Hispanic Business Owners To Get Help Just For Them.
By Mary Ellen Godin, Record-Journal

  Hispanic entrepreneurs wishing to start a new business might want to look beyond opening mom and pop grocery stores or restaurants.
  That�s one message Rafael Collazo will share at the popular Meriden Entrepreneurship Program when it returns to the city on Wednesday.
  The free 10-week course - taught in Spanish - is designed to give Hispanic business owners the tools they need to be successful. It�s taught by the University of Connecticut�s Small Business and Development Center and underwritten by the center, the Meriden Economic Development Corporation and Castle Bank.
  The program made its debut five years ago in Meriden, then traveled to cities such as Bridgeport, New Britain, Waterbury and Stamford before returning.  About 78 participants have already signed up.
  "It�s a big celebration," said Collazo, a Hispanic education ad outreach worker for the center. "There was a need all over the state."
  Collazo said large jumps in the number of Hispanics in the U.S. today have sparked a greater need for programs that help business owners learn about licensing procedures, marketing, crafting a business plan, legal issues and banking.
  "They have businesses. What they need is direction," Collazo said. "We�re here to help them out."
  The program takes a four-year curriculum and condenses it into one-night-a-week classes. This year�s program runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Women and Families Center, formerly the YWCA.
  The first class features success stories highlighting Hispanic business owners relating how they got started and succeeded. Local businesspeople Angel and Mercedes Vicente, owners of the restaurant Fontana di Calabria at Colony Street and Kensington Avenue, and Jose and Martha Mendoza, who acquired Colonial Carpet in 1976, are among the guest speakers.
  Successful businesspeople have learned to reach out into the community and get recognized, Collazo said.
  "In Meriden, we are lacking some of that," he said. "We need to acquaint them with the system - then they take over and you can�t stop them."
  Lawrence M. McGoldrick, president of Castle Bank, which is sharing the $750 cost to rent the building, said the program fit the types of initiatives that help small business owners develop skills and grow that the bank wanted to support. The bank hopes to underwrite more ventures coming from the center to the city.
  "It was exactly what we wanted to do," McGoldrick said. "Castle Bank really wants to encourage entrepreneurialism. It�s great for the city and for those who can take advantage of it. It wasn�t too long ago, Castle Bank was a completely entrepreneurial venture."
  In addition to the introduction class with local business owners, the program will spend two classes defining benefits versus features, targeting your markets and filling a niche market.
  Class instructors are professional who volunteer their service and expertise, and key state representatives from various state agencies will be on hand to introduce their services to the class, said Associate State Director for Education Zaiga Antonetti. To date, 875 individuals have completed one or more of the series. Several have attended more than one.
  "The program is so successful, when they find out it�s being offered, they travel." Antonetti said.
  For more information about the program or to register call (860) 240-4700, ext. 223.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

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