Latino business owners benefit from financial management course

Josie Torres-Boykins received a rude awakening when she began visiting Latino-owned businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic to help owners apply for state relief grants for businesses in the industry. hotelier.

“I found that some of these businesses didn’t even have computers and didn’t keep good financial records, making them ineligible to apply for grants,” Torres-Boykins said. “I could tell straight away that they needed help.”

Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Torres-Boykins consulted with members of the Berks County Latino Business Network, a group of 10 organizations and entities – including the Latino Chamber – that are working to make advance local businesses and promote entrepreneurship. Together they came up with a plan to offer a financial management course to Latin American business owners.

They received an enthusiastic response, with nearly 20 companies signing up for the four-week, eight-hour course offered at Alvernia University’s Upland Center.

In this photo, left to right: Isamac Torres-Figueroa, bilingual business consultant for Kutztown University’s Small Business Development Center; Gilberto Garcia Rodriquez, owner of Dream Garden Daycare and Learning Center and participant in the financial management course; and Josephine Torres-Boykins, acting executive director of the Berks County Chamber of Commerce. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

The classes, which covered topics such as budgeting, simple accounting methods, cash flow, invoicing and financial document review, were facilitated by volunteers from the University of Kutztown and the Community First Fund, an economic development organization that serves low-income communities.

“The courses have proven to be very popular with business owners,” Torres-Boykins said. “They were excited because they learned so much. Most of them are eager to continue learning and take the acquired knowledge to the next level.

Although due to financial constraints there are no plans in place for a second offering of the Financial Education Management course at this time, Torres-Boykins hopes the Latino Business Network will be able to obtain the necessary funding to provide more educational opportunities.

“We are applying for grants and hoping that maybe someone will come and help us get some funding, so we’ll do it again,” she said. “We know this kind of education is needed for small business owners, and we hope we can find a way to do more.”

Berks County Commissioner Michael Rivera addresses business owners at the April 27 graduation ceremony of a pilot financial management training course for Latino business owners in Reading. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

Owners who have completed the course were recently recognized at a graduation ceremony at the I-LEAD Inc. office, located in Alvernia University’s Upland Center.

I-LEAD and Alvernia helped launch and are members of the Berks County Latino Business Network, along with the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, Latino Chamber of Commerce, Community First Fund, Kutztown University Small Business Development Center, Berks LaunchBox Penn State , Berks County, Berks Latino Workforce Development Corp. and the town of Reading.

The organization was created last year to support and advance the interests of Latin American small business owners by providing organizational, financial, legal and educational services and resources. Rodney Ridley, Associate Provost and VP/COO of the O’Pake Institute in Alvernia, praised the network’s efforts and said supporting Latin American businesses is essential for Reading and surrounding communities. .

“Latino business owners are the backbone of our local economy, which is why this type of training and collaboration program is essential for our community,” Ridley said.

Owners of a variety of businesses, including construction, cleaning, flowers, daycare, transportation, and automotive technology have enrolled in the course. Torres-Boykins praised those who completed it, noting that while Latino business owners face many challenges, they tend to be resilient and willing to try new ideas.

“I work with these companies and get to see firsthand the many needs of Latin American small business owners,” Torres-Boykins said. “But despite the barriers they encounter, they always manage to circumvent them.”

Geraldine L. Melton