FORT COLLINS, Colo. — For Connie Martinez, every day of the last 20 years has been dedicated to running a business but for the last two years, she has often felt like she's running on empty.
“They were saying there's a lot of help for small businesses and stuff like that but what a lot of people don't know, is small businesses were considered, maybe 10 employees or more so the real little guy, like one employee, we didn't really get any help,” said Martinez.
This is why when she heard about the creation of a Latino chamber, she was the first business owner to jump on board.
“I think it'll help by getting a lot of us who are small businesses put out there. A lot of us kind of flew under the radar for many years,” said Martinez.
Out of 7,000 registered businesses in Fort Collins, only about 8% are owned by Latinos.
An advisor to the Latino chamber says during the pandemic, Latino business owners struggled to tap into federal aid, which became a motivator for the chamber’s creation.
“I noticed that they didn't have access to the resources, they didn't have the information needed to be able to qualify for the resources. They also were not ready to apply for those because they were lacking the basic information, the basic documentation, things like a legal structure,” said advisor to the Latino chamber, Jose Luis Ramos.
So far between 75 to 150 Latino-owned businesses are interested in being part of the new chamber.
An opportunity to connect on both a cultural and professional level.
“We want Latino businesses to be successful in this community and this group is going to help do that,” said Julian Lozano who helped create the chamber.
The Latino chamber will encompass all of Northern Colorado and within a couple of months could be fully operational.
Business owners say it's been a long time coming.
“We're here now, and we're not going anywhere. So I think it's just going to continue to grow and get bigger,” said Martinez.