Does PHX Startup Week Need a Hispanic Track?

phx startup week mary rabago monica villalobos

This week kicked off the 2nd annual Phoenix Startup Week. PHX Startup Week, started by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, is a week-long, Valley-wide showcase and celebration of Arizona’s entrepreneur community. My team at Coworking on 15th Ave had the pleasure and honor of hosting the Hispanic Track that took place at our location in the heart of central Phoenix.

edgar olivo phoenix hispanic entrepreneurs

Edgar Olivo, a featured speaker on the importance of a solid business plan

The Question

As the event drew near, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Do we really need a separate Hispanic Track? Are there enough Phoenix Hispanic Entrepreneurs that are already speaking in the standard startup week activities that it would be unnecessary?” As I thought about it, I realized that we did in fact need a Phoenix Startup Week focus on Hispanics, that would allow a closer look to the audience into this group of entrepreneurs.

Difference in Topic Discussions during the Hispanic Track

The reason the Hispanic Track brings value to the week-long event was evidenced as each of the nine panelists on the Hispanic Phoenix Startup Week Track took the stage. As is typical with a startup week, entrepreneurs discussed a topic with the goal of providing education as to how others can overcome similar obstacles. However, many speakers during the Hispanic Startup track had stories not often told within the standard startup discussion which generally revolves around technology, marketing, and how to drive sales or investment in the company. As we saw from the Hispanic Track, sometimes the struggle in growing the business as a Latino entrepreneur can be more about how does one even obtain the valid residential status to become a legal entrepreneur. This particular entrepreneur explained his successful story in raising $25,000 via a crowdfunding campaign. Another well known Hispanic entrepreneur and single mother discussed the difficulty in giving up a well paying job in order to spend more time with her family and the choice of entrepreneurship to help her reach her business and personal goals.

Real Stories from Hispanic Entrepreneurs

Stories from successful Latino startups were in order during the Hispanic Track sessions from Phoenix Hispanic Startup Week this past Monday. These stories resonated with the audience, both Hispanic and non Hispanic alike. In fact, one of my Anglo-colleagues in attendance that had never been to a Latino-focused startup event, mentioned that he was enjoying our event so much because the stories were new to him, and they were real. He felt the passion that comes from these entrepreneurs that may start with lesser means, which is something that he doesn’t always see with speakers from other entrepreneurial events he attends.

What Holds Latino Startups Back / Why are they Smaller?

Funding was a topic that was well discussed throughout the day among the Hispanic entrepreneurs. There has been much documented in the past few years about what keeps Latinos from the levels of success business owners of other ethnicities experience. The 2015 Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Study discusses in depth many of the reasons that Latino owned businesses are smaller, which includes topics that were discussed during the Hispanic Track such as the emphasis on bootstrapping, or self funding. It was found through their research that 64% of Latino owned businesses self fund their startups. This makes sense as Hispanics are often taught about the dangers in taking out loans. The notion of seeking funding is an option not considered as often with founders from a Hispanic background that may hold negative stereotypes on borrowing money. The Hispanic American Financial Experience, a study done in 2014 by Prudential, notes that culturally, there is a strong, negative stigma attached to personal debt, so in general, Hispanics seek to avoid it. 62% reported that there is no such thing as having “good debt”, while 49% indicated that if they cant pay cash, they simply don’t buy an item.

Thoughts

All these topics discussed made me realize that indeed a Hispanic Track at Phoenix Startup Week is well worth it. Hispanic entrepreneurs have a unique story to tell, that should be shared in order to grow the entrepreneurial community, Hispanic or not. It is inspiring to me that there were numerous Hispanics that were featured speakers during the five day event that were not part of Monday’s Hispanic Track. This is important to see the influence and recognition that Hispanic business owners are gaining here in the Valley. The Hispanic Track, similar to the Women’s Track held on Tuesday, hold lasting importance as they allow interested observers to go deeper with a specific set of entrepreneurs that they may relate well with.

During this past Monday we had approximately 100 people drop by throughout the day, the Paz Cantina food truck, a photo-booth, nine superb panelists, and endless networking opportunities. See from the pics below and I think you too will see how valuable the event was.

A version of this article appeared on Coworking on 15th Ave’s blog.

phx startup week mary rabago monica villalobos

Two of the Hispanic Track Phoenix Startup Week speakers, Monica Villalobos and Mary Rabago with a friend (far right).

A view of the crowd for the Hispanic Track at Phoenix Startup Week

A view of the crowd for the Hispanic Track at Phoenix Startup Week

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