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New initiative hopes to boost entrepreneurship in West Michigan’s Latino community

Mar 13, 2017

The Next Idea

West Michigan's got a bigger Latino population than the state average, but the number of Latino-owned businesses in the region has not been keeping pace.

Ferris State University wants to change that with something called the Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (LEI).

Carlos Sanchez is director of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State. 

Carlos Sanchez is director of the Latino Business and Economic Development Center at Ferris State University.
Credit Courtesy of Carlos Sanchez

According to Sanchez, there are a number of barriers that are keeping the number of Latino businesses down in West Michigan. A lack of funding and access to capital might be the biggest, but he said they just need to start planting seeds in the community.

"We know that a lot of businesses, Latino or non-Latino, fail within the first year. But it's a little more pervasive in the Latino community ... because of, sometimes, knowledge," said Sanchez. "The lack of knowledge of the business, or the lack of knowledge of the customer. So that is what we are trying to help with this initiative."

The LEI is working with a curriculum developed by a Chattanooga-based organization called "Co.Starters." The idea is to boil the lessons down to the basics with the hope of giving people the tools they need to determine if they have what it takes to make a successful business.

They offer help with financing, marketing, developing a business plan, and setting realistic and achievable goals.

There are plenty of resources available for people looking to create a start-up in the tech industry, but the LEI is focusing on "lifestyle businesses" like restaurants, barber shops, painting, framing, and construction. 

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about the curriculum, and how these classes differ from taking a typical college course and how they break down some important barriers for the Latino community in West Michigan. 
 

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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