Program aims to boost Latino entrepreneurship
Arlene Guzman had a small restaurant in Puerto Rico, but “I never felt like I had the training” to be an entrepreneur, she says through a bilingual interpreter. “This is why I sought this opportunity.”
A mother of two and grandmother of two, the 52-year-old Richmond-area resident is in the inaugural class of Richmond’s Latino Entrepreneurship Academy. Guzman’s lived in Virginia for 17 years and works for Radio Poder 1380 AM, Mount Rich Media’s Spanish-language station, where she’s a daily show host and part of the station’s administrative support. She’d like to start another food-related business after finishing the academy course.
Twenty participants are taking part in the in-person course, learning about entrepreneurship from local Hispanic business owners and financial experts. A collaboration between Richmond’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (OIRE), its Office of Minority Business Development (OMBD) and Diversity Richmond’s Viva RVA! Latinx outreach initiative, the academy is based on the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Money Smart financial education program. It started Oct. 19 and runs a total of 15 weeks until March 1, 2022.
While OMBD has offered similar programs for years, this is the first to specifically target a bilingual audience. Through the course, participants will learn about business licenses and taxes, as well as the administrative and marketing aspects of running a company.
Karla Almendarez-Ramos, OIRE’s manager, notes that many people in Central Virginia’s Latinx community are already undertaking entrepreneurial enterprises informally.
“We know the immigrant community [is] big on entrepreneurship. It’s a way for people to be self-sufficient,” Almendarez-Ramos says. “Many are single mothers, many have challenges finding child care, so being a business owner is very attractive.”
Pedro Rodriguez, a real estate broker and owner of P.E. Rodriguez Consulting LLC, says the program addresses a problem he’s seen firsthand: people opening businesses without a full understanding of the legal procedures and taxes required.
“Many people … think that it’s just opening a business. They don’t know everything that is behind that,” says the Venezuelan native, who will serve as an instructor for the academy. “This is a wonderful opportunity to be involved and try to help people.”
Guzman says she’ll be better prepared when she starts a new business. “I feel in my heart this is a way to achieve my dreams.”
This article has been corrected.