Utah Latinx businesses grow during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 5:40 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 22:38:37-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Latinx-owned small businesses are thriving in Utah despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Suazo Business Center, which provides training and education for small business owners, said resilience has been a key factor in the success of Latinx business during the pandemic.

"One of the things we saw, and we work very closely with our clients, is just the resilience," said Silvia Castro, Suazo Business Center's executive director. "If you look at the industries that were the most affected by corona, a lot of those industries are overwhelmingly minority."

Castro said despite revenue setbacks last year, Latinx business owners in Utah were able to adapt and utilize technology to keep their doors open.

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"We worked with them to pivot their operations," she added. "They were able to, overnight almost, make it. We were able to get them into online platforms. We were also able to help them get the funding."

She says access to state and federal funding was one of the major hurdles facing Latinx businesses over the past year. An August 2020 study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that: "Latino-owned businesses have less cash on hand and when requesting funding from the Payroll Protection Program, Latinos have their PPP loans approved at half the rate of white-owned businesses."

Even with all of the barriers, Castro said many local Latinx-owned businesses grew during the pandemic.

"We're seeing some of our businesses actually are starting to set up locations," she said. "They used to be in commercial kitchens, and now they're getting ready to set up their own places, which is amazing to especially see coming out of 2020."

The trend is not limited to Utah. Another Stanford study found that over the past 10 years, "the number of Latino business owners grew 34% compared to 1% for all other business owners in the United States."

"We can make big things with just a little bit of material, or just one idea," said small business owner Natalia Solache. "It becomes something big."

Solache is one entrepreneur who used Suazo Business Center's education programs to help grow her business.

"They helped me to give a shape of the idea that I had as a business itself," she added.

Solache owns Proyecciones Acting School, Utah's first-ever Spanish-speaking acting school, which also functions as a translating service. She said persistence is what has helped her remain successful throughout the pandemic.

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"You have to be constant in what you're doing," she said. "You have to love it, and since you love it, it becomes part of you, and since it's part of you, you're doing it anyways."

Castro also said that the support of the community has helped fuel the growth of Latinx small businesses both in Utah and nationally.