Takeaways from Lifting up Latino Entrepreneurs panel

Business owners name access to resources, connections as challenges

The Business Record partnered with Hola Iowa on Tuesday to host a virtual panel discussion focused on Latino entrepreneurship as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on Sept. 15.

There are more than 1,500 Latino-owned businesses in the Des Moines metro area generating $160 million in annual revenue, according to a recent report from the Iowa Latinx Project called “Nuestro Iowa.”

The four Des Moines-area business owners on the panel shared their experiences, from their biggest obstacles and successes to advice to other entrepreneurs and what support they need from the broader community to drive their success.

Watch the Spanish version of the event
Watch the English version of the event

Panelists included:

  • Jorge “Junior” Ibarra, CEO and team leader of Ibarra Realty Group.
  • Blanca Plascencia, co-owner of El Fogón.
  • Raul Cuñarro, CEO of CleanersList.
  • Carolina Hudman, owner of Euphoria Cakes.

Here are a few quotes from each of the panelists.

Raul Cuñarro
“To me as an immigrant, I think the biggest obstacle came from me and it was my glass ceiling. I think we immigrants have a [higher] glass ceiling than people who are born here and raised here. My first job was $35,000 a year as a manager and I thought that was amazing because I was coming from a country where that was amazing, but here you learn maybe that limit that I put to myself was really low. I think that a lot of immigrants that I work with here, … maybe they’re happy with whatever they found first and they don’t try to improve themselves.”

“My advice to people, anybody starting a business, is to find anything that you can outsource and find somebody that is specialized in that and hire them. Maybe you need a telemarketer or a designer, an accountant. Don’t try to take on everything yourself when you’re starting a business. Find people that are good at what they do and focus on what is important for your business.”

Carolina Hudman
“I agree with Raul because sometimes it’s on us; we just put a limit because we’re a minority, because we feel afraid of speaking the language, because we have an accent. … Those barriers and those limits, they come from us. That was happening to me. I was stuck because I didn’t know how to grow but I started asking questions, asking other entrepreneurs, and they gave me information. They told me to ‘go here, they’re gonna teach you, they’re gonna help you with a business plan.’ I think that we have to stop putting those limits on ourselves and start asking, networking, trying to find those answers that we need to be successful.”

“We have all the resources here, we just need to ask and we just need to find the right person to go to have those questions answered. Another thing that I wanted to say is that I think the Latino community here in Des Moines or in Iowa, we should get together more and we should do more events together. That way we can showcase our talent to everybody else and invite everybody else, not only the Latino community but all the communities in Des Moines or in Iowa, because when they see that we are getting together and supporting each other more people are going to start supporting us.”

Junior Ibarra
“I was at a conference in San Diego last year, and there’s a brand new report that shows that one of the only reasons that the United States is having population growth is because of Latinos. … Twenty-nine point two percent of the Des Moines public school system is Latino, so that just tells you immediately, the numbers aren’t lying that the future of the Des Moines metro and surrounding suburbs is very diverse and Latino is kind of leading the way as the largest minority group out there. At the conference, it was mentioned how the Latino cohort made up $2.7 trillion of the gross domestic product, so if we were our own country, just U.S. Latinos, we would rank No. 7 in the world. That just shows you the strength of the monetary power that Latinos have as we continue to grow in this country.

“The CEO of Disney was there, the CEO of Netflix was there, the CEO of Nike was there, and they said, ‘We are finding Latino talent that is bilingual to be part of our infrastructure because if you are not, then you will be out of business in the next 30 to 40 years.’ If the CEOs of those major companies are doing that, what are the local businesses in the Des Moines metro doing to partner up with Latino talent to help support the businesses out there as well?”

“We are now helping commercial clients again, in both languages. I’ll be honest, on the English side of things we don’t struggle very much on helping our English commercial clients continue to grow. Yet we do run into more barriers in helping our small Latino clients on the commercial side of things in helping them grow to that next level just because they have a thin file, and so maybe the banks aren’t quite as apt to lend them money to help them go to that next level. That delays the growth … because then what I see is they end up saying, ‘Well, I’m gonna wait five to 10 years and save my own money and then grow,’ when the opportunity to act is now. They’re seeking growth opportunities because they have a ton of good momentum happening in their business, yet the access to capital is a little bit less accessible. … What I have seen in the residential realm is more banks now catering and helping provide home loans, yet I still see very limited outreach in regards to commercial lending, to help commercial-owned Latino businesses grow.”

Blanca Plascencia
“Something that I would love to see from the bigger companies is for them to be open and to listen to our needs. Sometimes they really don’t want to do business with you because they feel that you are too small, because they feel that you’re not ready and they don’t want to waste the time on you. Something that will help me and I think will help our community is if people are open to listen to our needs and to at least give us some advice on how or where we need that preparation so they want to work with us.”

“Lately what’s been frustrating is the lack of help. It’s very hard to find employees. Right now we’re finally good. And something that is very frustrating is part of the education part. … I think I need to learn how to train people better so they can feel good at their jobs. People leave their jobs because they don’t feel good at the job, because they want something better, and I think we need to have this engagement. We need to give them something of more value that once makes them want to stay. We need to make opportunities for them so they want to stay with us.”