10 Tips I Learned at the Su Negocio Chicago Small Business Event

This post was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Financial Group (MassMutual). All opinions are my own.

On Tuesday this week, I had the pleasure of attending the Su Negocio event at the Hard Rock Hotel for a breakfast session about Latino small business success and entrepreneurship. In my previous post, I talked a little bit about my goals in entrepreneurship, but I had no idea how to get there.

Photo via Su Negocio

Photo via Su Negocio

During the session, three panelists spoke about their experience within their respective fields as a resource to Latino-owned small businesses.

  • Nicholas Delgado, Founder and Principal, Dignitas
  • Manuel Flores, Partner, Banks & Financial Institutions Practice Group, Arnstein & Lehr
  • Roxanne Nava, Chief Small Business Officer, City of Chicago

Here are the 10 best tips I walked away with.

  1. Need Business Help? Engage Grad Students – As a former graduate student, finding real-life experience was a HUGE priority as I was looking to advance my career. I even had classes where professors expected you to find businesses or organizations to work with (which at the time seemed near impossible as a new student in a new city). So when you need additional support, set up a meeting with the business school or communications department. You may even find a new intern or employee out of it.
  2. Use Basic Technology to Help – If you’re a local business, you NEED a Yelp page. And a website. And high rankings on Google. Also make sure you accept credit cards. And maybe even Apple pay. So “basic” technology seems a little more complicated. Definitely get help from an expert.
  3. Form a Squad – A business squad. With a lawyer, a financial team and experts. The initial investment will pay dividends in the long run.
  4. Go to the Bank – Many Latino-owned businesses rely on capital provided by friends, family and personal investment. While that’s helpful in the short term, a small-business loan from a bank can potentially provide more investment in the upfront and lead to greater success.
  5. Pitch Perfect – As a business owner, you need to be ready to pitch your idea on the fly. Roughly in the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone very important, hence the term “elevator speech.” Defining your business is the hard part, but so worth it!
  6. Utilize Free Business Classes – The City of Chicago offers free classes for entrepreneurs. Hearing the stories of other entrepreneurs can help you gain a new perspective and potentially find solutions to problems you have.
  7. Get Involved with the Local Chamber of Commerce – The more people you have on your side, the better. Everyone loves to support local businesses, and they have tools and tips and YEARS of experience to help. Many also offer free advertising for you to take advantage of.
  8. Evaluate Your Risks – Keep your friends close and enemies closer, right? Know what your risks and competition are by doing your research and learn how to differentiate yourself. Which leads me to…
  9. Find Your Niche – Find your place within your industry and grow there. You never want to be the same as the others, and what makes you different is what makes you successful.
  10. Celebrate the Small Successes – So this tip actually came from me, but staying motivated as a business owner is hugely important. Every milestone should be celebrated! And it’s great for culture and employee morale.

Any other tips I missed? Be sure to check out MassMutual.com for more tips.

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