For the Latino entrepreneur, embracing technology and social media is invaluable
Though Latinos have made strides with LATISM panels and conferences, they still have a lot of ground to make up in the world of technology and social media. (Photo: Flickr)
With the Latino population growing exponentially, Latino entrepreneurship is likewise expected to grow by a vast amount in upcoming years. But in order to help their budding businesses thrive, Latinos must first embrace the technology that surrounds them. That means tweeting about something more than just the weather.
“Today’s technology is definitely crucial for today’s Latino business owner, whether they are in the restaurant business or own their own shop,” says Jesse Luna, technologist and communications specialist for SEIU Local 721. “They need to know how it works, even if it means simply getting online and creating a profile on Yelp.”
While interest in the use of technology and social media continues to grow, experts such as Luna say there’s still a long way to go, as most Latino entrepreneurs continue to shy away from the technology needed to build their business.
Latinos are a part of the digital divide, according to Ariel Coro, technology analyst and author of the technology survival book, El Salto. Many are afraid of the technology that surrounds them, while others simply don’t know how to use it.
“Its something that’s totally new and isn’t necessarily friendly,” says Coro. “The people that embrace technology—once they understand what they’re in for— become excited and completely immersed in that world, says Coro. “The problem is getting people to that point, especially those with a lower educational level.”
The technological divide is especially impairing for the foreign-born Latino, who comes to this country and faces many barriers. Technology is one of the largest.
Luna agrees and feels that many economic and class divides continue to hinder U.S. Latinos.
“We need to chip out those divisions and barriers in order for Latinos to maximize their use of technology for entrepreneurship,” said Luna.
Ride the wave
For the budding Latino business entrepreneur, embracing technology and social media is invaluable.
Entrepreneurs like Cheryl Sanchez are looking to get Latinos on board. As founder and CEO of The NetWorks, Sanchez has created a social networking forum for professionals looking to build connections both on and offline. The networking community, which was established in the Bronx in 2006, has a strong Latino base. The company also has a branch in Miami.
Sanchez says today’s technology can tremendously impact a small business, when used wisely.
“It’s not about how many times a person can sign onto Facebook in one day,” says Sanchez. “It’s about the relationships they are building while they are online.”
For most Latino entrepreneurs, the resources they need to create a stronger business can be found in their own communities — it’s simply a matter of maximizing these resources.
Luis Belen knows all about using his best resources. As a former Wall Street broker and an entrepreneur himself, Belen understood, early on, the value of establishing good connections with those around him. Now, he strives to help others do the same.
In 2005, Belen and his wife launched VWCGlobal, a company aimed to help small business owners better utilize the technology around them to expand their trade. This includes learning to market themselves across different platforms.
Now, Belen aims to help promote the adoption of Health IT within the Latino community, through his business Medic Success. Like most entrepreneurs, Belen recognizes that the knowledge entrepreneurs need often lies in their very own communities.
Connecting and networking — it’s in our blood
So the good news? While technology might be new to many, establishing connections is in our blood.
“It’s natural for Latinos to go and meet people and establish relationships,” says Cheryl Sanchez of the NetWorks. According to Sanchez, building connections with people is simply part of the Latino culture.
While 20 years ago those connections were established in the home with the “Avon lady,” as Sanchez says, today, the same connections are built using social media and other forms of communication.
Claudio Muruzabal, CEO of Neoris, a global business and IT consulting firm, agrees. Muruzabal, whose roots lie in Argentina, has seen firsthand the impact of technology in Latino driven businesses. Neoris began as a small player in Mexico over a decade ago, but quickly grew to obtain global status. Muruzabal says part of the company’s vast success has come from its ability to embrace technology early on.
Entrepreneurs can obtain the same success if they learn to better incorporate technology into every aspect of their business.
“Latino businesses and entrepreneurs are now mainstream,” says Muruzabal. “ There’s a very interesting opportunity for them in technology and social media.”
As more Latinos begin to embrace the technology that surrounds them, Latino entrepreneurship in the U.S. will continue to thrive.
Luis Belen of VWCGlobal and Medic Success definitely has hope.
“What we have now is the ability to write from our cells or from home. We can create websites, launch new products and initiatives,” he says. “With social media and internet readily available, we are going see Latinos become entrepreneurs in a more organized way.”