Small Business

Strengthening Latino Business Ecosystems: 2021 Aspen Latino Business and Entrepreneurship Summit Recommendations

March 11, 2022  • Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program

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On October 27, 2021, the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program (AILAS) hosted the inaugural Aspen Latino Business and Entrepreneurship Summit in Washington, DC convening more than 160 local and national leaders from the business, policy, philanthropic, and civic sectors—both in person and virtually. Summit panelists and speakers represented top local leaders and decision-makers from participant cities of the City Learning and Action (Phoenix, San Bernardino, Chicago, El Paso, San Antonio, and Miami), alongside other national Latino and Non-Latino leaders. The event created a unique platform for these leaders to convene, share and explore intentional strategies and innovative solutions to foster the economic resilience and power of Latino business owners and entrepreneurs in cities and communities throughout the United States. 

Strengthening Latino Business Ecosystems summarizes the rich knowledge shared and outlines the recommendations stemming from those conversations to inform the work of those supporting our nation’s Latino entrepreneurs and small business owners. It includes actionable and intentional steps around supporting Latina entrepreneurs, using procurement as a critical driver of growth for firms, developing the Latino workforce, accelerating digital inclusion, and increasing access and availability to capital. 

All the recommendations are summarized in the chart below, but there are also significant themes cutting across all the sections. Those themes are:

  • Providing the right type of capital (i.e. debt, equity, grants) and tailored capital products to Latinos throughout the lifecycle of their business should be prioritized.
  • There is a great opportunity for accelerating digital training in new tools and understanding of core business processes.
  • Latinos need more support to navigate the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certification process. 
  • Latino representation is needed at C-Suite and Senior levels to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion is achieved.
  • Promoting social capital in the Latino business community through mentoring and access to networks. 
  • Developing cross-sector partnerships to support Latino-owned businesses in a holistic way with strong first-mover input from the Latino community.
  • Reimagining Latino business ecosystems at the local level requires intentionality and a high level of cultural competency.
UNLEASHING THE POWER OF LATINA ENTREPRENEURS
  • Increase access to capital
  • Provide more training, capacity, and resources for Latinas
  • Improve access to high-speed broadband internet
  • Provide help navigating the certification process
  • Support integration, ease of business connections, and help overcoming cultural hurdles
  • Promote mentoring from other business leaders
PREPARING WORKERS FOR THE JOBS OF TODAY AND TOMORROW
  • Learn about all jobs as early in the education journey as possible
  • Develop educational partnerships with the government around key growing industries
  • Increase skills through a variety of programs, not just baccalaureate programs
  • Create training programs with input from employers, educators and support organizations
  • Offer training for the whole family
  • Ensure representation of Latinos is at all levels, not just in the workforce
ELEVATING LATINO CONTRACTING TO CORPORATE AMERICA
  • Expand DEI from the procurement department to the company culture
  • Unbundle projects to ensure they allow small businesses to compete
  • Overcome unconscious biases and be willing to share business opportunities
  • Streamline the certification process
UNLEASHING THE HISPANIC BUSINESS POTENTIAL THROUGH DIGITAL INCLUSION
  • Provide capacity-building resources that are offered in Spanish and English
  • Improve access to business consultants and mentors around a holistic digital strategy
  • Ensure business owners know how to protect their data by fostering inclusive tech ecosystems and cybersecurity protections
  • Create a centralized repository of entrepreneurial resources to build tech capacity
  • Support for students in tech programs, including paid internships and tech apprenticeships
  • Give unrestricted tech funds that will put flexible capital into Latino entrepreneurs
  • Foment cross-sector partnerships between businesses and community colleges
ACCESS TO CAPITAL TO SCALE LATINO-OWNED BUSINESSES: A SYSTEMIC PERSPECTIVE
  • Encourage CDFIs to focus more squarely on the lifetime capital needs of small businesses
  • Issue specialized funds that can be deployed into minority communities
  • Establish stronger and more inclusive connections between infrastructure projects and the communities they serve
  • Design specialized entrepreneurial training that meets business owners where they are
  • Give Latino businesses room to fail so owners can take more of the calculated risks necessary for growth
ACCESS TO CAPITAL TO SCALE LATINO-OWNED BUSINESSES:
A PERSPECTIVE FROM THE FRONT LINES
  • Build strong relationships in the banking community
  • Foster an intentional Latino entrepreneur ecosystem with a full continuum of business resources
  • Let the success of the Latino business community speak for itself
  • Listen to what the community needs
  • Keep strong relationships between capital providers and business-owners for continued future success
  • Invest in the next generation through mentorship and training programs in early education

If you missed the 2021 Latino Business and Entrepreneurship Summit, watch the videos here!