The Latina Hope program is designed to facilitate the learning, networking and acting of micro-entrepreneurs who want to start a new micro-business and advance their business idea to a more tangible and profitable point. The program is a collaborative effort of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, Wells Fargo, the United Way of South Texas, and faith-based organizations to support women who want to supplement their household income, gain financial and business literacy, and acquire family stability.
The program begins with basic workshops finance, single entry bookkeeping, operational management, marketing and business plan development. Then, participants prepare a project plan (basic business plan) and present their business idea to the Latina Hope judging panel. The panel decides if the project is mature enough to receive the Latina Hope ignite fund. The program is competitive based and projects will be awarded based on the preparation and potential of the venture and entrepreneur. The award is in the form of materials to facilitate the startup phase on the new micro-venture.
Latina Hope Ignite fund is limited to the following type of home-based businesses:
- Candle making
- Card making
- Jewelry making
- Knitting / crocheting quilting
- Sewing and alterations
- Soap making
- Toy making
- Wreath making
Latina Hope Ignite fund provides materials (up to $250 in materials) to participants to begin production and encourages the creation of new ventures in the McAllen area. After using the first round of materials, the entrepreneur is allowed to request a second round of materials at a significant discount to expand and grow the new business.
Path to Market:
Defining and arriving to the market is one of the most challenging and critical steps of a new venture. The Latina Hope program proposes several tools to help participants define their competitive advantage, their market space, their target customer and their first actions to arrive to the market place. For Latina Hope Program, success is measured by sales and profit of the new ventures assisted by the program.
Expectations are that the resulting micro-businesses will begin to sell their products in one or several of the following markets:
- Flea Markets
- Craft fairs
- Web based sites
- Women events
- Faith-based events
McALLEN — Norma Rodriguez recently took advantage of a workshop on cake decorating, but if you want to get a taste of her designs, enjoy with your eyes. She makes soaps.
“There was something that I could get from (that lesson) to use” selling soaps, Rodriguez said Wednesday. Thanks to the Latina Hope class, she can now incorporate flower designs into her product.
Sponsored by Wells Fargo, United Way and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the Latina Hope program started a few years ago, said Ivan Gonzalez, Vice President of Business Development and Governmental Affairs at the Chamber. The free program for women at Calvary Baptist Church teaches specific trades — participants learned candle and jewelry making Wednesday — in addition to entrepreneurial skills. Meant to facilitate the creation of “a complementary-income business,” Latina Hope sessions are split into halves, Gonzalez said.
“Every session there’s one hour of business, and one hour of a skill,” Gonzalez said.
Attendance is free. While craft making is part of Latina Hope’s platform, the program’s heart is set on the implementation of the trades studied.
“It’s about business-using those skills,”Gonzalez said.
Rodriguez, 35, of Mission makes handmade soaps with natural oils and exfoliants for her Lathering Love soap business, selling at The Clozet Consignment Store in McAllen, ELA Boutique in Mission and Ela’s Bayside Boutique in Port Isabel, she said.
Giving an example of “little helpful tips … that can help them save money,” Rodriguez explained that Wells Fargo will assist women with registering the names of their business ventures at the courthouse. She had done that herself, something she rued with a laugh Wednesday.
“That was really helpful. I did that on my own, so I was like: ‘Wow, I wish I would’ve known that,’” she said. “I had to pay for the notarizing out of my own pocket, and they’re helping them get that letter notarized, and they just take it to the courthouse.”
Steve Ahlenius, president and CEO of the McAllen Chamber, stressed the importance of helping women find a way to enter their product into market. To that end, the program looks to connect aspiring Latina Hope businesswomen with online marketplace www.Latinahope.com, space at local businesses, and the city’s coming ArtWalk in September.
Latina Hope participants can also present their work to a committee of three businesspeople, termed a “dolphin tank,” Millet said. If the presentation satisfies the committee, the entrepreneur receives $250 of supplies for their work.
“We want to encourage innovation,” Gonzalez said.
Gloria Ortiz, 53, of McAllen works as a care provider for a living. She’s attended about four Latina Hope sessions and is thinking about going into business, possibly selling handbags such as one made of black fabric that she brought to Wednesday morning’s meeting.
Latina Hope “has helped me a lot to learn how to start a business,” Ortiz said in Spanish. “With how much I begin with, how much I’m going to spend on products that I’m going to buy.”
Thelma Garza, president of United Way of South Texas, emphasized that the handicraft and business training that Latina Hope provides is meant to facilitate a convenient, revenue-generating enterprise, in turn increasing families’ self-sufficiency.
“It is an opportunity for them to think about starting a small business venture from their home,” Garza said.
The women attending Latina Hope meetings are able to provide their family with extra income, Garza said. As the venture can be conducted out of the businesswoman’s home, daycare expenses aren’t necessary.
“This is going to help them offset some of their living expenses,” Garza said. “For example: If the husband is working and earning $10 an hour, sometimes that’s not enough to cover all of their household expenses.”
Latina Hope dovetails well with United Way’s larger outreach efforts, Garza said.
“We’re really focusing on three major areas,” Garza said. “One of them is education and how can we enhance what schools are already doing to get more kids to graduate. And secondly, how can we help families be more self-sufficient.”
The point is to empower families, Garza said.
“So we look at financial literacy, we look at ways that families can help themselves,” Garza said. “And then the third one is, if kids are getting a better education, that probably means that they’re going to have better jobs in the future, so that goes hand-in-hand with financial stability.”
Maria Elena Liguez, 72, of McAllen, has participated in a handful of Latina Hope meetings. While she doesn’t run a business, she’s absorbed the lessons, nonetheless.
“I learn a lot of things about making different things,” Liguez said. “Not necessarily for me to start a business, but to know how, and pass it on to my family, to my grandchildren. To me, it has been very informative.”
Latina Hope has also been an appreciated social outlet.
“The ladies are awesome,” Liguez said.