Hispanic businesses are the backbone of society, and more needs to be done to protect them in times of crisis, said Hispanic leaders.
On Tuesday night, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and two representatives from the Nashville-Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (NAHCC) held a roundtable discussion to talk about efforts to keep Hispanic businesses afloat during the pandemic.
“Diversity and immigration has been great for our city, and it’s important that people succeed here,” said Dean.
The NAHCC is the longest running Hispanic business association in Tennessee. NAHCC Chairman Dr. Rolando Toyos and President Yuri Cunza kept 350 of their members informed about Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP) in the last year while looking into creating resources that didn’t previously exist.
Toyos described how Hispanic businesses “didn’t know how to react” to the pandemic and didn’t have the connections that well-established Anglo-American businesses had.
Businesses that had good relationships with their banks were able to learn about accessing capital and government aid needed during the pandemic downturn.
“For example, early on with the PPP, we had Hispanic businesses that had never had a strong relationship with banks and weren’t able to tap into the PPP because they didn’t have strong relationships,” said Toyos.
NAHCC officials tried to fill the gaps. Every Saturday morning since February 2020, Cunza hosts a Zoom conference to teach specific topics, such as “How to apply for your PPP.” Toyos joined a group of shareholders that started a local bank called Lineage Financial Network, whose major goal is to do outreach to Hispanic businesses.
According to Cunza, Nashville’s Hispanic community has been hesitant to integrate with the rest of the city’s economy due to cultural reasons and having few Hispanic role models in public office. Despite being the “backbone of Nashville’s prosperity,” said Cunza, their economic struggles during the pandemic showed how current mindsets need to change.
According to studies, Hispanic businesses and entrepreneurs are the fastest growing group in the nation, but the underside is that Hispanic businesses are still making less money than other businesses. Toyos blames the issue on limited access to capital for entrepreneur ventures.
Nashville doesn’t have the support systems that other Hispano-centric cities, such as Los Angeles and Miami, have for Hispanic entrepreneurs to grow their ideas
“Access to capital is really one of the most major things to have a successful business,” said Toyos.
Stereotypes of Hispanic people asking for handouts is holding some people back, said Cunza, so it’s up to Hispanic leaders to encourage more Hispanic leaders to step up and fill the gaps.
“That’s what we’re lacking here right now. We don’t really have a lot of Hispanics in political power. There’s not many Hispanics in the banking world. I had no idea in my mind that I would ever get into banking until I saw what the need was, and I’m going to do what I can to help,” said Toyos.