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SBDC expanding help for Latinx-owned businesses

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Feb 22, 2022

Lake County has a large Latinx population, with many being small business owners in their communities. The Illinois Small Business Development & International Trade Center (SBDC) at College of Lake County (CLC) has not offered Latinx-owned businesses all the resources to fit their needs and thanks to feedback from the Latinx community through the new Hispanic Business Support & Resource Forum, is working to improve its services. 

Latinx business woman

SBDC Manager Mitch Bienvenue said that despite the large number of Latinx-owned businesses, not many are taking advantage of the resources available at the SBDC. 

“People in Lake County have been telling me that many are not stepping forward for help, especially last year in 2021,” Bienvenue said. 

During the pandemic, many grant and loan programs have been available to small businesses, and a lot of Latinx businesses had trouble obtaining them. Bienvenue pointed toward some basic, fixable issues discovered during the forum as the reasons for this, including proper bookkeeping. 

This led to the forum’s creation, with meetings beginning last fall. Twelve organizations were invited, and so far, Bienvenue said, eight have been able to come. The organizations are ones whose clients are Latinx people and business owners and can effectively reach the community. Some small businesses have also been able to attend. 

“The group is growing,” Bienvenue said. “People are starting to take notice of what we are doing. It’s going to take time for people to open up. We didn’t expect the workshops to be filled up right out of the gate.” 

Several issues have been identified by the organizations involved during the quarterly meetings: general business knowledge gap, poor credit scores, limited access to funds and leveraging of the SBDC’s collective communication networks. 

Changes have already started happening within the SBDC itself to better support Hispanic-owned businesses, especially those who speak primarily Spanish. A Spanish language version of the Business Startup Checklist was created, there are now monthly offerings of a Spanish language version of Starting Your Business in Illinois and the BizHub B2B resource tool is translated into Spanish. 

Bienvenue said there are a lot of plans getting ready to start soon. These include Spanish-language workshops for repairing credit scores and bookkeeping, ESL training for business owners to expand their clientele and Spanish language assistance for loan and grant programs. 

“I hope we get to a point where we’ve multiplied the number of Latinx-owned businesses who go to the SBDC and other resources in Lake County for help,” Bienvenue said. 

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.