GOSHEN — Members of the growing Latino business community in Elkhart County took advantage of an opportunity to not only market themselves and network but also learn more about the resource and assistance the cities of Goshen and Elkhart can provide to entrepreneurs.
An estimated 300 people attended the Indiana Latino Business Expo at Ivy Tech Community College, 22531 C.R. 18, Wednesday.
The event, in its second year, featured about 45 exhibiters representing a variety of Latino-run companies, said Adriana Garcia Bontreger, a member of the expo’s committee and branch manager at Centier Bank.
Participants ranged from industrial producers like Journey RV, to local services such as Insight Accounting Group, L&A Trailers Body Repair and Creativo Print, which specializes in party products and custom printing, to smaller businesses like dessert shop Pasteles Queen.
“I’d like to have many people know about me, my business and my work,” said Edith Ramos, owner of Pasteles Queen.
Ramos has run her shop for about the past four years in Goshen, specializing in tres leches cakes and pastries. She said she attended the expo out of a need to do more marketing of herself and her business.
Goshen-based Journey RV manufactures truck campers as a business intent on forging its own path, according to Jonathan Vila, company vice president.
“The RV business is growing every year. There’s always something new that’s coming out, and we want to be part of it,” Vila said.
Garcia Bontreger said this year’s expo grew over the first year in 2018 as the Latino business community adapts to the concept of networking.
“That’s amazing to see you have about 45 different exhibitors here today that want to network and want to showcase their business to the community. That shows a lot,” Garcia Bontreger said.
She emphasized one of the key purposes of the event was to connect Latino entrepreneurs with resources local communities can provide to help their businesses thrive.
Representatives from the Goshen and Elkhart chambers of commerce, Horizon Education Center and the Community Foundation attended the expo to meet with attendees and talk about the types of assistance they can offer to entrepreneurs.
The Goshen Chamber is still predominately made up of white-owned businesses. President and CEO Nick Kieffer would like to see more Latino businesses join and be representative of the growing Latino population in Goshen and Elkhart County.
“It’s important to understand the full depth of our business community and what’s out there. Anything that we can do to help shed light on what’s out there, we’re a part of that,” Kieffer said. “It’s an area where we’re trying to bring light and bring awareness and kind of show the emerging market there is out there.”
The Center for Healing & Hope in Goshen coordinated the expo as a way to help Latinos forge better connections with the predominately white business community, according to the organization’s executive director, Bryan Mierau. He believes both sides need to take more initiative.
“I think that this event gives us a chance to talk about that pretty directly,” Mierau said.
He described a talk he gave to local Kiwanis members Tuesday, encouraging them to attend the expo. Mierau said he reminded them Latinos may be the majority population by the 2050 census.
“So I’m saying, ‘Who do you want to be in 2050? Where are the leaders emerging, and how are you envisioning giving back to the community, and helping raise the bar,’” Mireau said.
Garcia Bontreger expects to expo will grow larger next year and potentially in the years that follow.
“I think we’re going to continue to grow, especially with the great partners that we have with both of the chambers in our community and with the mayor’s support. I think that creates a lot of creatabitilty for our Latino businesses and entrepreneurs and for the community. So they can come and see what businesses are out there,” Garcia Bontreger said.
While the expo focuses on Latino entrepreneurs in Elkhart County, she said the event was titled “Indiana Latino Business Expo” as a concept to highlight the culture’s business representation from across the state.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrosegoshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 316.