Local and national nonprofits partner on economic development program for Latinx business owners

Fuerza Local Arizona, part of the Local First Arizona Foundation, has partnered with national economic development nonprofit Interise on a new pilot program to promote economic diversity and inclusion by supporting the growth of Latinx businesses.

The pilot program is known nationally as Accelerate Latinx but locally as Nivel Ejecutivo, which translates to “Next Level Executive.” It will use Interise’s StreetWise’MBA’ curriculum to scale established small businesses to create local jobs and wealth.

“Nivel Ejecutivo is our natural next step for our alumni and their businesses,” said Tanairi Ochoa-Martinez, director of Fuerza Local. “The threshold is very specific. At a minimum, they need to be generating at least $250,000 in gross revenue, because the main point of this is scalability, is growth. We want to scale these businesses into million-dollar-revenue-generating businesses.”

Fuerza Local — Spanish for “Local Force” — is a business accelerator created by the Local First Arizona Foundation (LFAF) to train underserved Hispanic entrepreneurs on the basics of running a successful business, “promoting self-reliance and building prosperity in their communities,” according to the website.

“We have worked with over 400 successful Latino-owned businesses to provide ongoing support and mentorship to our alumni, and we are thrilled to be able to offer this advanced curriculum to many of our most advanced graduates,” said Kimber Lanning, executive director of the Local First Arizona Foundation (LFAF), in a press release.

Interise selected Fuerza Local to participate in Accelerate Latinx out of four prospective communities because of its track record with the business accelerator and its ongoing work to boost economic development of Latinx businesses exclusively, Ochoa-Martinez said.

“This initiative will contribute to Interise’s ongoing work in economic development through small business, informing both research and programming to close the Latino entrepreneurship gap,” said Darrell Byers, CEO of Interise, in the press release.

Nivel Ejecutivo takes Fuerza Local’s model further by providing local business owners practical knowledge, management training and access to capital and contracting opportunities.

The program will also teach entrepreneurs the necessary processes and requirements to become successful vendors, preparing firms to contract with local government and anchor institutions such as hospitals and universities.

“We’re the only one in the nation at this capacity that is delivering results, delivering content in Spanish to Latino entrepreneurs,” she said. “Interise was very excited to reach out so we can be the pioneers and help them lead and be think-partners in the process as well, as they are launching this Accelerate Latinx nationally.”

Nivel Ejecutivo can apply to various industries and business models, including business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) companies, Ochoa-Martinez said. The program seeks business owners who are satisfied with their progress so far but feel stuck because their growth has hit a plateau; “they’re operating well, we just want them to excel,” she said.

Latino-owned businesses contribute over $700 billion to the American economy every year,” Byers said. “And while Latinos start businesses at a higher rate than non-Latinos, they start smaller and stay smaller compared to other businesses.”

Latinx business owners are growing in numbers and opening businesses at a rapid rate, and many of them are run by Latina women, Ochoa-Martinez said.

“What we have seen, too, is that not only are they creating jobs and creating successful businesses, but [they have] an impact on the community,” she said. “A lot of them become philanthropic when they pay it forward. They get involved in the public sector and the nonprofit sector and their public schools.”

Many Latinx business owners have a knack for philanthropy, remain engaged in their communities and ultimately become mentors, Ochoa-Martinez said.

“We’re looking for Latino business owners who see themselves bigger and more successful and are open to making changes that will take their businesses to that level,” she said.

Even successful business owners with accountants on their payroll need to know their finances, Ochoa-Martinez said. It is important for owners to be able to read profit-and-loss (P&L) statements, balance sheets and other documents to be able to determine red flags and make decisions, she said.

“They’re on that track of long-life learners, and they are hungry to learn and get more of those resources and tools, because they want to keep creating that difference,” Ochoa-Martinez said.

Nivel Ejecutivo can provide the education and resources necessary to “elevate their businesses to that next level,” she said.

“I’m just excited to be able to provide this top-level MBA curriculum to their fingertips,” Ochoa-Martinez said. “A lot of them… don’t have an academic background. It’s near-impossible to even get an MBA when you don’t even have an undergraduate degree.”

Fuerza Local is joining the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Indy Chamber Hispanic Business Council and the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity on this year-long initiative, which will also receive funding support from the Kauffman Foundation.

To be eligible for the program, Latinx business owners need to have operated their business for at least three years with revenue of $250,000 to $5 million annually, and they must have at least one other full-time employee other than the owner.

Nivel Ejecutivo is set to launch in September in both English and Spanish. The online application is open now.

Graham Bosch

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