By John Twork

A partnership between Illinois Wesleyan University’s Hispanic Studies Department and the McLean County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is helping to inspire and empower local Latino entrepreneurs.

Twenty-five Spanish-speaking community members attended the first-ever “How to Start a Small Business in Illinois in Spanish” presentation, held at the Western Avenue Community Center on Feb. 28, 2018.

Carolyn Nadeau, a Byron S. Tucci Professor of Hispanic Studies, and Karen Bussone, Director of the SBDC, collaborated to create a Spanish version of the “How to Start a Small Business in Illinois” seminar, which the SBDC is required to provide monthly.

“This event reflected the collective wisdom of the SBDC to offer constructive, concise information for new and prospective business owners in Spanish,” Nadeau said. “The Latino community is hard-working, dedicated, and dynamic and has many excellent entrepreneurial ideas, yet at the same time, it is underserved in our community. This workshop is a step in the right direction in helping turn dreams and visions into successful realities.”

Bussone and Nadeau developed a project plan that included opportunities for students in Nadeau’s “Business Spanish and its Cultural Context” class to assist with translating the SBDC presentation and event marketing materials from English to Spanish. Additionally, two students – Kelli Highland ’19 and Ivana Valencia ’21 – teamed up with Assistant Director of the SBDC Katelyn Hill to deliver the “How to Start a Small Business in Illinois” presentation in Spanish.

Bloomington resident Claudia Calev-Parra attended a How to Start a Business workshop presented in Spanish by the SBDC at Illinois Wesleyan. (photo by Jason Reblando/Illinois Wesleyan)

“Putting into practice both their Spanish language communicative skills and their cultural competency skills in a ‘real world’ scenario is an invaluable experience for any language learner,” Nadeau said, noting the significance of such experiential learning opportunities. “Kelli and Ivana will be able to apply what they’ve learned from this experience in their respective futures.”

Additionally, five students in Nadeau’s class assisted with The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant program, which is an IRS initiative designed to support free tax preparation service for the underserved through various partner organizations.

On average, the SBDC’s monthly business planning seminar yields 12 attendees; the Spanish version of the class drew 25 prospective entrepreneurs.

“Everyone in attendance told us that they have always wanted to start a business or expand their existing business but were not aware of any organization that provided help and support,” Bussone said. “The Latino population is a very close community that will share the SBDC's services, which in essence will provide opportunities for people to pursue their passion with new business start-up or business expansion.”

Bussone is confident that offering “How to Start a Small Business in Illinois in Spanish” will positively impact the Latino – and entire Bloomington-Normal and McLean County – community.

“The positive attitudes and positive mindset exhibited by attendees literally filled our hearts with joy,” Bussone said. “During my event debriefing with Katelyn, we both discovered how difficult it was to sleep that night because of the energy and excitement displayed by seminar attendees. We were also overjoyed to have such wonderful support from Professor Carolyn Nadeau and her class.”

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