Mayra Pineda’s HCCL’s Triunfo: Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
At Tuesday’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana’s 2015 Town Hall, HCCL executive director Mayra E. Pineda said her organization helps minority owned small businesses succeed.
“If you’re an Hispanic small business owner or if you’re a corporation trying to reach out to the Hispanic community, you definitely need to be a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana,” she said. “We are at a very crucial moment where we’re growing and establishing great relationships nationwide with other corporations and other organizations that will only come back to help our community.”
At the Town Hall, sponsored by Chevron and held at the JW Marriott, local Hispanic small business owners learned more about new business opportunities, programs, effective marketing strategies, certifications, access to capital and the benefits of Chamber membership.
Pineda said her HCCL nonprofit, created in 1999 when The Louisiana Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and The Gulf Coast International Chamber of Commerce merged, is committed to establishing and facilitating a business climate within the Hispanic community, which results in economic development and progress for Louisiana.
She said the HCCL is dedicated to the expansion of trade relations between Louisiana and Latin America and its mission to foster the continued economic growth, development and promotion of Hispanic businesses and their associations throughout the state.
Pineda said they serve as the conduit between the Hispanic business community and the community at large.
“We are a value to [our members] by becoming their voice, by building advocacy in the community,” she said. “We can help them connect to other business owners and other corporations. We will fight for them. We are here to work for them. The more we are, the closer we work together, the stronger we’ll be as a community.”
She explained the Latino population surged in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. When the storm hit on August 29, 2005, more than 1 million people were displaced and thousands of small businesses were forced out of business. Pineda said the storm’s aftermath brought more than 100,000 Hispanics into the New Orleans area that proved instrumental in the rebuilding of the city.
“The Hispanic community nationwide is growing by leaps and bounds and becoming the fastest growing community,” Pineda said. “Our investment into this nation’s economy is very important. Small business is the backbone of every economy. All you have to do is take a drive down Williams Boulevard or Veterans or even on the West Bank and see all of these small businesses popping up everywhere. Those are tax dollars for those cities that weren’t there before. It’s very important to help these small business owners grow their businesses by educating them, by letting them know what the opportunities are out there through certifications, through other business seminars and education, through better skills and financial documentation that will help in their business.”
U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chairman Ignacio Veloz was the keynote speaker at the Town Hall. He said the U.S. Census predicts the Hispanic population will double by 2050.
“The buying power Hispanics have is more than $1 trillion a year,” Veloz said. “We can continue to grow, joint venture and do business together. We have a lot of opportunity. Now is the perfect time for Hispanics to grow their business.”
Veloz, whose national organization represents 3.2 million Hispanic owned businesses, 230 corporate partners and 200 local chambers, said advice for success is universal.
“You have to have your own idea and your own belief, and if you stay on those ideas no one and nothing can stop you on what you want to do,” he said. “Be positive, persistent and proactive every step of the way. Hispanics are fighters, and we don’t give up easy.”
HCCL’s Pineda said her local chapter’s membership is more than 400 strong, and they represent a mix of small businesses and corporations.
In an effort to capitalize on the growing local Latino population, the HCCL launched its Hispanic Business Resources & Technology Center (HBRTC) in March 2006.
Pineda said it’s the first such entity of its kind in the nation and was established with seed money from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the AT&T Foundation’s Casa Cyber Network.
According to agency reps, the HBRTC represents “a coalition of public and private entities utilizing a holistic approach of providing business assistance, educational opportunities and social services to the affected Hispanic community and represents a real approach to addressing ethnic cultural sensitivity and language barriers.”
The HBRTC is located on Delgado Community College’s campus and its programs include a bilingual workforce development training program and entrepreneurship training courses.
“We want to help small business owners build capacity, educate them as to what opportunities there are, and show them what certification can do for their business in trying to do business with large corporations or with the federal government,” Pineda said.
“According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, access to capital remains one of the main factors limiting the success of minority-owned businesses,” Sakari Morrison, General Manager of Public Affairs for Chevron Gulf of Mexico, said. “At Chevron, we believe that economic opportunity should be extended to as many as possible, and that companies should be reflective of the diverse customers they serve.”
“Access to capital is extremely important to small businesses,” U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Yolanda Garcia Olivarez, who was a presenter and featured speaker at Tuesday’s Town Hall, said. “In the state of Louisiana we have 126 lenders we work with, and we have agreements with them that they do SBA lending, and they’re doing it. We have 63 banks right now that have made more than 1 loan this year. And our numbers are up. We’re 20% higher than we were last year as far as SBA lending for the state of Louisiana. Right now we’ve made 211 loans, and we’ve done $105 million worth of SBA lending where a small business has obtained a SBA loan. And we’re half way through the year so we’re hoping the volume continues to stay at a steady growth. Last year we did $195 million. So with $105 million this year and with 20% growth we’re thinking we’re going to establish some pretty significant access to capital for our small businesses.”
“Even though we are the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, not all of our members are Hispanic,” HCCL’s Pineda said. “The intriguing thing happening right now is that everybody is trying to reach the Hispanic community. So we have corporations and other business owners that want to reach out to the Hispanic community and become members to seek our help in reaching out and becoming that bridge that we want to be for the Hispanic small business owners and for the corporations and all other small business owners in the area.”
HCCL membership comes with benefits, Pineda said. You’ll get discounted admission to HCCL events and a special HCCL discount purchase card to use at the Office Depot, where you can save up to 30% on office supply items. You’ll also get referrals and opportunities to network with influential collaborators including The New Orleans Business Alliance, The Asian Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, The New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, The New Orleans City Council, The Latino Council, The Political & Economic Research Council (PERC) and The Americas Society/ Council of the Americas (AS/COA).
Despite the enviable connections the HCCL can provide, Pineda said there are still many challenges for minority owned business. But, she said, they are welcome challenges.
“Challenges are opportunities,” Pineda said. “The challenges are the same for every small business owner and you’ll always encounter challenges. It’s how you confront them and how you view them and how you educate yourself to overcome them is what’s going to make the difference.”
Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana
1515 Poydras St., Suite 1010
New Orleans, LA 70112