A group of Utah Hispanics had a few suggestions for corporate America at a recent gathering in Salt Lake City. One is to understand the economic power that the Hispanic community possesses.
Another? Stop using sombreros when courting them through advertisements.
“Please, there is no need for a sombrero” is how Alex Guzman put it. The comments from the president of LaGaleria and chairman of the board of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (UHCC) at UHCC’s convention and expo drew strong applause.
“More than half, 99 percent, of my Hispanic colleagues in this room, we don’t wear sombreros,” he said. “[It] makes no sense to represent the Hispanic community with a sombrero when the people who are spending your money or saving our money into a financial institution or asking for capital to grow our businesses [need to know] we don’t wear sombreros at all every single day. We love tacos, but we are not all a bunch of taco-eaters every single day.”
Guzman insisted that marketers need to recognize that the Hispanic community has various sub-segments, just as other communities do.
“They spend a lot of time and energy trying to reach their millennials, their baby boomers, their teenagers. Actually, they have spent a lot of time doing that for mainstream [consumers]. The question we have for you, American marketers or American business owners, is, why should the Hispanic segmentation be any different?” Guzman asked.
“When we talk about the Hispanic community, we’re not talking about one huge segment but a lot of sub-segments or categories. What we need to understand is that not every single Hispanic is the same.”
One message from convention speakers that was the same was that Hispanics have a huge impact on Utah’s economy and represent opportunity for businesses.
“We have a powerful consumer base of $7.4 billion a year. That’s how much we spend as Hispanics just here in the state of Utah,” said Francisco Sotelo, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer. “It’s an incredible amount of money, and it’s out there.”
What’s more, Utah is home to more than 10,000 Hispanic-owned businesses with $1.3 billion in annual sales, and Utah’s Hispanic population represents 15 percent of the state’s total.
“So the Hispanic consumer, the Hispanic business community, it’s a powerhouse here in Utah, and we want everybody to understand how to reach this great, great, great market,” Sotelo said.
Guzman said it a different way: “You want me to be your customer and we have $7.4 billion to spend in your companies. What are you waiting for?”
Elder David Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, quoted a 2012 Stanford University study that indicated that the U.S. had 3.3 million Latino-owned businesses, nearly triple the number in 1997. During that time, growth inthe number of non-Latino-owned businesses was flat.
“When you think about Latinos, you think about entrepreneurs. When you think about entrepreneurs, you think about Latinos. Each of you contribute to the economic vitality and the well-being of those communities where you live and work. … All of this is a testament to your dreams, your hard work and the determination to turn those things into a reality.”
Christofferson noted that the audience was full of people from varied backgrounds, including some recent arrivals and some from families that have “contributed to the social fabric of Utah for generations.”
In about two minutes of his presentation, Guzman presented four diverse Hispanics. Many Hispanics have “absolutely nothing” in common, and many come from different countries, are of differing ages, or have different accents when they speak English, he said.
“We cannot reach the Hispanic community with the same kinds of strategies,” he said.
Guzman described the way Hispanics have evolved in the U.S. business world. In 1980, most were working in fields, he said. Job types were changing by 1990, and by 2000, most were professionals. By 2010, their children were of two worlds: Hispanic at home and American in schools.
“During the next 15, maybe 20, years, I would say that American-based companies have a huge challenge to understand how the Hispanic community acts, how the Hispanic community reacts, how the Hispanic community is really able to understand what is happening here,” he said.
As for now, he said the community has money to spend on products and services, which U.S. companies need to realize.
“It’s important to understand this: that the Hispanic community lives la vida loca. That’s true,” Guzman said. “We live, on average, eight to 10 years longer than non-Hispanics because, the studies say, that we are happier people and we really spend our time and our money doing what we want and what we like to do.”
Monika Montilla, president and chief executive officer of Altura Capital Group and managing partner of Small Business Community Capital (SBCC), said the United States is a nation that rewards merit and hard work.
“At times, it seems as if people want to change that and create walls and barriers that are so anti-American. America is and will always be the land of opportunity and we must continue to work hard to avoid the stereotypes and biases [that] create barriers for our community to reach what it works hard every day to attain,” she said.
“I invite all of you in this room to never be afraid about the anti-immigration messages that some presidential candidates or other followers express and, to the contrary, continue to build your business, your career, your civic participation, your involvement, inviting others to do so as well, so that instead of quieting our voices, they get to make them stronger.”
Montilla said there is “no better diversity and society integration recipe” than entrepreneurialism and entrepreneurial success. A successful business owner can educate his or her children, have a decent house and decent healthcare and create jobs, she said.
“The Hispanic market … is a trillion-dollar market opportunity in America today, yet so many people don’t know this, and if they know, they don’t bother to adjust their strategy because it represents something they don’t really understand.”
She urged the audience to continue to work together to elevate their businesses, educate their children, penetrate new industries, run and manage banks, elect leaders “and not let others write our future.”
“Our numbers are mighty and powerful,” she said, “and we must recognize that power and use it for the betterment of our community.”