Nevada is open for business. The state is considered business friendly, and that goes for international corporations and small minority owned businesses equally.
“With my business, one of the things I observed is that Nevada is truly open for business, whether you are a minority or any other ethnic type of individual doesn’t make any difference,” said Bob Daniel, owner, PrideStaff Las Vegas, a minority and veteran-owned staffing service.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues for minority-owned businesses. It just means there are opportunities. Minority owned businesses face many of the same challenges non-minority-owned businesses face, but ethnicity and culture can play a role.
“As far as what makes the Asian Chamber of Commerce different [from other chambers], knowing the culture is huge, and not only that culture but the language. A lot of our business owners that come here from different countries don’t speak English very well yet and sometimes they have a hard time following procedures like opening a business,” said Sonny Vinuya, president, Asian Chamber of Commerce. The chamber can help. The designation of Asian Chamber is important because there are 40 countries identified as “Asian.”
“The fact that we’re the Latin Chamber of Commerce differs us from others in that we’re the trusted organization within the Hispanic community,” said Peter Guzman, CEO/President. “We’ve earned the trust factor, which is really a very important factor in the Hispanic community.” The Latin Chamber is growing as non-Hispanic businesses join because the Hispanic market is $17 billion in Nevada and continuing to grow. “Everybody is trying to get a little bit of that,” Guzman added.
By the Numbers
According to the Small Business Administration, in Nevada firms with fewer than 100 employees have the largest share of small business employment. According to Sam Males, director, Small Business Development Center (SBDC), approximately 70 percent of Nevada businesses employ 10 or fewer people.
In Southern Nevada, where the Latin Chamber is entering its 43rd year, the Hispanic market is booming.
“Hispanics are opening up business at a 2-to-1 faster rate than non-Hispanics and failing 50 percent less than non-Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses,” said Guzman. The number of Hispanic-owned businesses increased 40.2 percent in the U.S. between 2012 and 2018.
Northern Nevada doesn’t have the same diversity as southern Nevada, said Males. The African American population is very small, approximately 4 or 5 percent, and the Hispanic population is estimated to be at 30 percent and growing. In southern Nevada, 33 percent of the population is Hispanic, according to Anabel Navarro, business advisor, SBDC.
There are 21,000 Asian-owned businesses in Nevada, with a concentration in southern Nevada due to its hospitality industry. Many of the businesses are centered around tourism, vendor shows, tour companies and restaurants.
“From what I understand, UNLV is either leading or one of the top schools when it comes to international students. Our program for hospitality is one of the reasons, so they have an affinity coming here to UNLV,” said Vinuya. “I recently met with a Chinese investor who’s looking to do something here in Vegas. One of the reasons he picked Vegas was his son went to UNLV.”
Between 2007 and 2018, woman-owned businesses in the U.S. grew by 4.2 percent each year and 6 percent in the most recent year, according to The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by American Express. African American women own 20 percent of all woman-owned businesses.
Despite Nevada’s population becoming more diverse as various populations grow, there’s still a language barrier for many business owners who are not just new to the state, but new to the country. Different industries have different licensing requirements, and instructions aren’t necessarily in more than one language. That makes everything harder when, for example, someone who doesn’t speak the language that well yet wants to open a restaurant and is faced with the Health Department’s 600- page English-only rule book.
Another issue for minority business owners is lack of representation. For example, there are no Asians in the Nevada Legislature, or on Southern Nevada city councils or school board, said Vinuya. “Lack of representation is important because it’s easier to be able to go to somebody who knows your culture and knows the way things are done in an Asian-owned business.” It’s more comfortable to interact with someone who shares the same issues and challenges.
Despite national immigration issues, this presidential administration has seen some of the fastest and largest growth in the Hispanic business community, said Guzman. Access to capital is a challenge for small and minority-owned businesses, as it is for any business. Unlike other businesses, for Hispanic and minority-owned businesses, it’s even more of a challenge.
“It’s an ongoing battle that continues today,” said Guzman. “It’s extremely disproportionate on the lending side of things. Access to capital as a minority-owned business is a challenge and micro loans are very difficult to get. Otherwise, I think they face all the same issues. They’re always looking for lower taxes, but there’s an additional issue with workforce, with family members, some of whom may be not documented.”
Lack of preparation isn’t exclusive to minority-owned businesses. “When I speak with individuals who come and talk to me about opening up a business, I’ll ask them a couple questions, like ‘Do you have a business plan?’” said Daniel. “’Do you have a financial pro forma?’ They look at me with a glazed look and it’s simply because many of them have not been exposed to what it takes to run a successful business.” It’s easy to open a business. It’s harder to maintain a successful business. Daniel tells them to do their homework.
Another concern is that the school system doesn’t teach students how to manage finance, said Navarro, so business owners are unprepared at startup. “They don’t know how banks work, how a loan is going to work, how credit works,” she added.
There are a host of designations including disadvantaged, woman-owned and veteran-owned businesses.
The designations aren’t meant to single out individuals, but to level the playing field so smaller or minority-owned businesses have a chance to make it, adding positive impact to the state’s economy and growing jobs.
There aren’t many grants available, but there are opportunities to bid for contracts through government, public and private jobs.
“Almost all government entities have a procurement program and have a lot of products and services they’re required to purchase [through minority-owned buisnesses],” said Males. That creates opportunities for minority businesses to bid for contracts providing those goods and services. Business owners may need to do some research to determine whether they’re qualified to bid, but if they don’t know how to put together a proposal there are resources, including SBDC, to help them do just that.
