In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Hispanic-Latino small business community has grown by more than 50% over the past decade. Yet these 8,000-plus firms face certain challenges. “The different stereotypes and perceptions about the Hispanic-Latino community often create barriers to opportunities,” says Gris Bailey, president and CEO of the 400-member Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte (LACCC). “Minority-owned businesses oftentimes go unseen because they do not have the marketing dollars to increase their exposure and reach a wider audience.”
With its latest initiative, LACCC is working to help this group of entrepreneurs be seen by a wide audience. In early 2022, LACCC launched Shop La Plaza, an e-commerce platform designed to promote local minority-owned small businesses. “Shop La Plaza is helping close the digital divide for small businesses that would not otherwise have the opportunity to market and promote their products and services online due to lack of resources or knowledge,” says Bailey.
In addition to giving up to 250 independent businesses a place on the site and running marketing campaigns to support them, LACCC will help owners update their technology and provide training in how to promote their products or services online. The hope is that by diversifying their sales channels, these small businesses can better withstand another disruption like the pandemic — and adjust to new consumer habits forged during the shutdown. Nearly 7 out of 10 consumers say they have purchased a product in a new way since 2020, such as using curbside pickup or making contactless payments; more than half prefer buying online to going into a brick-and-mortar store.footnote1
Shop La Plaza is already home to a bakery, a nail salon, a house cleaning service and entrepreneurs like Obed Guzman of Alma HVAC, who says he never had the staff or understanding to market his business online. For Sierra Flores, the marketing help she has received from LACCC allows her to dedicate herself full time to her language coaching business, Everyday Español. Shop La Plaza has also helped International Truck of Tacos attract media coverage. “This marketplace,” says Bailey, “provides an opportunity to build community.”
The support for the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country. From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s biggest challenges.