CO.LAB, Compañía and LAUNCH Chattanooga, organizations that promote business development and entrepreneurship in Chattanooga, graduated their first all-Spanish language cohort on Monday, Dec. 3.
CO.STARTERS, a program of CO.LAB that equips aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn business ideas into tangible plans, had their curriculum material translated to Spanish in order to reach the Spanish-speaking market nationwide.
CO.LAB began the class in October in collaboration with Compañía, La Paz Chattanooga’s business development arm that works as a chamber-like platform to develop strategies to connect, mentor and strengthen Latino business owners and bilingual professionals, and support organizations striving to reach the Latinx market.
Compañía assisted the program by recruiting participants for the cohort, coordinating logistics, and providing communication and marketing efforts for recruitment as well as each week of the program. Compañía invited various Latinx business leaders from the community to share their experiences with the participants. Among the invited guests were Jorge Luis Loa of Carnicerías Loa, Erwin Ovalle of MCS, Nerdwebs and Ovalle’s Catering, Bilda Acuña of GPS, and Hector Olivencia of Olivencia & Cribben Law Office.
Jose Alfaro, vice president of Operations and Hispanic Engagement at CO.STARTERS, facilitated the nine-week program.
"I'm very grateful for Compañía; they were key partners in coordinating the cohort for the Spanish CO.STARTERS Class. Without their collaboration, this class wouldn't have been such a success,” said Mr. Alfaro.
Marco Perez, vice president of Operations at LAUNCH Chattanooga, was also an integral component of the course, as he provided assistance in facilitation to Alfaro and contributed advice to the participants from his years of experience.
Marcus Shaw, chief executive officer of CO.LAB, was present for the cohort graduation, wherein the participants presented their final business product and plan.
"CO.LAB values diversity, inclusion, and belonging as a foundation to a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our partnership with La Paz's Compania and CO.STARTERS developed 19 entrepreneurs through Spanish language instruction. This illustrates the power of supporting all of our region's entrepreneurs through inclusive programming," said Shaw.
The participants of the Spanish language class were: Gisela Bellina, Luz Bohorquez, Rafael Carmona, Rocío Chávez, Juan A. Florez, Juan C. Florez, Pilar Garcia, Carlos Garcia, Dulce Guzmán, Raquel Hidalgo, Nazareth ‘Nancy’ Loa, Jose Loza, Aideé Martinez, Deliana Natera, Jorge Ramirez, Christian Rivas, Marcelino Robles, Javier Sanchez, Luis Silva, and Alberto Torres.
Among the businesses represented were: Cheese Dip Mexican Grill, El Quijote Catering, Guacamole Latin Kitchen, Top This Construction, Punto Latino, Jose Loza Photography, Tropical Produce, and Squeaky Clean Chattanooga.
Luis Silva and Gisela Bellina of Squeaky Clean Chattanooga, were the recipients of a $10,000 Kiva loan. Kiva, an international nonprofit, is an online lending platform that connects online lenders to entrepreneurs across the globe. Kiva was introduced into CO.LAB’s repertoire in 2018 to be available to the Chattanooga entrepreneur community.
“Kiva is an excellent platform for obtaining loans without interest. It isn’t easy fundraising for the loan but with plenty of focus and help from our community, we achieved our goal of 10,000 dollars,” said Mr. Silva.
“I am so grateful to all the staff at Kiva, CO.STARTERS and La Paz for giving us the necessary tools so that my business could be set up for success.”