The American dream in WNC

Mountain BizWorks supports small businesses in Western North Carolina through lending, consulting and training. This week, in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we highlight a growing segment of our entrepreneurial community.

When you think of Latino culture, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It might be delicious food, festive music and dancing, or close family bonds. While the Latino community is known for many wonderful things, it’s important to note that it also contributes something vital to our local economy: jobs.

On a national level, 30 percent of small-business growth from 1990 to 2000 was due to immigrant small-business owners, more of whom are from Mexico than any other country, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

In Western North Carolina, the Latino population is the region’s fastest growing minority group: According to the 2010 census, it more than doubled between 2000 and 2009 and now totals more than 30,000 people, although many believe the number to be much higher. In a nutshell, the Latino community is a strong driver for economic development.

Why? The Latino community is well known for an admirable work ethic and is highly motivated to pursue the American dream. As a matter of survival, this drive and determination is being poured into the creation of businesses — and much-needed jobs — across the region. But this journey is not easy. With language barriers and limited financing options, Latino entrepreneurs find that creating a successful business can be challenging.

Nonetheless, new Latino-owned businesses are created every day, and we are proud to finance their dreams and be part of their story. Below are a few examples of local Latinos who are an integral part of this economic recovery — one job at a time.

Eduardo’s Painting: Eduardo Cruz started offering painting services in 2004 in Cashiers, N.C. Due to his high quality work and reliability, his business grew over the years and expanded to serve commercial clients. Today he employs 21 workers and is planning on hiring several more in the coming months.

Los Nenes and The Aqua Café: Maria and Luis Soto purchased an existing butcher shop, combined it with their bakery next door, and added other services to create Los Nenes Bakery — a one-stop shop for Latino customers in West Asheville. This entrepreneurial couple also recently opened the Aqua Café and Bar downtown, serving a blend of Mexican and Italian food. In total, the two businesses employ 15 people.

Home Cleaning Professionals: This all-female, worker-owned cleaning cooperative provides high-quality residential and commercial cleaning. The business employs 10 women full-time and pays each a living wage.

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15th), we salute these hardworking entrepreneurs and the barriers they’ve overcome to contribute to the region’s economic prosperity.

Jamie Beasley is the Latino program director at Mountain BizWorks. To learn more about accessing business loans, coaching, and training in Spanish, contact Mountain BizWorks at (828) 253-2834 or visit www.mountainbizworks.org/latino

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