Fabiola Giguere has run a cleaning company for the past 33 years. This is not an easy task for anyone, as the US Small Business Administration estimates that two-thirds of new businesses do not survive their tenth birthday.
However, the number is even more impressive when you consider that Guigere immigrated to East Haven in 1989 to escape terror from the Peruvian militia group known as the Sendero Luminoso. Three years later, I started Limpiex cleaning company in Hamden.
As this business flourished, Giguere began pursuing her passion with her own jewelry brand, Aciq Designs. Named after the Quechua word meaning “Bright,” Achiq Designs has opened for the past five years at 1081 South Main St.
Giguere plans to expand its business to the former Wells Fargo branch in downtown Wallingford.
“It’s going to be an open concept,” she said. “I enjoy.”
However, Giguere’s success is the exception to the rule, as both women and Latinos are more likely to be workers than business owners.
In Connecticut, about 16% of workers are Hispanic, but only 9% of business owners are Hispanic, according to an SBA report. The report also found that about 22% of workers are ethnic minorities, but only 12% are business owners.
The SBA found a large gap for women, who made up 48% of the workforce, but only 41% of business owners.
This gap is particularly relevant for New Haven County, where small businesses account for just over half of the county’s employment: above the national and state average, according to an analysis of 2019 census data by log-magazine.
To address these disparities, the state announced two new programs this summer — the Connecticut Small Business Support Fund and the Connecticut Future Fund. Both are designed to provide resources for small businesses owned by women and ethnic minorities.
However, despite new initiatives, many minorities do not have business backgrounds or access to the technical knowledge needed to start a business.
Colombian Nelson Marchand has worked as a consultant at the Connecticut Center for Small Business Development for the past nine years and has worked with several Latino-owned businesses.
He explained that the center can provide free resources to those looking to start their own businesses, even if they do not have a business degree.
“We want the customer to earn more money because this is good for the economy,” he said. “If a family can make better decisions, this is a great gift for our communities.”
Speaking of his work, Marchand said his three most successful clients are women. The common denominator was that all three had experience in their industry and had gone through the paperwork required to get a loan
Marchand explained that before a bank approves a business loan, most lenders ask applicants for 20% of the money needed to start their business. Marchand said banks are also requesting technical documents such as a business plan, financial forecast and market research.
“The numbers have to be realistic because if they are not, it’s a no-win situation,” he said.
Because of the stringent requirements, Marchand said, applicants may be tempted to approach a lender with more lenient requirements.
However, more lenient requirements often mean that the loan is viewed as a riskier investment, resulting in higher loan interest rates.
He also added that a low level of English, a low credit score, or a lack of collateral may also prevent Latinos from getting a loan.
In addition to these issues, there are additional barriers to women seeking to start a business.
“Most of the people who make decisions about who gets a loan are not women,” said Joanne Gulpin of the Connecticut Women’s Business Development Council. “Access to capital remains the single biggest obstacle for women starting or trying to start or grow businesses,” she said in a phone interview.
The council provides a number of opportunities for female business owners, including advice, grants, loans, and networking. Focusing on minority and low-income clients, the council reports that 48% of its clients are minority-owned businesses.
With Connecticut’s growing Latino population, Gulpin explained that the board has hired Spanish-speaking business consultants and program managers, made their website available in Spanish, and offered bilingual workshops.
Gulpin also noted a new program that has developed a series of business development services for home and center child care providers in partnership with the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood.
One in five child care workers in Connecticut are Hispanic women, according to 2018 census estimates. The number is even higher for Meridians, and one in four child care workers are Hispanic women.
“A very large portion of the childcare providers speak Spanish,” Gulpin said. “In order to really do our best to serve them, we needed to do more in Spanish.”
Gloria Montoya, from Meridian, recently joined the board. I applied and attended a number of workshops.
Montoya’s works, My Little World, are good…a little. She is the only employee and takes care of six pre-school children. Montoya immigrated from Peru in 1999 and started a home childcare service in 2009. She said the children are a mix of ages and ethnicities, but she speaks to all of them in her native Spanish.
“Children are like sponges that can learn several languages, even if they don’t speak them,” she said in Spanish. “Children will decide which language to speak, or whether or not they want to speak both, but they already have the knowledge.”
Montoya has an Associate’s degree in Child Development from Middlesex Community College and is passionate about discussing early childhood education, but she admits that bookkeeping is not her strength.
“I knew a lot about what a business was and how to run it, but all the bookkeeping went to my accountant,” she said. “that they [the council] It gave me a lot of direction.”
Montoya also received a technical grant during the pandemic and funding to change her rug to a hardwood floor to provide better care for children with allergies.
In addition to not getting loans, many Latino-owned businesses struggle to stay in business for extended periods of time.
“I think the lack of planning sometimes forces companies, Latin companies, to fail,” Marchand said.
For long-term success, Marchand stressed the importance of creating a sound business plan — especially when a new business owner doesn’t have to apply for a loan. He said that many first-time business owners are preoccupied with their ideas and don’t know how their business will work in the future. “Dreams are beautiful,” he said, “but sometimes reality beats dreams.” “If the business isn’t growing and you still want to keep spending money, it’s not good.”
You have to do your research.
When Giguere first opened Limpiex, she remembers receiving advice from SCORE, an SBA-supported nonprofit that matches business mentors with potential business owners. “Every time you open something up, you have to do your research,” she said.
Geiger holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Albertus Magnus College. However, despite her business background, Giguere remembers that SBA helped Limpiex become an 8(a) certified company.
According to the department, the Certificate 8(a) is a nine-year program created to help businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. For Guiguiere, this meant that Limpiex could compete with larger companies for contracts reserved for 8(a) companies.
Guigiere encourages other business owners to take advantage of programs like SCORE and 8(a). A few years ago, Gugiere said she came back to SCORE to teach a workshop on how to start a cleaning business.
“Opening a business can be a bit intimidating. But once you have the blueprint, it will definitely get easier.”