August 2, 2012
By Luci Scott
Hispanic-owned small businesses are growing into a powerful economic force across the Southeast Valley, mirroring a segment of the population that has grown in economic influence.
Of the small businesses in the Southeast Valley, 7,600 are owned by Hispanics.
Twenty-four percent of the region's population, or 213,000, is Hispanic, accounting for an annual purchasing power of $3.9 billion.
Marketers have taken notice.
"That's almost one-fifth of the purchasing power of Hispanics in Maricopa County," said Ruben Hernandez of FACIL Marketing. "That's a lot of money, so all businesses and health-care (entities) and charter schools are looking to gain Hispanic customers or students."
To promote marketing and to boost success of Hispanic-owned small businesses, attorney Phil Austin recently founded the East Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Among the early members of the Mesa-based group are beer distributor Hensley, the law firm Snell and Wilmer, contractor Hensel Phelps and Dignity Health, parent firm of Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert medical centers.
"Our goal is to help Latino and small businesses prosper," Austin said. "We want to help all businesses address and serve the Latino market in the East Valley."
He is promoting ways that small business can succeed by serving bigger Southeast Valley businesses, such as Intel and Boeing.
Hernandez and marketing expert Eric Diaz of DK Web Consulting recently have been hired by Jerry Lewis of Sequoia, a Mesa-based charter school that sees opportunities in the Hispanic market.
"There is a great and growing market here that we would like to serve," said Lewis, the District 17 state senator who unseated Russell Pearce in a recall election last November. "We are trying to reach out to help our Hispanic brothers and sisters who may not feel adequate in a regular environment, and if they so choose, we want to provide a way for them to have a great learning program."
Among the thriving Hispanic-owned small businesses in the Southeast Valley is Gilbert-based Body Pro Collision, an independently owned auto-body shop that repairs all vehicles but specializes in Lexus, Toyota and Honda.
The company, founded in 2000, had three locations until it consolidated into a state-of-the-art, 15,000-square-foot facility housing 20 employees.
"I've been very fortunate," owner Tony St. John said. "We started a very small business, a two-man operation, which has grown to a shop that does about $3 million in gross repairs a year."
St. John attempts to be involved in small-business mentoring.
"I try to give back as much as I can to those trying to achieve entrepreneurship. I'm big on that," St. John said.
Another high-profile Hispanic-owned business is Someburros, a chain of Mexican restaurants, including four in the Southeast Valley.
The company dates to 1972 when a little Mexican-food takeout was opened in south Phoenix by the Vasquez family.
"The restaurant was named Poncho's, after Eusevio 'Poncho' Vasquez ... Poncho's wife, Isabel, and her sister, Socorro, did the cooking using our delicious family recipes for authentic Sonoran-style Mexican food," said Tim Vasquez, president of Someburros and grandson of Poncho and Isabel.
The takeout place grew to the full-service restaurant chain that it is today. Poncho and Isabel's son, George, and his wife, Mary, streamlined the food service, using the same recipes, and opened the first Someburros in 1986 in Tempe.
In Grades K-12, more than one-third of the students in Southeast Valley schools are of an ethnic minority, including Hispanic.
According to Hernandez, an important tool is social media, which marketing experts say Hispanics use more than Anglos do.
In the U.S., 70 percent of Hispanics use social media, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google Buzz, Hernandez said.
"Specific to the Phoenix market, 40.2 percent of Hispanics use Facebook," Hernandez said. "Among non-Hispanics, it's a little higher, 47.9 percent, but remember that Hispanics aren't the majority population yet.
"Hispanics took to social media. ... It's networking and communicating, and Hispanics, being family-oriented, have always done that with their friends."
Hispanics who don't have a computer at home may go online with a smartphone. Forty-five percent of Hispanic cellphone users have smartphones, compared to 27 percent of non-Hispanic Whites, he said.
"For business, that means cellphone sellers, in particular, will be trying to sell their brand to the Hispanic population."
Nearly 32 percent of Hispanics access YouTube, compared with 33.6 percent of non-Hispanic Whites in the Phoenix market, Hernandez said.
In fact, Diaz, of DK Web, said that Proctor and Gamble dedicates a website to bilingual Latinas but does not have a counterpart for Anglos.
A mistake too many companies make is creating a Hispanic-oriented website and then not updating it.
"The Spanish site might lag behind an Anglo site for a month," Diaz said. "Sears does a good job with its bilingual site, and it doesn't mirror the content on the Anglo site. In fact, Sears has an international Spanish site as well as one devoted to those of Puerto Rican heritage."
It's wise of Sears to tailor a site to a specific Hispanic group, marketers say.
Hispanics "are very diverse in spending. There's not just one type of Hispanic," said Diaz, who is of Peruvian descent.
Source: The Republic