BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Hispanic Chamber Chair: Hispanic Entrepreneurs Starting Small Businesses at a Great Rate

There has been a lot of debate over what the Affordable Care Act will do for small businesses and the New Jersey Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held a webinar on the subject. Chair Carlos Medina told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that studies show that Hispanic entrepreneurs are starting small businesses at a greater rate than the rest of the general population.

Medina said there is a lot of confusion over whether the Affordable Care Act applies to certain businesses and if there are mandates that apply to the businesses. He said that the commerce team with the small business majority held a webinar to educate and tell businesses about the options that are available to them.

He said that the more webinars that are done and more businesses are told that they are a marketplace, is good. He said that the mandates do not kick in unless the business has more than 50 employees, so it really gives employees a choice. Medina said that he tries to put a positive spin on the issue because it is good for the businesses because they can offer health care plans to their employees without having to bundle or be a large company.

Medina said that six months ago, the Affordable Care Act was a distraction to businesses but now more businesses are seeing that it is a value that they can add to their employee benefit plan. He said that when companies are fighting for competition for good employees, offering a lot of benefits is an attraction to them so the businesses will be able to attract better talent to their firms.

Medina said a study shows that Hispanic entrepreneurs are starting businesses at a much greater rate than the general population. He said there is a good energy with the chamber and their membership right now.

When asked why the Hispanic community is more entrepreneurial, Medina said, “There is a spirit of entrepreneurship with our members but some of them are underemployed. So if they are a doctor in their native country and they come here and they are working at a restaurant, they may feel it’s a better opportunity to start a business, become an entrepreneur, than be underemployed.”

Medina said that the biggest difference between now and when he started at the Chamber of Commerce two years ago is that the economy is turning. He said that he sees more projects hitting the street and more people investigating, whether it be raw land or property. He said there are a lot of calls from people wanting to start businesses. He said the chamber is launching an academy, a 12-week program, to teach entrepreneurs how to start a business and how to help existing businesses grow.

Medina said that the most important advice he tries to impart to the entrepreneurs is relationships. He said that when people let relationships foster and grow, when they need to work with an individual they will be willing to help.

Medina said that he works with some non-profits that are micro lenders and they also help build credit. He said that he is hoping that if a restaurant needs its first shipment of food, it can be a loan as small as $5,000 and by establishing that credit, the goal of the small non-profits is to get them to a bank. He said the goal of the non-profits is not to have businesses as lifelong customers, the goal is to have the customers for one or two years until they can go to a mainstream bank where the rates will be more attractive.

When asked if the foundation is being laid better for success, Medina said, “I think it is being laid better. Some of these workshops that we have, an entrepreneur might come in and bluntly say, ‘Carlos, I don’t really have what it takes to be an entrepreneur so I am not going to continue in your class, I am just going to go back to my job I found, this isn’t for me.’ So teaching these courses is also helping but it might help them make a decision that they really have to at some point try it and if it doesn’t work for them, that’s fine. There is nothing lost in that attempt.”

Medina said that the hottest start-up right now, industry wise, is the food industry and restaurants. He said that is because of the ethnic cuisine and the popularity of ethnic cuisine.