Latin Business Today and the Westchester County Government Host Hispanic Business-Development Forum
Latino Small Business Owners Celebrated in Westchester
Westchester County Government in partnership with Latin Business Today invited Hispanic business owners to attend a small business forum on May 29 at Westchester Community College. The event gave business owners an opportunity to network, learn about building relationships with customers, find and manage capital as well as navigate contracts. In attendance were senior business leaders, government representatives, guest speakers, educators and 100 participants, which included small business owners, their employees and prospective business owners.
Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino welcomed guests to the forum.
Small businesses are the forefront of job creation and economic development for Westchester County, said Astorino. In fact, nearly 10 percent of all Westchester businesses are Hispanic-owned, and that number continues to grow each year. Please know the county is here to help in whatever way we can.
Opportunity to Learn from Established Experts
Free and open to the public this first-time event included an opportunity to learn from a six-member panel of small business advisors and experts. Panel moderator Senen Garcia, an attorney and mentor with SCORE (a nonprofit organization that provides U.S. entrepreneurs with free business mentoring services) lead a distinguished panel of experienced experts.
The panel included:
Franco Cabral, senior vice president, AdCorp Media Group; Shaun Asbury, vice president, commercial lending with TD Bank in Purchase; Kim Jacobs, executive director, Community Capital New York; Elias Mendoza, vice president, Siris Capital; Jim Coleman, liaison officer, Westchester County, Minority and Women Business Enterprise; and Stella Vida, CPA and principal, Hart Vida Raffo. As the moderator, Garcia made a point of reminding everyone that the first step to marketing is networking and encouraged an active conversation.
Managing Finances a Hot Topic
Develop creative and professional capital pitches to help secure financing.
In the current economic climate, many small business owners have concerns about access to capital financing. For some turning to family and friends is a viable source of financing, but it brings with it concerns. Kim Jacobs, executive director of Community Capital New York urged business owners to always prepare written agreements when seeking financial help from family and friends. She also reminded business owners to consider reaching out to equity investors and non-traditional lenders.
Shaun Asbury, vice president of commercial lending with TD Bank in Purchase, reminded everyone that TD Bank focuses on helping small businesses find suitable financing solutions. Jim Coleman, liaison officer for Westchester County Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise, emphasized the value of presenting a strong business plan with a good and interesting pitch. He also stressed the importance of including a multimedia strategy, which he stated is the new normal, before developing a capital proposal.
The panelists also advised the small business owners that hiring an accounting firm is always a healthy investment. CPA and principal, Hart Vida Raffo explained that business owners cannot always accurately understand what lenders expect; therefore, a professional accountant may prevent later crises. She also suggested that business owners should understand simple accounting by using software such as QuickBooks and Peachtree. Kim Jacobs from Community Capital New York told the audience about Community Capital’s hands-on training program to learn QuickBooks.
Get Noticed and Stay Noticed
Establish brand ambassadors to grow sales in the future.
Another concern for small business owners is securing and maintaining attention from customers and the public.
Franco Cabral, senior vice president of AdCorp Media Group, pointed out that effective business relationships require more than a focus on initial sales but also on the entire customer experience. Cabral emphasized that establishing brand ambassadors helps keep the message going after the initial sale is completed.
He also stressed the value of developing a website because an online presence is often the first impression a customer has about the business. Cabral explained that a company such as AdCorp Media Group, which specializes in strategizing for website development, can guide business owners in developing the most suitable website for their specific business. Coleman from Westchester County’s Office of Economic Development advised using direct mail and social media to connect with customers. He also reminded business owners to connect with Westchester County’s administration because connections with the county can boost visibility and help businesses flourish.
Elias Mendoza, vice president of Siris Capital, shared advice on the value of measuring return on investment (ROI) through a website. Investors need to compare the cost of investment versus the cost of revenue and conduct quarterly checks to analyze what works and what doesn’t for their client base.
Jacobs of Community Capital indicated that business owners should build a network of trusted advisors with whom to consult. She suggested, Rely on a board of directors, or get reviews from peers and/or family members who can act as an informal boards of directors, that can offer the best unbiased advice. These trusted mentors and advisors can assess business potential and help keep it in line with modern trends.
Hiring The Right Local Talent
Westchester County representative Jim Coleman informed participants of a new program called Hire Westchester, which was created to help businesses recruit the best talent and cut training by using local hires. Coleman explained that business owners can create an account on the Westchester-Putnam one stop website and follow the instructions to connect with the appropriate talent.
Lessons Learned and Relationships Built
Latin Business Today brought together experts, community representatives and small business owners would provide an opportunity for everyone to learn, share and build new connections. Supporting and inspiring Latin small business owner is at the heart of Latin Business Today’s mission.
The mood at the close of the event was positive with participants expressing an interest in the creation of future events. “I thank Latin Business Today and Westchester County for such an inspiring and informative event”, said Andrea Cotter, president and founder of ACotter Global Brands, an event attendee. “It was great to network with fellow entrepreneurs and hear their business experiences. I look forward to more events.”
Westchester County government and Latin Business Today, a national online publication supporting the growth of small Latino businesses, hosted a forum earlier this year Crossroads to Customers, Capital, and Contracts dedicated to Hispanic business-development in New York’s Westchester County. This inaugural event, dedicated to Latino small business, included a discussion by a panel of small business advisors and experts, a Q&A session on small business topics and a networking event. It provided small businesses in the Westchester community the opportunity to share their experiences and concerns with panelists and fellow entrepreneurs. Event participants declared the event a success and expressed a desire for similar events in the future.
About the Author
Anchal Nayyar is an M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communication candidate at New York University, New York. She holds a Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from India. She has worked in the field of communications, assuming multitude roles, including ghost writer, event manager and emcee, public relations professional and brand strategist.
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