, established Fuerza Local to help Latino business owners strengthen their financial and business skills.
“Fuerza Local was established in 2013 and now today we have graduated nearly 400 Latino business owners,” said Tanairí Ochoa-Martínez, Fuerza Local director. “So, it is a unique six-month business accelerator program that is solely in Spanish, all of our curriculum is in Spanish and is taught by concept experts,”
Participants must attend 17 courses throughout the six-month period and there is a graduation celebration at the end where the participants are gifted a $1,000-scholarship toward their business, Ochoa-Martínez explained.
Fuerza Local offers a variety of useful lessons for business owners, including a cultural money-saving tool.
“Any good business owner needs to have a practice of savings, right? We’re showing them that a Tanda, more culturally in Latin America, is used to help people when they’re in need,” Ochoa-Martínez said.
The Tanda consists of a group joining together to gather money from the members and rotate loaning the collected money to a group member.
“It’s a very old tradition of saving money and helping people in need, but we do it the more modern way,” Ochoa-Martínez said.
The payments are reported to Experian, a credit reporting company, to help the business owners establish or build credit.
In addition to strengthening the participants’ financial literacy, Fuerza Local connects them with business leaders who can help with other professional skills.
“All the instructors are local business leaders that are bilingual and content experts and they also become mentors,” Ochoa-Martínez said.
Local business leaders help the participants improve professional skills and connect with the community. The participants can also connect with- and learn from- each other.
“It’s a really diverse mix of students that participate in the classes from the ages 18 all the way to 80,” Ochoa-Martínez explained. “It’s a really strong cohort of diversity and different backgrounds.”
Ochoa-Martínez said Local First Arizona works to “strengthen the local economy of Arizona through different aspects and we have a lot of different programming going on.”
She added, “It’s building that trust and supporting local businesses and just creating that sense of community… It’s really connecting everyone at the end of the day.”
Fuerza Local operates in seven communities and is recruiting participants. Those interested can learn more and apply at https://www.localfirstaz.com/fuerzalocal.