FORT COLLINS, Colo. — In Fort Collins, a group of Latino business owners are banding together to provide more support and resources both for each other and those wanting to start a business in the area.
Of the 7,000 businesses registered in Fort Collins, 7-10% of those are Latino-owned, according to data provided by Jose Luis Ramos, a Bilingual Business Specialist for the City of Fort Collins.
Some of those business owners have started the Northern Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce, which serves those in the region.
One of the board members is Melissa Zuñiga-Torres who, with her family, has run several small businesses in the Fort Collins area.
“We want to help the new businesses get started, how to be successful, how to not get stuck," she said.
Alongside her family inside her store, Nieves y Botanas del Bajio, she reflected on the new microscope that was put on the longtime barriers for Latino business owners, and Latinos trying to start a business, when the pandemic hit.
“There were so many resources and so many grants that we had given out and we had no ideas what these were or how to get to them," Zuñiga-Torres said.
She said a language barrier has also played a role for a while for Latino business owners.
“I think this all started again because of the lack of information to those who don’t speak English," she said.
One of the goals of the chamber is to house a culturally-supported network for Latino business owners to lean on when needed.
"How to open a business how to get your retail license, how to apply for something online, a lot of these people don’t have computers or knowledge of how to use the internet," she said. “We want to help the community and help our businesses grow – how to have marketing, have those resources available to them."
She added that a Latino-focused chamber could also help make business owners more comfortable to network.
“A familiar face and somebody who knows that they can help them – somebody whose been through this to help them," she said.
Down the street, Connie's Hair Salon has stood for more than 20 years.
While small in size with just one chair, she said it's all about serving the community.
“It’s not about having a fancy-shmancy spot – its more about giving a good service and offering up a good haircut," owner Connie Martinez said as she finished an appointment with a customer.
While there already is the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, Martinez said she felt that a Latino-focused chamber would help businesses in the long run.
“So the benefit is it’s really nice to be able to network within our community," she said. "I feel like it’s nice to have support from your people - you know? And people that actually know your business."
Overall, she said she hopes the chamber grows and allows small Latino-owned businesses to be recognized more.
To register for the chamber, click here.
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