In hope of bringing Wisconsin out of its startup slump, Dane County’s Latino Chamber of Commerce opened a new center that would mentor and assist the county’s Latino community in starting their own businesses.

With Wisconsin lagging behind national levels for startup activity, the chamber’s executive director, Jessica Cavazos, said resource centers for startups specified for certain populations are in high demand. Latinos account for 54 percent of the nation’s population growth between 2000-14. Assisting this community in Wisconsin is an instrumental part of increasing the state’s number of startups, Cavazos said.

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Cavazos said the center’s mission is to make the road to starting a business easier for Latino entrepreneurs. This process, she said, often differs from their home country and can be difficult to get used to without the right information.

“It’s the fact that you have someone motivating you and providing you with support,” Cavazos said.

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Brandie De La Rosa, one entrepreneur who is using the center’s services for her new startup — which helps businesses respond to possible domestic violence cases — said one of the largest barriers to the success of new businesses in Wisconsin is lack of knowledge about the legalities involved. Many people want to start a business, but do not know about resources available to them.

One of the center’s key aspects is its multilingual services. Many of Wisconsin’s startup resources are only available in English, limiting access to non-English speakers. With the center’s help, Latino immigrants can gain information in their own language if they wish to do so, Cavazos said.

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The center’s services are also customized to a person’s startup, Cavazos said. The startup plan is thoroughly assessed before advice on business requirements and further steps is given. The only limitation is startups older than two years cannot access these services.

“Whether it’s a food business, a salon or a county firm, we do our research and try to customize the information to that person,” Cavazos said. “We really care that our businesses are successful.”

De La Rosa said the center has mentored her and connected her with useful contacts in her field. Many of these connections have generated business for her startup.

The center also provides workspace for entrepreneurs to rent. This includes workshop, meeting and office spaces, Cavazos said. 

Cavazos said the center is also open to students in the Latino community. Though no student startups have visited yet, the center does not turn anyone away based on background. She said she hopes to start a new program in the future specifically for university students.

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“Our facilities are really beautiful and give you pride to want to come in and work for a day,” Cavazos said.