Hispanic women are the new face of entrepreneurship, says Antonella Packard, president of the Latin-American Chamber of Commerce.

As the number of immigrants in Utah grows, so does the number of businesses run by and targeting Hispanics. Over 60 percent of these businesses are run by women, said Javier Leon, member of the chamber's board of directors. To facilitate their unique needs, the chamber hosted the 4th Annual Latin Women's Expo on Saturday at the Sheraton Convention Center.

"Women get off the plane thinking, 'What am I going to do, where am I going to work?' They have entrepreneurial souls and right away they have business plans," said chamber founder and event chairwoman Renetta Coppard.

But starting a business is not easy. First, they must have capital. Next they must jump through complicated hoops such as securing licenses, leases and paying taxes. The chamber wants to help women work out these difficult tasks so they can focus on their goals, said board member Enrique Yescas.

Yescas' wife, Jessica, worked as a server in a restaurant for several years and saved her money until she was able to buy a franchise with Pier 49 Pizza in Murray. The chamber has supported her and awarded her Entrepreneur of the Year at its last gala.

The expo offered workshops to educate women like Jessica Yescas about accounting, writing business plans, applying for loans and maintaining their immigration status as well as other topics to help women in their personal lives such as parenting issues, nutrition and beauty advice.

The biggest obstacle to women entrepreneurs is finding capital, said board member Juan Ruiz. There are a lot of ways to borrow money, but the chamber hopes to introduce people to programs specifically designed to counsel small businesses, he said. One such program is Zions Bank's Business Resource Center run by Luz Robles, who was awarded a Latinas in Action award at the expo. The center gives free advice to people interested in a small business to help them set goals and write a business plan.

"We believe most small businesses fail because of poor planning and unrealistic expectations for profit and growth," said Josh Lichty, a business counselor for the center.

The Latinas in Action awards were given to women who have been trailblazers in their respective vocations, Packard said. Besides Robles, the chamber also honored Silvia Norman, vice president of Latino marketing for Wells Fargo Bank, for her community work, Michelle Ortega and Ely Martinez for hosting a popular morning show on Channel 23 and Ingrid Quiroz for her newspaper La Prensa Times and Olga Bahena for her achievement of becoming a sales manager at a hotel where she started as a chambermaid after years of hard work and academic success in local schools .

The chamber also awarded a Latina Heritage Award to Channel 2 News reporter Cristina Flores.


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