The average, family-owned Latino business brings in less revenue than a similarly sized business in the same industry owned by someone who is not Latino. Tayde Aburto has made it his mission to change that, and he considers e-commerce a key tool for the effort.
Aburto started the Hispanic Chamber of e-Commerce in 2008 to serve the San Diego small business community. As a master’s student in marketing, he had researched the impact of e-commerce on exports and he had recently discovered research showing that Latino-owned businesses were not as digitally connected as the general market.
At first, the HisCEC hosted once-per-month business and networking seminars where participants could learn practical skills like how to set up a website and a business email account or use social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
These are not boring mixers where the same group of people show up just to network. Due to demand, the organization now hosts as many as three or four skills-based events per month, adding seminars about basic business strategies like managing cash flow and improving accounting methods.
The Hispanic Chamber of e-Commerce has about 1,100 members, but Aburto hopes to hit 4,000 by November 2018. Membership growth will mean providing services to more Latino-owned businesses in the San Diego area, and Aburto says the effects will be far-reaching.
A 2016 national survey of these businesses by the Stanford Graduate School of Business found Latinos start companies much more frequently than the general population, but their businesses tend to be smaller and make less money. Existing Latino businesses would see a $1.3 trillion collective increase in sales if they simply increased revenue to match average non-Latino businesses, Stanford researchers found.
Eliminating the revenue gap is one of Aburto’s key goals for members of the HisCEC. He says it’s largely a matter of being competitive in the marketplace.
“If you are still writing invoices by hand or printing them on Excel, you are losing time,” Aburto said. “Time is money.”
A few minutes saved sending electronic invoices with every client adds up. Not to mention the time saved by giving people a way to pay online. That change means fewer trips to the bank to deposit checks.
Even a few hundred dollars in savings over the course of a month can be reinvested in the company for targeted marketing campaigns on social media that can build brand awareness and bring in more customers. Aburto routinely counsels Latino business owners to stop printing flyers to distribute in their neighborhoods and instead move their efforts online.
“The businesses that are successful today are those that can leverage technology for their benefit,” Aburto said, adding that this is the present, not the future, of success in the Latino business community.
The Hispanic Chamber of e-Commerce is beginning to track its impact, collecting data about the revenue increases and expanded reach of its members because of HisCEC resources. While the family-owned businesses that make up the core of Aburto’s membership are more expensive to serve, he finds the effort to be critical, given the number of them in the Latino community.
And a lot of the resources he helps entrepreneurs adopt are free, like social media. Others require just a small fee.
“We have to use all these tools if we’re going to survive,” Aburto said.
By Tara García Mathewson