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While Latino entrepreneurs represent the fastest-growing segment of the small business community, that doesn't mean that starting them was an easy task. Like all small businesses, new business owners face many challenges.
According to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI), the biggest obstacle new business owners face is a lack of funding, and, unfortunately, discrimination can play a part in that. The SLEI's 2018 State of Latino Entrepreneurship report found that "Latino entrepreneurs are more likely to experience a funding shortfall. Twenty-eight percent of Latino business owners received full funding, compared to 49 percent of white business owners. In other words, Latino business owners are denied more often than white business owners."
Embrace a "Whatever It Takes" Attitude
Nonetheless, these hurdles didn't stop Los Angeles-based Latino entrepreneur Jesse Abonza, from launching Allied CPR. Funding the business required Abonza to work a lot of overtime to save enough to quit his old job.
"It was a sacrifice, but that's how I got started," says Abonza, who set up his security firm in southern California in 2019.
Offer Something Unique
Beyond funding, Abonza also faced the challenge of standing out from competitors. His solution was to offer something unique. His business provides private security guard services, as well as CPR and basic life support classes and certifications. "There are many security guard firms out there, but not [a single] one like us," he says.
When conducting business research, Abonza looked into certifications that would make his service different than competing security services. "I thought that would be a good combination to have, and because of that all our guards are certified in CPR. It's a good selling point."
Abonza says that, as a startup, he can't compete with the big and well-established security firms, but because he offers something different, he's been able to garner clients and attention.
Do the Research
Like many small would-be entrepreneurs, Abonza initially struggled to find helpful information as he pursued his dream. For example, he was under the misconception that he needed to have experience in law enforcement in order to run a security business. His research proved that isn't the case. The lesson—do your homework.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has nearly 1,000 Small Business Development Centers across the country (including U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico) that provide assistance to small businesses, with particular emphasis on guidance to startups, including where to find low-cost loans and research about the local market and the industry the startup is in. The centers partner with local groups and universities on free consulting and low-cost training on a variety of issues pertinent to startups.
While Abonza's path to entrepreneurship had its bumps, he didn't let that stop him, and he encourages others to be persistent in pursuing their dreams.