It was Summer of celebration as 12 Latinx micro entrepreneurs became the first Fuerza Local Business Accelerator cohort to graduate in Southern Arizona. The lively ceremony was held at the YWCA in Tucson on June 30, 2018 and was filled with proud graduates, friends and family.
The celebration began with a colorful expo showcasing the unique products from the business program graduates. Delicious carnitas tacos, fresh ceviche, and mouth-watering sweets were popular choices. But yummy food wasn't the only amazing product on display. The twelve graduates represented various industries including cosmetology, photography, IT services, finance, and of course restaurants and hospitality.
The Local First Arizona Foundation worked with Vib’n LLC and the YWCA Tucson to help bring the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator to Tucson. The YWCA of Southern Arizona received a grant from the Tohono O'odham Nation and was the perfect partner because they had extensive experience working with entrepreneurship and various Tucson business leaders. On the other hand, the Vib'n team played a large role in working directly with graduates, making them another key partner.
In brief, the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator is a six-month training program offered at no cost to underserved Latinx micro entrepreneurs. The Spanish phrase "Fuerza Local" translates to "local strength" referencing the idea that this program is focused on building community, trust, and prosperity from the ground up. During the program, entrepreneurs learn the key fundamentals needed to launch or develop their business and make their business dreams a reality.
Lessons for this program were taught completely in Spanish and include diverse topics like accounting, social media, marketing and business planning. Best of all, the lessons were taught by well-known industry professionals in Arizona.
Check out this awesome video created by BRINK to learn more about the graduates:
This program was created in response to a dangerous crisis we noticed a few years ago. In 2013, there was a heavy influx of predatory lenders targeting low-income Latinx community members. They likely chose to target this community because many lacked financial literacy or had low access to resources which was a hindering them from building a strong business. We've achieved great success with our Fuerza Local program as 260 business owners have already completed the program and have generated $8.1 million in gross sales and borrowed more than 1.1 million. Below are just a few statistics from our most recent annual report:
By investing in our undeserved communities through entrepreneurship, we create a sustainable form of economic development and an effective strategy to build long-term prosperity. Why? Fuerza Local graduates go beyond creating a new business in the community. They create jobs, pump dollars back in to our community, and give back. They're the kind of people that are going to create a successful business and sponsor your youth soccer teams, donate to social projects, and share their new knowledge with others.
Interested in supporting this program? A gift of any amount will go a long way and directly support entrepreneurs eager to build a strong business, support their family, and give back to their community.