MILWAUKEE — After seeing the devastating effects of the pandemic on Latino-owned businesses across Southeast Wisconsin, the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Entrepreneurial Network turned their attention to making sure people could bounce back.
“When you are first generation, or perhaps even second generation, your challenges are not the same as someone that is third, fourth generation, who is fully acclimated to a culture, because we're already generations behind in wealth. So, I felt that looking at a comprehensive, holistic case management approach was the best way to address these inequities in the ecosystem,” said Nelson Soler, President & CEO at the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Southeast Wisconsin.
Soler says many people they work with were trying to fill out loan applications or pandemic relief grant applications using a cell phone, but some government and non-profit websites aren’t very user-friendly.
This, Soler says, inspired the chamber to step up and create the Mas Fuertes program to bridge the gap.
“It’s a program that addresses the inequities in financial capital, social capital, and human capital and many small Latino enterprises have. So, we started offering bilingual business coaching, technical assistance, grants, and loans, which are emergency in nature, to small businesses,” said Soler.
Since March of last year, the Mas Fuertes program has helped nearly 2,000 businesses get the eleventh-hour financial help they need to keep their doors open.
Still, Soler says the work doesn’t stop there.
“The pandemic was just one instance. We want to ensure that Latinos, who are the largest ethnic minority in the state, the largest ethnic minority in southeastern Wisconsin, thrive,” said Soler.
If you would like more information on the program, head to their website.