Joining Local Commerce Organizations Will Help Your Latino Business and Your Community

Four benefits to joining your local chamber of commerce.

I recently joined the board of the Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce so that I could help support small businesses in my community, especially those that are Latino-owned.  Even though more than 50% of the 10,000+ residents of the Village of Sleepy Hollow (located in New York State) are Hispanic and probably close to 50% of the small businesses located there are Latino-owned, only a handful of Latino owners are members of the Chamber.

I understand that the membership fee ($200 to $400 depending on the size of the business) and carving out time to attend the events might be deterrents to joining, especially during these difficult times.  However, to prosper and scale their businesses Latinos need to be part of these types of organizations in order to level the playing field.

Local Chamber membership provides opportunities to:

  1. Access information, resources, and discounts that are crucial to local businesses.
  2. Network and collaborate with other businesses.
  3. Expand your customer base.
  4. Gain a voice in local government.

I have learned through my short time with the Chamber Board that unless a business is a member, it will not be included in any of the community events, promotions or other marketing initiatives executed by the Chamber.  More importantly, businesses that are not members will not be part of the legislative and public policy advocacy work that the Chamber does to help promote economic growth.

To narrow the disparities between Latino- and white-owned businesses, we need to start by eliminating the knowledge gaps that exist and making a greater effort to become an integral part of the entire community that we serve, not just the Latino segment.

Furthermore, joining the chamber is not enough!  Members need to be vocal about the needs of Latino businesses.  If your Chamber does not have a large and unified Latino voice, then seek out more experienced members or mentors who can show you the ropes and provide advice.  Search for a sponsor who will help your business gain more visibility and advocate for your unique needs.

Latinos need to weave themselves into the fabric of their communities to succeed.  I realize that it may be uncomfortable to join an organization where you feel like you don’t belong.  However, Inaction is not an option!  We cannot just sit and wait for these Chambers to understand and engage Latino businesses.  We must take the first step!

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Lucia Ballas-Traynor
Lucia Ballas-Traynor
Lucia has more than 25 years’ experience in Hispanic media and has been at the helm of leading Hispanic media brands such as Univision's Galavision, MTV Tr3s and People en Español. Prior to launching her consulting business this year, Lucia was the EVP of Client Partnerships for Hemisphere Media Group, owner and operator of five leading Hispanic cable networks in the U.S. and Latin America. In this role, Lucia developed, set and implemented the Sales strategy across the company’s 5-network portfolio. Prior to joining Hemisphere in 2015, Lucia was co-founder and EVP of CafeMedia's MamásLatinas, a bilingual digital destination dedicated to connecting, entertaining and empowering Latina moms with a dynamic community and engaging editorial content. Lucia is a native of Chile. She is a graduate from New York University and lives with her husband and two children in Tarrytown, NY.

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