Gina Harman is the CEO of Accion’s U.S. Network, the only nationwide microfinance and small-business lending network in the United States. A longtime proponent of social justice, she believes passionately in helping hard-working, determined people take control of their economic future so they can provide for themselves and their families while contributing to their communities
Latino entrepreneurs play a significant role in the marketplace today and will continue to do so in the future. Here at Accion we’ve seen it play out over the past 20 years.
Look at it by the numbers: Latinos in the U.S. are opening businesses at twice the national rate. They comprise a group of more than 2.3 million entrepreneurs, are generating more than $345 billion in sales, and are sending over $50 billion in remittances to Latin America each year.
Those are powerful numbers that are getting a lot of attention.
In 2011, the U.S. State Department had a thought: What if we could positively encourage the sharing of knowledge, expertise, and capital of Latino entrepreneurs in the U.S. into tangible improvements in the countries in which they have businesses, families and community ties?
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recognized the influential role of diaspora communities, and as a result, launched programming that would work to leverage the knowledge sharing, expertise and capital from within these communities.
In partnership with the U.S. State Department, USAID, and 10 diverse organizations, Accion helped design and execute the La Idea program. La Idea consisted of building out a comprehensive digital platform with bilingual resources for both entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Latin America, a 16-city business advising event series, and a business pitch competition highlighting the power of collaboration across borders.
The La Idea Business Pitch Competition culminated in December with a final showcase event. The 16 finalists shared incredibly motivating stories on how they leveraged knowledge sharing, expertise and capital within the Latin American diaspora to create sustainable, profitable businesses in both the U.S. and Latin America.
The three winners of the La Idea Business Pitch Competition, Natural Sins, Kahai, and Agronometrics, had amazing stories that serve as inspiring examples of the power of partnerships.
Natural Sins is a company dedicated to the development, manufacturing and commercialization of healthy food products. They have created a crispy, baked, all natural fruit thin that not only resembles the fruit but also has an amazing great taste.
By taking a childhood snack and implementing an innovative manufacturing process, partners Andres Dominguez and Ivan Sosa have established a business that is creating jobs, helping to develop communities in Costa Rica, and working to make the world a healthier place.
Kahai is the first and only company in the world to industrialize the Cacay, an amazon tree that produces highly nutritious nuts, from which a precious oil is extracted for skin and hair care.
Partners Camilo Jaramillo and Pablo Sierra are working to establish the Cacay crop as an alternative for sustainable economic development in Colombia, generating jobs, reforesting the Amazon, and aiding in watershed renewal.
Agronometrics helps importers and exporters save time and effort by collecting, organizing and analyzing the world’s agricultural data. Agronometrics creates dynamic reports that allow businesses to optimize decision-making and increase profitability.
Partners Colin Fain and Claudio Riquelme are working together to create a product that will significantly affect the agricultural community, resulting in a more inclusive market. With Agronometrics, many companies that traditionally were unable to participate in the importation/exportation of agriculture will now be able to enter the marketplace.