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Jennifer Rodríguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the 28th Annual Meeting. (Peter Fitzpatrick) 
Jennifer Rodríguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the 28th Annual Meeting. (Peter Fitzpatrick) 

Celebrating 28 years promoting Latino success

At the 28th Annual Meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, AL DÍA News caught up with the organization's President and CEO Jennifer…

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On March 22, members of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) gathered for their Annual Meeting, celebrating 28 years promoting the economic advancement of the Philadelphia region’s Hispanic business community. At the event, GPHCC’S leadership discussed the successful initiatives that the chamber undertook in 2017 and what members can expect in 2018.

The well-attended event was held at Taller Puertorriquño in Kensington and presented by PECO. Speakers included Chairman Louis Rodriguez and Rómulo Díaz, Vice President and General Counsel for PECO, who delivered opening remarks.

In addition to GPHCC’s members, the organization collaborated with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians to host representatives from nine Latin American companies that are awardees of the La Idea Incubator Program, which is designed to promote trade between the U.S. and Central America.

Closing the meeting, Jimmy Duran of GPHCC moderated a discussion between local entrepreneurs and professionals to give the audience a sample of what the chamber offers during its Small Business Roadshows, which give Latino entrepreneurs insight from experts to help grow their businesses. The panel included Victor Garrido of GG CPA Services, Eric Diaz of LareDiaz Law, Rafael Nuñez of Nuñez Enterprises, and Carlos Giraldo of Giraldo Real Estate.

During the meeting, GPHCC President and CEO Jennifer Rodriguez took time to discuss with AL DÍA some the work that the chamber has accomplished in the past year, as well as the chamber's vision for 2018. Read the conversation below and check out photo highlights from the event. 

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So what was 2017 like for GPHCC?

2017, for us, was a year of innovation. We did a lot of ground searching and assessment in 2016, and in 2017 we brought a lot of new programming. Our goal was to be a much more value-driven organization. We really wanted to make sure that when people spent time with the chamber, they really felt they were getting something out of it. People are very busy. Entrepreneurs in the Latino community are very, very challenged by their personal and professional commitments, and so it’s important that they really get something from their interactions with us.

What kind of programs did the chamber undertake this past year?

So last year we introduced the Small Business Roadshow, which is technical assistance for small businesses. We introduced the State of Hispanic Business and the Closing the Gap Conference. We had our inaugural Legislative Reception. We also had our Master Classes. We introduced a lot of programs that were about educating the Latino community about how to conduct your business with best practices and such.

We also understand that we need to educate and have conversations that are much more strategic and policy-driven — a way of advocating for the Latino community by really presenting research, by really presenting topics that are of importance to the Latino community but should also be of interest to those who are not Latinos.

Can you talk about a challenge facing the Latino business community that GPHCC is working to address in 2018?

Based on the work that we did in 2017, we have identified that million-dollar Latino businesses should no longer be the exception. They should be the rule. And so moving forward, our goal will be to really provide the tools, the networks, the connections, the solutions so that Latino-owned businesses can reach $1 million in sales.

Why is that important? Only 3 percent of Latino-owned businesses generate a $1 million or more. One million dollars really represents an organization that has sufficient scale and capacity, so that the CEO is not the secretary and the HR person and the finance director and the salesperson. A million-dollar organization is one in which the CEO can manage the strategy and the vision.

A million-dollar company is not a big company. It’s a small business, but it has reached that certain level that really allows it to project, and be much more successful and grow much bigger.

So in the next year, how do you plan on helping businesses to reach that million-dollar benchmark?

On the ground with small businesses, we’re really going to concentrate on the very basics: business planning, risk management, operations. How is it that you’re efficient? How do you really control costs? Do you have a website? Do you have a line of credit? Do you have a bank account? Do you have an accountant? Do you have an attorney?

If you don’t have those, we need to get you those because you’re not going to reach $1 million. And if you do reach $1 million, you’re not going to get to $5 million. At some point, the importance of having those basics, and being strong in each of those fundamentals, will show. So really, the fundamentals are what we’re going to be focusing on.

And secondly, we’re working to create a culture and a network of Latino-owned businesses — creating this atmosphere and this environment in which people want to do business with one another, get to know one another so that there’s some kind of cohesiveness around the Latino community and it becomes much easier to move together.

To learn more about GPHCC, click here

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