Headshot of Aparna Khurjekar, Chief Revenue Officer, Business Markets and SaaS, Verizon.
Aparna Khurjekar, Chief Revenue Officer, Business Markets and SaaS, Verizon. — Verizon

Why it matters:

  • Hispanic-owned small businesses make up close to 14% of all small businesses, and that number is growing rapidly.
  • Hispanic small businesses are outpacing the national average in terms of adoption of new technologies and digital tools.
  • Access to funding and private loans are among the top concerns of Hispanic business owners.

When Verizon Business wanted to increase its support of, and outreach to, Hispanic small business owners, it started by learning more about their concerns, challenges, and business decisions.

It discovered, among other things, that Hispanic small business owners are quicker to adopt new technologies, are operating digital-first businesses, and list finding funding as one of their top concerns.

Verizon Business is focusing on Hispanic small businesses at this time because they are one of the fastest-growing groups, at just under 14% of all small businesses and face specific challenges, Aparna Khurjekar, Chief Revenue Officer, Business Markets and SaaS at Verizon, told CO—.

“We wanted to make sure we were understanding the uniqueness that was pervasive through the Hispanic SMB community, and make sure we were encouraging them,” Khurjekar said.

Verizon responded to those findings with a program that combined grants for Hispanic small businesses with courses and mentorship on how businesses can improve their digital resources.

[Read: Hispanic App Entrepreneurs Find Success Filling Market Void for Culturally Authentic Content]

Boosting Hispanic small business ‘leadership and differentiation through digital’

In April, Verizon Business awarded $10,000 grants to 25 Hispanic small businesses across the country as part of its ongoing small business grants and education program.

In order to apply for the grants, business owners had to complete at least two online courses or other forms of coaching offered through the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program.

The goal of the Digital Ready instructional courses and mentoring is to give small business owners information about ways they can compete with the big brands, Khurjekar said.

“We know that small businesses constitute over 99.9% of U.S. businesses. Sixty percent of the workforce comes from them, over 45% of our GDP is tied to them. They have the same set of challenges and opportunities as every other business,” she said.

“They’ve got customers who are looking for newer ways to connect and [are] getting more and more demanding,” she said. At the same time, they’re vying for the same employees as big businesses, and “while doing all of that, they have got to differentiate on their products and do it efficiently,” Khurjekar said.

While serving increasingly demanding customers is hard to do even for the biggest companies, “for a small business it’s all the more difficult because what they don’t have is the deep pockets,” she said.

“That’s where we want to come in and help them understand what it means to be not just keeping up, but extending their leadership and differentiating through digital,” Khurjekar said.

We wanted to make sure we were understanding the uniqueness that was pervasive through the Hispanic SMB community, and make sure we were encouraging them.

Aparna Khurjekar, Chief Revenue Officer, Business Markets and SaaS, Verizon

Key insights on Hispanic SMBs’ digital playbook

As part of its outreach to Hispanic small business owners, Verizon Business surveyed 500 Hispanic small business owners across the country and reported on the findings. Among the key findings in the report were:

  • Over the past year, nearly half of Hispanic small businesses have transitioned to a digital-first operation.
  • Nearly three out of four (74%) of Hispanic small businesses have leveraged digital tools and technology to make money over the past three years.
  • More than one-third (41%) have used new technologies to cope with a worker shortage.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) are concerned about cyber security for digital transactions.
  • The majority said they would like additional IT support to implement new technologies and train employees to use them.
  • Three-fourths said they would like assistance in finding and applying for private loan options.

[Read: Why Amazon, Google, and Other Big Businesses Have Launched Accelerators to Help Minority-Owned Startups]

‘Technology and digital tools are the only way you can sustain a lower-cost and a differentiated model’

An especially encouraging takeaway from the report, Khurjekar said, was that Hispanic small business owners “are way over the national average in terms of adoption of digital tools and technology.”

“It’s purely needs-driven,” she said. “Technology and digital tools are the only way you can sustain a lower-cost and differentiated model,” she said.

Verizon offers all small business owners an opportunity to use its stores for free as business resource centers where they can get expert advice about adding digital tools.

“We have opened up all of our partner stores and direct-channel stores with our tele-salespeople and field salespeople to be working with these small and medium-sized businesses and providing them [with] deep know-how,” Khurjekar said.

 Mia Thorn, right, and chef partner Dameon Deworken at their restaurant Cruz Kitchen and Taps.
Mia Thorn, right, and chef partner Dameon Deworken at their restaurant, Cruz Kitchen and Taps. — Cruz Kitchen and Taps

Grants and courses designed to get entrepreneurs and business owners ‘digital ready’

The $10,000 grants to Hispanic small businesses were designed to be used to upgrade technology, expand marketing efforts, or to help cover other operational costs.

One of the recipients, Mia Thorn, Co-founder of the Cruz Kitchen & Taps restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, said the grant was a much-needed benefit after a rough winter that made it necessary for her to ramp up her efforts to reach new customers.

Thorn started the restaurant with chef Daemon DeWorken in early 2022. Thorn, who is still working as an oncology nurse while running the restaurant, said she learned about the Verizon grants through a local community of women business owners and women of color business owners.

Thorn liked the fact that Verizon required her to take two of its free online classes on growing a small business—with topics from funding to social media marketing—in order to be able to apply for the grant.

“They were honestly really good classes,” she said. She chose a class about utilizing search engine optimization, and one about marketing.

“That’s the name of my game right now – just trying to make sure people know who we are and what kind of vibe, atmosphere they can expect when they walk through our door,” Thorn said.

The classes also were not sales pitches for Verizon products and services, Thorn said. “I felt like it was kind of geared toward me, my age group,” and other first-time entrepreneurs, said Thorn.

Khurjekar said the courses were specifically designed to provide useful information. “Our focus was more around how you get ‘digital ready’ as an SMB,” she said.

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