Latino Entrepreneur Access Program

Diversity in Business: Latino Leadership Institute launches entrepreneur accelerator program.

Sometimes it’s the shiny new startup businesses that get the most attention, but growing businesses also need guidance, not to mention funding. Latino and BIPOC-owned businesses have their own challenges. The Latino Leadership Institute (LLI) recently launched the Latino Entrepreneur Access Program (LEAP), to help these entrepreneurs move from high potential to high growth.

The new program fits LLI’s mission of ensuring that leadership is reflective of the increasingly diverse U.S. population. “We look at opportunity gaps where we should expand our reach,” says Harry Hollines, chief strategy officer for the LLI. “We haven’t had a direct, intentional program for entrepreneurs.”

Founded by a group of influential Latino leaders in 2013, the LLI has offered a leadership program that has graduated 232 Latinos in 10 cohorts over the last seven years. Participants have worked in a variety of sectors and industries, and 71% have advanced their careers.

While some participants were business owners, the LLI realized it could do more for this segment. “That was the impetus for us to be more intentional around, ‘What if we focus more on entrepreneurs?’” Hollines says. “Entrepreneurs and small businesses have been the backbone of the United States since the beginning.”

LEAP offers growth-stage Latino- and BIPOC-owned businesses access to social, technical and financial capital. The cohort of 12 entrepreneurs will attend six virtual seminars over one year, covering topics such as preparing capital investment proposals, recruiting and retaining top talent, and increasing sales and market reach. Each participant will meet virtually with a formal advisory board member monthly to discuss specific business issues and meet quarterly with two to four board members.

Investors have overlooked Latino-owned businesses, according to “Closing the Capital Gap: Fueling the Promise of Latino-Owned Businesses,” a 2021 report from Bain & Company. The report noted that 50% of all net new small businesses created from 2007 to 2017 were Latino-owned, yet only a 1% share of investments went to Latino-owned businesses from the top 25 private equity and venture capital firms.

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LEAP is open to Latino and BIPOC entrepreneurs with businesses headquartered in Colorado, Utah, Arizona or New Mexico that have been operating their business for at least three years and generate a minimum of $250,000 in annual recurring revenue. “They are not in the startup phase,” says Joelle Martinez, president and CEO of the LLI.

There are already programs available for Latino startups, teaching basics such as how to register a business. “That’s perfect, because Latinos are the fastest growing business starters,” Martinez says. “There was not enough support during the growth stage.”

According to a report from the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI) research program of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the number of Latino-owned employer firms grew 35% in the last 10 years compared with 4.5% among white-owned businesses. The 2021 report, “The State of Latino Entrepreneurship,” also found that job growth outpaced growth in the number of new businesses, with the number of employees at Latino-owned businesses growing 55% since 2007, compared to 8% job growth among white-owned businesses.

“Latino business owners do not lack great ideas, education, work ethic or a commitment to succeed,” Martinez says. “They lack technical, social and financial capital.”

Applicants self-identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). The LLI is accepting applications from entrepreneurs and from business leaders who want to serve on the paid advisory board. The first cohort will begin the yearlong program in July. The advisory board members will be C-suite executives and industry leaders, and commit to 12 months of advising.

LLI does not offer the entrepreneurs funding, but introduces them to investors and financial resources focused on funding growth-stage companies. There are no fees for the entrepreneurs, as the LLI raises the necessary funds from the philanthropic community to provide LEAP free of charge. The businesses will likely see measurable improvements. “That is the goal,” Martinez says. “We believe that by providing this culturally contextualized technical and social capital, the entrepreneurs will be able to grow their businesses by two or even three times over a three-year period.”

Now is an ideal time for LEAP, Martinez says. “As we are rebuilding the economy; we have the opportunity to leverage Latino businesses as catalysts for economic growth.”


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