With the recent construction of the Raiders Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, a variety of contract opportunities came up for minority businesses. “There are times the minority community banded together such as the construction contract with the Raiders stadium,” said Males. “Small businesses approached the governor at the time and the community in Clark County. I think it ended up that 15 percent of the contracts needed to be extended to minority small businesses.” The stadium is just one example of how important the designation can be.
An organization that helps businesses obtain those certifications is Paragon Development Group. The company works with small, woman and minority-owned businesses to help them obtain a diverse business certification and get connected to contract opportunities, training and education.
The third-party certification verifies that a business is at least 51 percent owned by a member of a minority who manages dayto-day operations in their area of expertise with full governing control. “There’s a criteria that comes with certification,” said Christy Echols, president of Paragon. “You can’t just say ‘I’m womanowned’ and think that fills the bill.”
Certification allows businesses to bid for jobs where a percentage of the contract is mandated to go to minority-owned business. Senate Bill 1 (SB1) of the 30th Special Session of Nevada State Legislature created the framework that funded the NFL stadium in southern Nevada and included the requirement that 15 percent of the project go to minority-owned businesses.
“One of the things the state has struggled with is trying to get enough qualified minority businesses to participate in these contracts and to seek out these opportunities,” said Males. “Many times, at least historically, we’ve seen opportunities for these minority businesses to get involved, but there weren’t that many that were qualified to meet the minimum financial requirements.”
In some cases, organizations seeking to help have difficulty reaching minority businesses because of their location. There’s a sizeable Hispanic population in West Wendover, said Males, which is rural and hard to reach. Some rural communities have limited or no internet access, but businesses need to be online.
Which leads to a surprising amount of business owners who don’t have internet access either because they’re rural and don’t even have landline capability due to a carrier pulling out of the area, or they simply haven’t made it a priority to have a presence online.
Leveling the Playing Field
DETR, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, offers a full array of business tools to all business owners, minority and otherwise.
“We offer free recruitment services, including job posts, job matching, job fairs, hiring events and access to our database,” said Dr. Tiffany Tyler-Garner, director, DETR. “We will scrub postings and identify job seekers, host hiring fairs, and all of our services are free of charge.” In a workforce that’s increasingly a jobseekers market, DETR’s ability to take on recruitment and professional development allows business owners to reinvest the funds that would have been spent into programs that can make their businesses more competitive.
For business owners who are new to, not only Nevada, but to the U.S., there are additional challenges. Those can include not knowing Nevada law on hiring, employing and firing employees, and they may not learn they’re doing anything wrong until they’re facing penalties, Navarro said.
There are also language barriers, because so many of the instructions for starting up businesses are only in English.
The roadblocks caused by language have improved somewhat. When Navarro started her businesses in Las Vegas 20 years ago, there were no services in Spanish. “Many people speak the language and understand the language, but the [business] process would be so much easier if we could provide the literature in other languages.”
“The other thing is licenses and permits,” said Navarro. “It’s important for the migrant aspect because many migrant entrepreneurs have a business in their own country and they know what to do in their country, but they’re trying to do the same thing in the United States and it’s a totally different licensing process.”
DETR’s incumbent worker program helps small businesses that already have employees to help those individuals learn new skills or retool existing skills in order to keep them on the job rather than having to hire new employees as business technologies change.
The Small Business Development Center is a statewide organization with 15 centers performing outreach to small businesses that need assistance to start or grow that business.
“Our partners are a lot of chambers of commerce throughout the state,” said Males. In Southern Nevada that includes the Urban, Latin and Asian chambers, all of which are growing.
There are mentor programs, like the one MGM Resorts International offers that pair senior MGM executives with minority business owners.
Almost all levels of government offer training programs. The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the Regional Transportation Commissions (RTCs) partner with the Resource Center which is open to certified businesses wanting to bid on contracts dealing with transportation.
“There are so many options it’s hard to know where to start,” said Echols. “You have to learn to navigate who you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re looking to serve.”
There might be 10 types of training, education and networking events in a single week, Echols said. As Nevada’s business population becomes more diverse, that’s good news.
“My bottom line on this is more about what value can you bring than it is about your minority status,” said Daniel. “It may sound trite and not right, but it’s what I’ve experienced. Every company I approach, I don’t talk about being a minority, and it really doesn’t come up. What I focus on is the value add I can bring to their business and on explaining why my business is different than my competitor’s and how I can assist them in achieving their objectives. Might someone be sitting across the desk from me and thinking, ‘Well, you’re black and I don’t know if you can do this and so on and so forth,’ but at the end of the day, one doesn’t know until one is given the opportunity.”
“The trend is that Nevada is becoming more of a melting pot,” said Males. “I think we see that a lot and we do get people that are still migrating and in significant numbers to the state. So if they’re minority people coming into the community, into the state, we need to try and make sure they have the same access and information that other [business owners] do.” One reason for the success of immigrant and minority-owned businesses created by immigrants could be because they’re immigrants.
“They have the entrepreneurial spirit because they’re coming from countries that don’t have the infrastructure set up the way we do, but they still have to figure things out or get left behind,” said Guzman. “So they know how to adapt. The success in business is learning how to adapt, being able to change quickly, and they have to because that’s how they live in those other countries. So they come here where there’s an infrastructure set up for entrepreneurship and they just thrive. They grab it and thrive.”