Idaho Hispanic Foundation receives multimillion-dollar grant

MAGIC VALLEY — During the pandemic, small business owners nationwide did everything possible to stay afloat.

A study released by economists at the Fed found the pandemic resulted in the permanent closure of roughly 200,000 establishments.

As part of an American Rescue Plan, the U.S. small business administration awarded a $2.5 million grant to the Idaho Hispanic Foundation to reduce barriers faced by minority business owners.

The organization is now working with eight other nonprofit organizations statewide to help small business owners.

“It’s going to be the biggest ecosystem project Idaho has ever seen. I mean, where is there a project where you have three of our tribes, two of our Hispanic chambers, two of our veteran entrepreneur organizations, and one who serves the black community?” Diane Bevan, with The Idaho Women’s Business Center, said.

The organization, along with the Idaho Women’s Business Center, will be dividing the grant money to eight nonprofit organizations, including the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Idaho Veterans Chamber of Commerce, and the Shoshone Bannock Tribe.

“When we talk about underserved entrepreneurs, obviously are not just minorities. They are also our rural areas. Women are considered underserved. Veterans are considered underserved, and we do see a very large concentration of underserved small business owners within our tribes and our Hispanic community,” Bevan said.

A study done by Stanford University found 14% of businesses in the U.S. are Hispanic-owned. Of that 14%, only 16% survived past six months. One Idahoan recently started virtual classes to help other Latino business owners get the resources they need after his first business failed.

“At the time, it was important for me to find someone that I could connect with specifically more on a personal level. I felt like connecting with other Latinos would have helped me,” Orlando Chavez, a business owner in Idaho, said.

According to data from the bureau of labor, approximately 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. The Idaho Women’s Business Center says one of the obstacles minority business owners face is technology.

“As you know, we all went virtual, right? So you can have the best product in the world, but if you can’t be found online, then it’s like you don’t exist. So we know in some cases it’s helping marketing. Some it’s helping with money they just really need to update their equipment, and to those most basic some just may need an email,” Bevan said.

The Idaho Connects Grant, named by Bevan, is a pilot program that will focus on connecting business owners with other entrepreneurs and resources that will benefit them. If successful, these organizations have the opportunity of seeing more money.

“I think that is one of the greatest gifts that we could give other people is the connection. And that’s why when I wrote this grant, I named it Idaho connects because it’s a state-wide initiative to connect, and I think we are going to see a lot of great things come from it,” Bevan said.