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Posted: July 01, 2009

Cote’s Colorado: Website helps Hispanic entrepreneurs navigate the business world

Coming soon: Sites for black and Asian businesses

Mike Cote

Back when Salvador Gomez was the first national director of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Denver businessman wanted to create an information database for small businesses that needed entrepreneurial advice, including the basic steps on how to get their companies off the ground.

But back then, the fledgling organization had several locations scattered around the country and didn’t have the World Wide Web to help bind them. Thus the idea fell dormant.

Fast forward to the Internet age. The national business group Gomez co-founded in 1979 is about to hold its 30th annual convention, coming Sept. 16-19 in Denver, and the database project has marked a year as a fast-growing Web portal known as the National Hispanic Business Information Clearinghouse. Soon it will be joined by similar sites aimed at other ethnic groups, though much of the data on the Hispanic site has broad appeal.

At www.hispanicbic.org, entrepreneurs can find such information as how to secure loans, write marketing plans, get certified for government procurement, determine taxes and prepare financial statements. In addition to how-to articles, the site offers instructional videos, links to business and government sites and demographic data.

The site helps prepare entrepreneurs for doing business in the 21st century.

“Money, markets, management and technology – that’s the foundation of it,” said Gomez, CEO and president of Source One Management Inc., a Denver-based consulting and outsourcing firm he founded in 1985.

Among the featured offerings on a day in mid-June was the article “Why Get Certified” — which noted “the U.S. government buys more than $200 billion in goods and services each year from the private sector” – and a video presenting “7 Tips for Effective Networking” from the site’s Entrepreneurial Development Center.

Gomez, who helped spearhead the first U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce national convention in Kansas City, began working on establishing the clearinghouse site four years ago.

“The Hispanic business population is growing three times faster than the non-Hispanic business community, so there is in fact a Hispanic entrepreneurial wave across the United States right now,” Gomez said in June at a press conference to announce the convention.

Information culled from the U.S. Census backs up that claim. Hispanic-owned businesses grew 31 percent between 1997 and 2002, three times the national average for all businesses. The nearly 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses generated nearly $222 billion in revenue, up 19 percent from 1997.

“(Hispanicbic.org) is a free bilingual site that brings a lot of business information together in articles, in research work.” Gomez said. “It’s targeted at small business, startup business, Spanish-speaking business. We’ll soon launch a black business clearinghouse for black businesses, and we’re doing an Asian one.”

The clearinghouse is simply an idea whose time has come. Technology just needed to catch up.

“Back when I was with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce many years ago, I started a similar project, but we had five locations around the country, and we didn’t have the Internet back then. I revived the idea and sat down with some funders.”

Hispanicbic.org’s primary sponsors are the U.S. Department of Labor, Western Union, Microsoft and the U.S. Army.

“We found people who believe in what we’re doing. They keep the site going,” Gomez said. “We have approximately 10 people working on the site full-time. So it’s an exciting project. We have close to 10,000 new unique visitors every month. They come to the site for information and assistance.”

The recession has helped to increase the site’s popularity, Gomez said.

“It’s amazing how it’s picked up. Since about January, we’ve almost doubled the number of visitors so it’s picked up significantly,” he said. “People look at entrepreneurism as a career alternative oftentimes. In places like Denver, we have such a well-framed group of people that come from corporations, so there’s a great pool of prospective entrepreneurs in Colorado.”

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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