SALT LAKE CITY — Rogelio Henriquez dreams of owning his own business.

When the Chilean native came to the United States four years ago, he did what many in his circumstance previously had done — took work wherever he could find it.

Then two years ago, he came to Utah and worked in construction as a truck driver. He knew all along he wanted something more for his life, something more than working for someone else.

"When you have your own business, you work for (yourself)," Henriquez said. "Hopefully, when things get running good, you'll have somebody working for you."

Henriquez was among the 46 people who received the first-ever diploma for business plan development certified by Utah Valley University from the Pete Suazo Business Center. The summer class was honored Wednesday during a ceremony at the Zions Bank Building in downtown Salt Lake City.

The Suazo Center and the Woodbury School of Business at UVU collaborated to create and develop the class curriculum for participants of the program.

"We've had (faculty) review the materials (to determine) that it is generally accepted business principles that are being taught," said Eugene Seeley, associate dean at the Woodbury School of Business. "(The certification is) a validation in the 'first step' in education."

The partnership with UVU is a tremendous achievement for the Pete Suazo Business Center, said executive director Rod Castillo.

"Our priority is to provide quality education to our students, as well as an understanding of how important and valuable higher education is," Castillo said. "We believe this partnership will bring these participants closer to higher education."

Founded in 2002 in memory of Pete Suazo, Utah's first Latino state senator and leading advocate for the state's Latino and Hispanic population, the center is a business educational nonprofit organization targeting minority business owners.

The center assists underserved, existing and potential entrepreneurs to develop management skills and gain access to resources by providing business, personal finance and computer education, along with business plan development assistance, loan acquisition assistance, and ongoing business consulting and mentoring.

The organization serves more than 500 businesses a year, many of which are started at the center, Castillo said.

"Our goal is to help our local community, specifically the minority community, to either start a business or expand their existing business," he explained.

For 10 years, the Pete Suazo Business Center has been providing business classes and seminars, certifying more than 1,500 students and providing mentoring to thousands of entrepreneurs who today are making a strong contribution to Utah's economy, said Robert Heyn, the center's director of education.

"Through the educational and mentoring efforts of the center, we are providing the knowledge, skills and tools to ethnic minority entrepreneurs so they can make a direct impact in their businesses, their families and Utah's community," Heyn said.


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