Weber State Expands Entrepreneurship Empowerment Program Among Latinos | business


OGDEN – Latinos make up a sizable portion of the population of Ogden and Weber Counties, and Silvia Castro wants them to thrive.

“To be honest, they’re part of Ogden. We want to make sure they continue to do well and thrive, not just for themselves, but for their families and this community, ”said Castro, director of the Sauzo Business Center, a nonprofit Salt Lake City-based business resource center on the Latino population.

To this end, Weber State University and Sauzo are launching a new entrepreneurship initiative within the Latino community in Weber and Davis counties and the rest of northern Utah. By using the resources of the WSU’s Wildcat MicroFund, which is intended to help budding entrepreneurs start new businesses, Latinos in particular are to be encouraged to pursue their business dreams.

Manni Martinez in his Farmington apartment on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Martinez developed an app with the support of Wildcat MicroFund at Weber State University.

“We need to enable these relationships, and this is an incredible opportunity to do just that,” said Matthew Mouritsen, dean of WSU’s Goddard School of Business and Economics. “We need to be able to work with these populations that we haven’t reached in the past.”

Under the plan, Sauzo will establish a satellite location in the WSU Community Education Center at 2605 Monroe Blvd. and spearheading efforts to reach out to Latinos to generate interest in the Wildcat MicroFund. Castro is in the process of laying the foundations for the initiative – also in collaboration with the MarketStar Foundation and the US Bank – and the various partners hope to officially launch it in April.

“We want to stay in Ogden. The need is there. It feels kind of overdue, ”Castro said.

The Wildcat MicroFund was launched in late 2019 and offers small grants of up to $ 2,000 to entrepreneurs seeking help getting their business ideas started. The publicly accessible program also connects participants with mentors and experts, and allows them to apply for multiple scholarships as their business plans grow and evolve. So far, the program has awarded 48 grants worth $ 70,000, but proponents of the program want to increase the participation of Latinos as the group’s percentage of the population, especially in Ogden, is 32% of the population, according to the US Census Bureau of the city.

“We know that entrepreneurship is the best way to educate people,” said Guy Letendre, director of economic development at WSU. Whether in the middle of the economic spectrum or at the lower end, starting a business is one way of taking someone “one step further”.

While Sauzo employees reach the base, MarketStar, in collaboration with WSU’s Alen E. Hall Center for Sales Excellence, is offering a course for participants in the Latino program that focuses on improving their sales skills and is also part of the new focus . MarketStar is committed to a five-year commitment, and Paul Grant, the company’s chief customer officer, expects “this will be a very long-term opportunity”.

Although the Wildcat MicroFund was already open to Latinos, among others, Letendre said they would not participate in the desired level program boosters. Castro said the lack of involvement could be due to a number of factors.

“There are various obstacles. There is a language barrier. There are also cultural barriers. … And now there is a barrier to digital literacy with COVID, “she said.

Still, there is interest, she claims, and part of Sauzo’s efforts will focus on conveying the differences between the US system and Latin America, which is the origin of many Latinos in the region.

“We want to make sure that when they start a business they understand how things work here. Legal systems are different. Accounting systems are different. Tax systems are different, ”she said. “Sometimes the way you do business in your country is completely different than it is here. We don’t have to teach them how to be an entrepreneur, we just have to teach them how things work here. “

Marcia Romero, who works with the US Bank on community issues, also emphasized the importance of connecting Latino program participants with other Latinos. “There’s a trust factor where they want information from people who look like them, have information that speak the same language and understand all of the culturally relevant space,” she said.

Manni Martinez of Farmington, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico, participated in the Wildcat MicroFund to help develop a software company. He welcomes the new focus on Latinos. “There needs to be a lot more awareness that there are indeed non-biased resources to support this type of demographics,” he said.