Website supports Latino entrepreneurship

Four success stories, business advice, resource directory among state website’s features

Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 3, 2015

As part of a statewide economic development strategy, Gov. Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation launched a website specifically aimed at empowering Latino entrepreneurs, according to an October press release.

The website features a resource directory with information on Latino-run small businesses, how to procure loans and other tools to help new businesses establish themselves, as well as four case studies of entrepreneurs in the local community. By connecting potential Latino business owners with established members of the Rhode Island Latino entrepreneur community, the site aims to foster collaboration and to encourage new economic growth, the press release said.

Part of the Commerce Corporation’s motivation for establishing the website was to respond to Providence’s rapidly-growing Latino business-owner community, which quadrupled in size to nearly 3,000 between 1997 and 2007, according to the corporation’s website.

The Latino community is the “fastest-growing population of entrepreneurs and small businesses,” Raimondo said at the website’s launch event, the Providence Journal reported in an Oct. 14 article.

The launch of this site is also related to the governor’s goal to increase business activity in the state.

“My number one priority is to make it easier for companies to do business in Rhode Island,” Raimondo said in the October press release. “Our economy is energized by entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. I am excited to launch this initiative and website to help Latino businesses flourish in our state.”

The site has a more personal and targeted focus than the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation site, with the explicit goal of inspiring potential entrepreneurs in the Latino community.

One way the site aims to accomplish this goal is by featuring successful Rhode Island Latino entrepreneurs in a variety of fields­ — including architecture, cuisine and dentistry — in short videos. Each entrepreneur will tell his or her personal story and provide recommendations for specific business tactics, share inspirations and identify the greatest difficulties they have faced as Latino entrepreneurs.

Luis Torrado, owner and president of Torrado Architects, is one of the four “faces of Latino success” highlighted on the site. An active member in Providence’s Hispanic community, Torrado said he feels that he has achieved his own American dream and wants to help other members of the community achieve theirs.

His office is active in local community issues, Torrado said, and often provides visits for students from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds, aiming to expose them to the many opportunities available in the construction and architecture fields.

Though Torrado has not noticed any immediate impact of the website, he said that he imagines the site will give rising entrepreneurs “a sense of hope.”

“Starting a new business seems like such an impossible task. … (It’s) good to see that Latino entrepreneurs have done it and have been successful at it,” Torrado added.

A commonality Torrado said he has found among all of the featured success stories on the website is the passion and enthusiasm each entrepreneur has for what he or she does.

“If you go forward with what you’re passionate about, the likelihood of you being successful is extremely (high),” Torrado said.

By providing potential entrepreneurs with access to mentors and information on business skills training, Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor said he thinks the Latino Commerce Corporation website will provide Latino businesses with the support and access they need to succeed, according to the press release.

Rhode Island is one of the first states in the region to provide a statewide resource geared toward encouraging Latino business growth.

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and the Rhode Island Latino Commerce Corporation did not respond to multiple interview requests, and Chef Cesin Curi of Los Andes restaurant — another featured individual on the website — was unavailable for comment by press time.