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The attendees of the 32nd Annual Meeting for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Photo Courtesy of Paola Vélez/IG: @pvfotograf.
The attendees of the 32nd Annual Meeting for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Photo Courtesy of Paola Vélez/IG: @pvfotograf.

GPHCC hosts its 32nd Annual Meeting, highlighting the Latino business community

This year’s annual meeting was held in-person for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

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On Wednesday, March 23, the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) hosted its 32nd annual meeting, a large gathering to gain deeper insight on the Chamber's past year's perform and learn of current conditions within the Latino business market.  ​

This was the first time its annual meeting was held in-person, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If there is one thing the pandemic has shown about Hispanic business owners, it’s the ability to adapt. 

“Today we celebrate creativity, perseverance, and the resiliency of Latino business owners,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, president & CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

As the Hispanic business community in the region figured out ways to maintain their businesses, the GPHCC has been there to support them the entire way.

“The board of directors and staff led by Jennifer Rodriguez have worked diligently to bring to our members tailored high quality programming, functional resources, direct access to relief fund, and a strong and growing network of experts to support Latino owned businesses in the region,” said Nestor Torres, board chair for the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

He noted the value of small businesses, stating they serve “as the mechanism for wealth creation in our communities.”

In her annual letter, Rodriguez presented a challenge to the Hispanic community to make the 2020s the “Decade of the Hispanic Promise: Fulfilled.”

The most recent Census confirmed explosive growth in the Hispanic population, with a 46% increase in Pennsylvania, and a 27% increase in Philadelphia. 

“That is over 50,000 new residents, and now constitute 15% of the population,” said Rodriguez.

As we get deeper into the second quarter of 2022, Rodriguez is looking to see the community harness that growth and fuel the Latino entrepreneurship ecosystem to maximize potential, create jobs, and ultimately build wealth.

A Discussion featuring Latino Tech Leaders

One industry that Latinos have increasingly entered in recent years is the tech industry.

During the annual meeting, a panel discussion was held between three notable tech leaders — Roberto Ortiz, co-founder & CEO at Welcome; Shannon Morales, founder & CEO of Tribaja; and Manuel Trujillo, founder & CEO of Swain Techs. 

While each of their paths into tech and entrepreneurship were different, one constant in entering tech is the need for funding. 

“We need funding to build our business, to scale it, to take it from an idea, or a small shop to a bigger enterprise,” said Ortiz. 

For him, building his virtual events platform started by convincing his friends and family to invest in the idea. From there, he joined a business accelerator program, which helped him get more traction and later fundraise.

Beyond that, however, it comes down to a business owner’s ability to get in front of investors who believe in the idea and are willing to provide venture capital toward the business. 

When Morales thinks about venture capital, she thinks about ownership. 

“As a woman- and minority-owned business, I really want to keep as much ownership as I can so that no one can take my business and make it their own,” she said. 

All revenue she raises is then put back into her business, helping it grow. This past month, Tribaja landed its first full-time hire with that revenue.

Trujillo’s entry into tech and entrepreneurship was the aftermath of sending out 500 resumes and participating in countless job interviews.

Upon getting his first job in the U.S. with Motorola, he set out a goal to become an entrepreneur in Corporate America within 20 years. 

His breakthrough came when he entered the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. While taking part in the program, he learned something very valuable. 

“There’s value in being a small business,” he said. “There’s value in being a minority.” 

A piece of advice that each of the three panelists agreed on was the value of mentorship and guidance from individuals with experience in the field. 

New Faces of Latino Entrepreneurship

To end the event, the GPHCC further celebrated entrepreneurship in the Hispanic community, with two graduating classes.

First was the second cohort of Accelerate Latinx, a program that provides small business owners with the business knowledge, management, know-how, and the networks needed to grow established small businesses. 

“These entrepreneurs have dedicated more than 100 hours for the last seven months to develop a strategic three-year growth, which they pitched to a panel of experts last week,” said Rodriguez.

Next were the graduates of Build Latino, a training program for professionals in construction.

The program consisted of 13 Zoom sessions, in which participants often took part from their worksites.

“They showed up for full-day workshops, and at the end of that, they still wanted more,” said Rodriguez. 

Javier Suarez, Rosaura Hernandez-McCall, Mayra Hernandez Bergman, Jennifer Rodriguez, Keeya Branson-Davis at the 2022 GPHCC Annual Meeting. Photo Courtesy of Paola Vélez/IG: @pvfotograf.
Javier Suarez, Rosaura Hernandez-McCall, Mayra Hernandez Bergman, Jennifer Rodriguez, Keeya Branson-Davis at the 2022 GPHCC Annual Meeting. Photo Courtesy of Paola Vélez/IG: @pvfotograf. 

To close, Rodriguez made a poignant statement about the value of Latino entrepreneurs.

“One of the things that we want to make sure that we understand is that Latino entrepreneurs can really change the face of our communities,” she noted. “We really can create wealth, we are in every industry at every level, but here in Philadelphia, in particular, we have a ways to go.”

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