Hispano Chamber hosts traveling networking event
Ray Lucero Jr. had a hard time holding back tears while explaining the history of his business to Hispano small-business owners at an event organized by the The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce’s small business committee last month.
“The real strength is our parents. They are the ones that started this,” Lucero Jr. said while getting choked up.
“I apologize, I’m very close with my family. My mom and dad passed away. Mom in 2008 and dad in 2010. Their legacy obviously lives on with us,” Lucero Jr. said.
“This is not an easy business that were in, but we’re here for our community and all of those that mean the world to us.”
That community connection is part of Biz Gratis. This event gives AHCC members a chance to expose their businesses to other small-business owners, said Patrick Baldonado, member of the AHCC Board of Directors and committee liaison.
The event rotates locations each month, depending on the small business hosting it. Biz Gratis has existed for five years.
Lucero Jr. said hosting the Biz Gratis event gains support from business owners who are unfamiliar with his company.
“We don’t do a lot of marketing of our retail store which is critical in any type of retail environment. You have to go out there to the masses to get people to the store,” Lucero Jr. said.
“By being part of the Hispano Chamber, what it has allowed us to do, with an event like this, is expose ourselves, and our company, and our business to at least 50 different business owners.”
Lucero Jr. said his family has been in the flooring business since 1972, and have been doing retail for about 15 years. Lucero Jr. said that he took over the business when his father died in 2010. He still follows his father’s business advice.
“Networking is something my father loved to do. Early on, my dad didn’t spend a lot marketing the name,” Lucero Jr. said. “It was always word of mouth. So events like this were critical in seeing the growth of our company over the years.”
Lucero Jr. says these events are invaluable and plans on hosting more events at least once a year.
“Just to refresh people, in their mind, that we’re still here, and a . . . viable part,” Lucero Jr. said.
Baldonado said the group has been doing the Biz Gratis events for five years and is by far its most successful networking event.
The Biz Gratis event idea came to be when the chamber realized its members were not aware of other members’ businesses, Baldonado said.
The chamber used to host events at common areas like restaurants and hotels but it proved difficult bringing members to the businesses, Baldonado said.
The AHCC decided hosting the events at their members’ businesses would bring customers through the door and provide an opportunity to showcase what they do, Baldonado said.
“So it allows us really to feature each member one member at a time, and get a lot of non customers in their door and hopefully get them some business and that’s what our job as a chamber is to help commerce grow within our membership,” Baldonado said.
Baldonado said he feels like people at the event walk away with a really good knowledge of proper networking.
Baldonado said the main goal of networking is building a connection with different business owners in order to help each other out.
“Even if they’re business competitors they can find ways to hash it out…there’s ways to work through any business, and find niches within each other’s businesses to help each other and compliment each other, and build a partnership so you both grow,” Baldonado said.
AHCC’s Small Business Initiative
According the AHCC’s website, the group works to increase economic development and provide business and workforce education with a focus on the Hispanic and small-business community.
According to the consulting firm Geoscape’s study, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew at an annual rate of 7.5 percent between 2012 and 2015 compared to the 0.5 percent growth of all businesses during that time span,
AHCC has 1,500 members. Non-Hispanics comprise 35 percent of the membership whereas Hispanics make up 65 percent, said Ranee Tafoya, AHCC’s relationship manager.
Mike Silva, small business committee chair, said the group set up many events helping out their small business membership.
Silva said they set up a small business committee meeting bringing in large businesses connecting with small businesses. The meeting happens every third Wednesday of every month from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Silva said the group also holds a network alliance meeting where they train small businesses in services such as expert advice.
“This past month we had SCORE, retired executives, who provided free mentoring,” Silva said.
Silva said the group also does a “four by four” event, the third or fourth Wednesday of every month, where ACHCC’s members break into groups of four. The goal of the meeting is to get to know each other more personally.
“In that little group of four you get to know each other more intimately so that you can have referrals. Those referrals really generate revenue for you,” Silva said.
Silva said that the final event of the month is the Biz Gratis event that celebrates small business success.
“We have a lot of resources so get involved. It’s your chamber. If you don’t get involved, nothing happens,” Silva said.
Follow John on Twitter.