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Elkhart Co. hoping to inspire Latinos with new entrepreneurship program

GOSHEN, Ind. - Elkhart County hopes to boost business by empowering the Latino community with its brand new Latino Entrepreneurship Program.

The first free class kicked off Tuesday night at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce.

One leader said the hope is that veteran business owners can inspire rookie entrepreneurs to set up shop in Elkhart County.

“I’m like a little sponge. I want to absorb and learn as much as possible,” said Elkhart small business owner Mirian Ortiz.

Ortiz opened Sergio’s Café with her father back in 2014.

Now—she says it’s time to grow.

“There’s more opportunities, and if you don’t go out to seek them, you’ll never know. You’ll never find them,” said Ortiz.

She and the rest of her class see this brand new Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative as just that opportunity.

“Being from Goshen, it’s always been a passion of mine to unite all the Latinos that work in this area,” said Jorge Campos, the President of the Center for Healing and Hope.

The Center for Healing and Hope, Goshen and Elkhart Chambers of Commerce, Chicago’s Mexican Consulate, and Goshen College are uniting to empower.

“We’re tickled. We’re excited. Emocionados, contentos, that we can actually reach that population that potentially has wanted to be more connected with the chamber of commerce but haven’t had that bridge,” said Dean of Students for Goshen College, Gilberto Perez, Jr.

They’re trying to build that bridge.

“35% percent of the Hispanic and Latino population in Goshen in particular, so the presence and the presence of their business community is growing and expanding, so the more we can help provide tools and necessity for a strong business future, the better our community will be in the long run,” said President and CEO of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, Nick Kieffer.

“We always believe the best way to help somebody is to help them, to guide them, step-by-step for what they should do, and the most important thing we can tell them is about their finances,” said Francisco Marquez, who represents the Community Affairs department in Chicago’s Mexican Consulate.

Mirian and her inaugural classmates are ready to take that first step.

“We can never learn enough when we’re in business. There’s always something new that you can learn,” she said.

The group hopes their program will help establish a Midwest Latino Entrepreneurship Network.

Besides the one in Goshen, there was a similar class held tonight in Sturgis, Michigan.

In the future, they’re looking to expand to South Bend, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Detroit, and eventually Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio.

For now, classes run every Tuesday night from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The next three classes will be held at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, and the last four will be held at the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

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