CHICAGO, Il. — The nearly 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States contribute more than $800 billion to the American economy every year, and that number of businesses is only growing.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time where these businesses see greater than usual support, but business owners said more support year-round could be crucial in helping this growing group of entrepreneurs succeed.
“My family actually has been in this neighborhood for over 50 years,” said Mike Moreno, a third-generation business owner in Chicago.
Moreno’s grandfather opened multiple grocery stores across the city, and his father opened the first Latino-owned liquor store in the state: Moreno's Liquors.
“I asked him, ‘Why don't you stay in the grocery business?’ And he said, ‘Simple, liquor doesn't spoil.’ So, he opened his first liquor store in 1977,” said Moreno.
Moreno is now carrying on his family’s tradition of entrepreneurship. He opened Osito’s Tap, a speakeasy cocktail bar and restaurant right next to his dad’s liquor store. Osito’s Tap opened in 2019, right before COVID-19 hit, but with support from the community, the bar has remained open and thrived.
“The whole premise of the bar itself was supposed to showcase that mix of that old world Chicago vibe with that modern Latin flair,” said Moreno, who uses the spirits his father curates in the liquor store to make unique signature cocktails.
Moreno’s success is just part of the growing number of Latino-owned businesses in the United States. Nearly 1 in 4 new businesses opening in the country now is a Latino-owned business.
Moreno said these spaces offer the entire community a place to share tradition.
“I was always very proud of, of where I came from and where my father had had been born and immigrated from. When you're supporting these businesses and you're coming in, you're able to take a piece of that home,” said Moreno.
Moreno hopes this month celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture only brings more people in, but he said the support can’t stop there.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is…it's amazing to kind of showcase and be kind of represented. But, at the same time, I'm a huge proponent for communitarianism, a huge proponent for shopping local and supporting local, because the small businesses is what keeps this community thriving,” said Moreno.
Year-round support is crucial from the community because these businesses do face more barriers to open. The Stanford 2021 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report found Latinos are more likely to be required to provide collateral to secure funding even when they have credit similar to white applicants. Additionally, during the pandemic, Latino-owned businesses reported more challenges than white-owned businesses in accessing the Paycheck Protection Program.
However, when a Latino business does overcome these barriers, it brings success to the family behind it, upward mobility for employees and a richness to the community that cannot be replaced.
“When you think about it, the entire United States is built up from minorities. So, when you're going and you're supporting these businesses, you're supporting other people that are pushing and thriving for that American dream,” said Moreno.