Husband and wife business partners, Diego Leon and Jenny Lopez, rely on their memories of Colombian fruit and juice stands to recreate the vibrant and unique dishes of their homeland. These thoughts inspire their restaurant, FRUIT, in Grand Island, Nebraska.
The couple immigrated to the U.S. in 2014, and opened their business in January 2016. Diego says starting their venture was an intensive process, but a labor of love.
With financial assistance from the Center for Rural Affairs, the business owners made improvements and upgrades, including moving the restaurant to a location with more customer traffic, creating advertising campaigns and marketing strategies, and increasing menu options. These changes have led to growth and prosperity for their business.
Diego and Jenny’s success is one example of the many Latino-owned businesses thriving throughout Nebraska. Financial assistance through the Center has helped countless entrepreneurs, too.
The Center for Rural Affairs’ Latino Business Center exists to create new economic opportunity, higher incomes, asset growth, and improved skills for rural Latino entrepreneurs, like Diego and Jenny.
Our Latino loan specialists pride themselves on delivering comprehensive business development services for these business owners through technical assistance, loan funding, and training opportunities.
The hard work done by those in this organization is paying off, according to a new report.
Recently, the Latino Business Center, alongside the Nebraska Latino American Commission, published their findings on Latino-owned businesses in the state of Nebraska.
Written by Dr. Juan Paulo Ramirez, of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) & Human Dimensions, the report highlights and summarizes results from the 2012 Nebraska Survey of Business Owners, published by the U.S. Census Bureau in December 2015. For this report, the survey was filtered with "Hispanic" ethnicity.
Report findings demonstrate positive growth in the number of Latino businesses from 2007 to 2012. This is especially important to remember, considering this growth took place during years of recession and with limited access to credit lines by Latino entrepreneurs.
The report disclosed that more than 4 out of 10 Latino firms are owned by Latino women, and two-thirds of Latino-owned firms are of Mexican origin, which is 7 percent lower when compared to the previous census.
During this time, the number of Latino firms nearly doubled (97.5 percent), from 3,063 to 6,048, while non-Hispanic firms grew only 2.8 percent. There was 50 percent employment growth over those five years, despite the economic recession.
Center for Rural Affairs Latino Loan Specialist Veronica Spindola says these numbers are very encouraging.
“Latinos are a business-oriented society, and as they gain better understanding of rules and regulations, and better access to financial resources, the number of businesses will continue to grow at a rapid pace,” she said.
Spindola continues, saying this report offers vital information that will help communities grow from the inside out.
“I visited several chambers of commerce around northeast Nebraska, and I was shocked by the lack of information about Latino business numbers in every city,” she said. “When I asked about these business numbers, I never got definite answers. With this report, now every organization and economic development representative will know where Latino businesses stand and how important these numbers are.”
Other highlights of the report include:
- More than $1 billion in sales by Latino firms.
- Average of $1.5 million in annual sales per Latino firm.
- “Construction” is the economic sector that concentrates most of Latino ownership (22.4 percent), followed by “Health Care and Social Assistance” (13.9 percent).
- More than 8 out of 10 Latino owners in “Health Care and Social Assistance” are females, and more than 9 out of 10 Latino owners in “Construction” are males.
- Male participation in “Construction” increased from 20 percent in 2007 to 42.8 percent in 2012, while female participation in “Health Care and Social Assistance” decreased from 42 percent to 27.3 percent during the same time period.
- Douglas County has the most Latino-owned firms, at 38 percent, followed by Lancaster County with 13 percent.
Diego and Jenny’s accomplishments are just one of many in Nebraska, proving Latino-owned businesses are thriving in our state.
Feature photo: Neil Robles and Xiomara Yamileth Robles (pictured) own Variedades La Union, a small, Latino business in Schuyler, Nebraska. The store holds a variety of items ranging from children's clothes to shores, and more. | Photo by Kylie Kai