Making Business Grow

Launching a business is the beginning---knowing how to plan it, market it and make it profitable is the key. The website of the National Hispanic Business Information Clearinghouse (BIC) at is an excellent bilingual tool that provides that essential information for keeping businesses thriving. BIC supports the startup and growth of small and minority-owned businesses across the nation and abroad by providing key information on topics essential to the success of small business: money, markets, management and technology.

“The great thing about this site is that it brings together information from so many different sources that regardless of what kind of business owner you are, you will learn at least three things which will impact your business today,” says Jerusha Ramos, Financial Advisor for the New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

The non-profit BIC, based in Denver, is a bilingual source for business-related articles, online training videos, listings of local and national resources, organizations and associations and information on demographics and marketing to help Hispanic entrepreneurs. Tools, templates, podcasts and blogs are also posted, as is a searcheable database of 300 top business websites. BIC was funded by Western Union’s Our World, Our Family, a $50 million, five-year initiative to empower communities around the world, as well as a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Close to 75 national and local partners have joined the site, including leading national and local advocacy organizations that reach Hispanic communities throughout the U.S.

Minerva Rodriguez, president and CEO of Impact Consulting Group in Dallas, was led to BIC through the Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which is a partner. “This site helped us so much and saved so much time,” she says. Rodriguez says the centralized nature of the website allowed her to find the information she needed in one place with localized answers. “It helped us to get certified as a minority business about two years ago, and I still use it frequently to keep up with developments.”

How does BIC work? Its president, Michael Barrera, explains that the website is neatly laid out in easy-to-read interactive graphics. At any time, a user can click on the language icon and change back and forth from Spanish to English. The first step for entrepreneurs is to look in the Local Resources category for specific regulations and in-person assistance to help them start and operate a business in their region. They search by zip code and get information from government agencies, professional organizations, training centers, colleges and universities and funding sources. The Entrepreneurial Development Center offers online training, tools and the templates needed to build a business. Short video segments teach the basics and Hispanic-specific data of small business finance, marketing and demographics, management and technology. Users can read about policy and research to learn why some businesses succeed while others fail.

According to Barrera, there are special needs that BIC is filling. “Our goal is not just to help them start businesses, but to be successful and keep those businesses thriving,” he says. For example, the Living in the United States section informs about such concerns as how to enroll one’s children in school, where and how to get a Social Security card and how to pay taxes. Hometown Clubs links Mexican visitors with local organizations formed by fellow compatriots from various Mexican states. The site also lists information on how to find courses to learn English. Perhaps most useful is the Frequently Asked Questions section. Here are found the most-asked questions about starting, managing and running small businesses. Under Money, users can find out if they should use credit cards or other personal credit to finance the startup or expansion of their small businesses. Perhaps one has a marketing concern, such as ‘How do I create a brand for my small business.’ Find the answer in the Markets section. Dozens of other questions having to do with management and technology are also answered in depth, and with specific focus on the Hispanic population.

Barrera says BIC is adding 10,000 new members a month and getting hits from Spain and Latin America as well.

Irene Middleman Thomas