Hispanic Business Opportunity Gap


with Fernand Fernandez of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation


Sep 17, 2018

According to a 2017 Business Journals report, more than 11 million minority-owned businesses were in operation across the U.S. Although Hispanic-owned businesses have had the most significant amount of growth, societal barriers contribute to a wide opportunity gap. Fernand Fernandez, Interim President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, joins Sheila Hyland to discuss his organization’s advocacy for Hispanic economic development.

Hosted by: Sheila Hyland Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Hyland: Last year, Hispanic-owned businesses contributed over $700 billion to the U.S. economy. Now, despite the success, these businesses don´t generate revenue on par with non-Hispanic-owned firms, creating an opportunity gap of more than a trillion dollars. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Sheila Hyland. Joining me to discuss the opportunity gap and more is Fernand Fernandez, interim president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Fernand, welcome to the show. And I want to ask you, first of all, what is the opportunity gap, and why does it exist?

Fernandez: Thank you, Sheila. You know, Hispanic people are twice as likely to start a new business, but they tend to have issues scaling their business. And the key thing that we see is, really, access to capital, for example, the ability for Hispanic businesses to really grow their business. They need to really be empowered with the resources to get better access to capital and programs that allow them to really understand -- sort of educational and training programs -- to allow them to be able to scale their businesses.

Hyland: What are some more of the barriers that are preventing them from scaling?

Fernandez: The big barriers are, really, the ability for them to go and apply for business loans. What we find is that there tends to be sort of -- Hispanic businesses in general are approved at a lower rate than non-Hispanic businesses, and what occurs is that they find sort of -- They find themselves without the ability to actually go and be able to apply for the types of loans and the ability for them to really scale their businesses at the level that non-Hispanic businesses have.

Hyland: So these are really societal challenges that are inhibiting growth.

Fernandez: Exactly. There´s both the scalability problem when it comes to access of capital but also being able to be given the right tools to understand what type of programs and resources and not be fearful of the opportunities that exist by going and applying for loans.

Hyland: The purchasing power of the Hispanic community is staggering in America. What do we do to get the word out about this, how valuable these businesses are?

Fernandez: Here at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we really advocate for Hispanic economic development, really empowering businesses, empowering Hispanic businesses to be able to grow and gain the resources that they need in order to grow their businesses.

Hyland: What specifically is the Chamber doing to help further the cause of Hispanic-owned businesses?

Fernandez: Yeah, so, we really advocate for the advancement of Hispanic entrepreneurs, for Latina businesswomen, improved education and resources for Hispanic professionals and business owners. But specifically, you know, we´re partnering with thought leaders like Secretary Maria Contreras-Sweet to help us really kind of define and get programs that will put capital in the hands of Hispanic businesses.

Hyland: Another issue that you´re dealing with in the Hispanic community is the lack of diversity, particularly on boards. I know that Hispanics hold only 4% of the seats in the boardroom of the Fortune 500 -- in the boardrooms. Only 2% of Fortune 500 company CEOs are Hispanic. That amounts to only 10 CEOs. What is going on there in the workplace?

Fernandez: Yeah, and I think, in general, corporations sometimes mistake workforce diversity with leadership diversity, and there´s a big need not only to have Hispanics among board members at Fortune 500 companies but also within their C-Suite where leadership decisions are being made and decisions being made about products and goods that are being placed in front of Hispanic individuals. We need to make sure we have the diversity that comes from the board and then the C-Suite.

Hyland: And, of course, the big question is, how do we go about doing that? How do we start the conversation and move forward?

Fernandez: Yeah, the conversation really starts with all of us -- really going and looking at corporations that, today, you might have a relationship with and asking them the hard questions. "Why do you not have Hispanics on your boards? Why aren´t there more Hispanics within the C-Suite?"

Hyland: So, ultimately, say, in the next decade, what would you like to see happen in the Hispanic community, particularly with Hispanic-owned businesses?

Fernandez: What we would like to see is that it´s representative of sort of the growth that you see of Hispanics in our country. 1 in 4 individuals that are being born today in the United States are Hispanic, so we want for that to be representative of not only our corporate boards but also sort of the companies that we then go and give our business to.

Hyland: All right, it´ll be interesting to see what the next 5 or 10 years holds. Fernand Fernandez, thank you so much for being our guest today.

Fernandez: Thank you, Sheila.

Hyland: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Sheila Hyland.

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