Small Business

Centro Hispano’s entrepreneurship program helps grow Latino small businesses in East TN


Newly-graduated entrepreneurs from Centro Hispano’s program are ready to open their doors for business and play a role in Knox County’s economy.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Small Business Saturday is coming up and Centro Hispano’s “Big Dream in Small Businesses” program is helping excel Latino entrepreneurs, shaping them into small business owners.

Hilda Castillo, the coordinator of the program, said that although this program aims to help Latinos in East Tennessee, it affects other communities in Knox County.

She said that the more business owners there are in Knox County, the more it will move the economy, sales and employment.

“That’s what we need to learn, that this program is not only to help one community,” Castillo said. “It’s to help all of us, those who live in Knoxville will benefit.”

Within a year since the program started, it has mentored and trained more than 30 entrepreneurs and established many business owners. The program runs for three to four months, providing weekly classes. It covers everything from developing business ideas and discussing planning on how to bring them to life.

“There is no age for this program and no limit,” she said. “You only need the determination to do things correctly.”

Students as young as 17 years old can be part of the program, with their parents’ permission. It welcomes Latinos from all ages and backgrounds.

Castillo said students from the program help the city in big ways. They can meet the city’s demands and business needs. Many also have the skills to provide a range of necessary services.

“Hispanics are not only construction or food. There is everything — bakers, nail techs, masseuses, carpenters. There is everything in this program.”

Right now, Knox County is home to about 24,000 Latinos.

The Latino Chamber of Commerce also said Latino businesses are growing. Tennessee has had one of the fastest-growing Hispanic and Latino populations in the county since 2010, according to the chamber.

Carlos Allavena, the president of the chamber, said he is seeing a wide range of businesses arising and Latinos wanting to develop their own business. Specifically, the chamber says bilingual daycares are on the rise.

“In the beginning, there was maybe ten a week like five years ago. Now it’s 30 to 40 businesses per week. It’s unbelievable,” Allavena said.

The chamber says people are investing in what Knoxville has to offer, helping more of those businesses open.

“They see an opportunity, they see a safe place. They want to invest in this place and they want to continue with the American dream,” he said.

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