DENVER — The Colorado-based Latino Leadership Institute (LLI) kicked off its first cohort of business owners and advisory board members of a program that aims to take Latino-owned businesses to the next level.
The program, Latino Entrepreneur Access Program (LEAP), is a free program now being used by 11 Colorado-based entrepreneurs – nine of them identify as Latino, and the other two within BIPOC.
The institute claims it's a first-of-its-kind Latino and BIPOC "business accelerator" in the state that focuses on entrepreneurs, whose businesses are beyond the start-up stage.
"We're looking at opportunity gaps and where Latinos are significantly underrepresented," said the institute's Chief Strategy Officer, Harry Hollines.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 6% of the country's businesses are Hispanic-owned, while 11.1% of small businesses in Colorado are Hispanic-owned.
"We know that business, small business ownership is one of the main vehicles to create wealth and intergenerational wealth and Latinos are significantly underrepresented," Hollines said.
Hollines hopes that the program could kick off a domino effect to create generational wealth, which advocates have said in the past acts as a barrier also toward home ownership.
"We know that diverse founders hire diverse workforces," he said. "That diverse workforce takes their paycheck back into their communities. That community starts to become a much greater and powerful tax base. And from that then it becomes the domino effect is even beyond entrepreneurship. Then communities can start to address other inequities that they deal with in their community."
The program offers professional mentorship for coaching by, "...a paid advisory board of 47 CEOs, business leaders and subject matter experts across the globe."
In the case of Hamilton Bolduc, his online business Content Machine, which connects freelancers to bigger companies who need help with things like advertising and content creation, already has hundreds of users.
“It’s really about getting the highest quality talent connected to like the brands and startups," he said.
Bolduc is now in the first cohort of business owners under LEAP.
"Seeing programs like this start to pop up, you know, it kind of tells you like – things are evolving and there's more opportunity to make those connections," he said.
His father was born and raised in Puerto Rico and then moved to the states to go to New Mexico State University where he met Bolduc's mother.
"We've been fortunate to be a really great melting pot. And now we're just kind of spread out all over the country," he said.
Overall, both Bolduc and Hollines believe working with a community that shares a similar background is beneficial, and hope the program helps give businesses a lift.
"And then we want young Latinos to see, "Oh, I can do that and I can achieve," and so it's such a vast impact that you can make. Yes, it's about business, but it's about community also," Hollines said.
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