For Troy University’s Small Business Development Center, Hispanic Heritage Month has been an opportunity to showcase the success Hispanic and Latino business owners have experienced in Alabama’s Wiregrass region.
In response to a request from a community member in Daleville, TROY SBDC Director Juliana Bolivar created a program to deliver SBDC support and training in Spanish. The first program targeted 15 entrepreneurs who preferred to receive information in Spanish and laid the foundation for the creation of other programs.
“I understand the importance of providing information and assistance in Spanish, as my parents are first-generation immigrants and entrepreneurs. Although they speak English, they feel more comfortable in their first language to make sure their business is in compliance and they have a better idea how to grow,” said Bolivar, who is herself a native of Colombia who completed part of her undergraduate education at the University of Medellin.
She said that Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs face the same obstacles as any other entrepreneurs when they want to start a successful business. If greater understanding of those success traits can be accomplished through delivery of Spanish-speaking services, Bolivar said that was what the SBDC would do.
“It’s a competitive marketplace out there and promoting better comprehension of business topics helps build sustainable small businesses,” she said.
One of those businesses is the home-based AM Wood Design in Enterprise.
Michelle Agosto was one of the original participants in the TROY SBDC’s first Spanish-language workshop. She and her family produce custom wood items that range from signs to decorative items.
Originally from Puerto Rico, the Agostos moved to southeast Alabama from Alaska, where her husband had been stationed as an active-duty Army soldier. Thanks to efforts of the TROY SBDC, they were able to turn a hobby into a solid business.
“It was many years of listening to people tell me: ‘You have talent! Why don’t you open your own business?’,” Agosto said. “Perhaps it was out of fear or the lack of knowledge, but when I arrived in Alabama, I had some plans, but God had other plans. AM Wood Design was one of them.”
She credits Bolivar and the SBDC for giving her the tools to turn her talent into sales and income.
“We are happy we found the SBDC, Mrs. Juliana Bolivar and all those who have supported us in the process of making this dream come true,” she said.