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A boost for Latino startups

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A dozen Latino immigrants in Albuquerque are pursuing their dream of owning a business thanks to a new program that teaches financial management and small-business development in Spanish to aspiring entrepreneurs.

The 14-week program, run by the nonprofit education and advocacy organization Encuentro, graduated its first class of 12 participants on Monday. All of them are now pursuing either service startups such as home and office cleaning or retail businesses to sell things such as cellphones and handmade candles.

“The class has meant a lot to me,” said Antonio Casas, a mechanic who plans to launch an auto-repair shop. “It has given me information about issues related to business when I didn’t know where to go for it before.”

Encuentro, which works to empower Spanish-speaking immigrants with skills and knowledge to broaden their job prospects and improve their lives, partnered with various groups to teach the new course. That includes Prosperity Works, which manages a statewide asset-building program that offers individuals matching grants of up to $4 for every $1 a person saves.

Course participants put $100 into the grant accounts, known as “individual development accounts,” making them all eligible for $400 in matching funds that they can now use to help finance their business endeavors, said Prosperity Works President and CEO Ona Porter.

“You are the next generation of business owners to launch with individual development accounts,” Porter told the graduates on Monday. “Today, over 500 businesses in New Mexico have started with IDAs.”

Encuentro Executive Director Andrea Plaza said the IDAs, the program’s financial and business instruction and the opportunity to meet people and organizations who can assist them are all critical for Latino immigrants.

“Immigrants are huge contributors to the New Mexico economy, but many of these resources are often not available to them,” Plaza said.

Viridiana Palacios, 22, said the course gave her confidence to go from being a supervisor for Boost Mobile to a franchise owner.

“It taught me what I need to know to actually manage a business,” Palacios said.

Ramon Dorado, 51, said he and his wife will use the IDA funds and the knowledge learned in the course to expand their home- and office-cleaning business,

“Like most Hispanics, we opened our business because we know how to work hard, but we lacked the skills to actually manage and build a business,” Dorado said. “This class has taught us what we need to do.”

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