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Hispanic Businesses on the Rise Locally, Nationally

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There’s proof in the numbers about what you think you may be witnessing in the world around you: Hispanic-owned firms are growing faster than the national average — for all businesses. They’ve generated about $486 billion in revenues during 2016, according to a report by the research firm Geoscape.

Data shows the Hispanic share of all new entrepreneurs is 20.8%, compared to 10% a decade ago. Since Hispanics represent 18.4% of the U.S. population, Geoscape found that Hispanics have a greater tendency to become entrepreneurs. They are the fastest growing portion of the workforce and are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to start a new business, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.

This trend is even more pronounced on a regional level, with one of the fastest growth areas for Hispanic business in the South Atlantic, extending from Maryland to Florida.

Geoscape CEO Cesar Melgoza said one of factors in this growth is that the Hispanic population in the U.S. has been growing very rapidly.
“Another factor,” he said, “is that this population of Hispanics tends to be younger, and they are more likely to start businesses in their 20s and 30s.”

A third factor, he said, is the fact that, in many cases, Hispanics may not be as likely to be engaged by a company for a variety of reasons, partly because they may lack a personal network. “So the doors are not always open,” said Melgoza. “They create other necessary options. They build their own door.”

From the Incubator

Carolina Seldes, CEO and founder of the tech firm ITnova, based in Anne Arundel County, makes every effort to help build those doors for her fellow Hispanic entrepreneurs. ITnova, founded in 2011, provides software technology to the U.S. government, as well as state and local governments.

Seldes serves on the board of both the Center of Help and Anne Arundel Community College. “We were born in the incubator at Anne Arundel Community College,” said Seldes. “Now we have come full circle, and I want to help others.”

The Center of Help has been assisting Hispanic-Latinos and other immigrants socially, educationally and economically in Anne Arundel County since 1999. The center doesn’t focus specifically on entrepreneurs, said Seldes, but on education and skills for the Hispanic community. “There is a strong focus on English as a second language for kids and adults,” she said.

Seldes, who is from Colombia, said she sees many Hispanics connecting with jobs in restaurants, housekeeping, and heating and air conditioning repair.

Seldes first began her career in Colombia, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Javeriana University of Colombia. “I came here with experience in my career, and I was CEO of a company in Colombia.”

For a Better Life

At the Center of Help, Board President Dr. Rudi Rodriguez talked about his own observations of how Hispanic entrepreneurs are flourishing. “Drive down Forest Drive [in Anne Arundel County] and you will see all kinds of Hispanic businesses,” he said.

Rodriguez, like Seldes, comes from an established career and is giving back to help Hispanic business owners succeed. He practiced emergency medicine for more than 20 years and was residency trained at the University of California at San Francisco. Locally, he worked in the Department of Orthopedics of Patuxent Medical Group.

“Hispanics represent 16 to 18% of the Anne Arundel population,” he said. In a citizenship class that has been going for eight years, more than 100 Hispanic people have become citizens though the Center for Help.
“We all have different reasons for coming here,” said Rodriguez. “My father was a migrant laborer in Texas. He enlisted in the Army in World War II, got accelerated citizenship and finished his career in the Air Force as one of [its] first jet mechanics. My family has done very well once we broke that glass ceiling.”

As diverse as their reasons are for coming to the U.S., Rodriguez said Hispanics do have a common thread.
“They come for a better life,” he said.

Survive, Thrive

Cesar Melgoza said that, besides sheer numbers of Hispanics on the rise, there are also cultural reasons why there are more and more Hispanic entrepreneurs.

“In many of the cultures, there is a very entrepreneurial nature,” he said. “Entrepreneurism is evident in any kind of merchant, in eating or drinking places, and is very commonplace in Latin American countries. So, they become entrepreneurs over here to survive and hopefully thrive.”

The data indicates that, in the local region, Hispanic workers and entrepreneurs are entering the service, construction and hospitality industries.

Melgoza, who started his career working for Apple, then moved to a venture-funded company, founded Geoscape in an effort to develop a deeper understanding of not only Hispanics but other groups, including LGBT and religious groups.

“More needs to be known about these groups to serve them better,” he said. “We build databases and technology to help people understand and serve these populations.”