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The 'Passion Project' To Highlight Iowa's Latino-Owned Businesses

Marvin Meyer
Claudia Schabel started thinking about putting together a Latino-owned business directory in May. "We really need to work together to mitigate some of those disparities right now. And one straightforward way we can do that is by making businesses stronger," Schabel said. "Making them stronger so they can have a ripple effect in their communities."

Two Iowa women signed themselves up to compile a list of every Latino-owned business in the state.

When Claudia Schabel asked her employees to look for a list of all Latino-owned businesses in the state, she said they could not find anything current. The most current data was eight years old. The 2019 Latinos in Iowa report from the State Data Center said in 2012, there were 4,695 Hispanic-owned firms in Iowa.

Schabel, the CEO and president of consulting firm Schabel Solutions, said she decided to take it upon herself to make a current list because in the COVID-19 pandemic, many Latino business owners were disproportionately affected. She called the directory her "passion project."

"For me, as a business owner myself, I see the value in lifting up all business owners that have something to offer our community members," Schabel said. "This is really just a desire to give back and help people get back on their feet and help people find them so they can be put back to work."

Schabel said Hispanic Heritage Month was the perfect time to release the list. She plans on finishing by October with the help of executive assistant Alexia Sanchez. Both women talked about how the list may help businesses diversify their suppliers, but also help lift up businesses hit hard by the pandemic economy.

“I'm hoping that our multicultural community can continue to create those strong bonds that are very much needed today. That way small businesses can continue to flourish even in hard times," Sanchez said.

Schabel said in her business, she has heard why Latino businesses may be hit harder than others during the pandemic.

"One of the reasons we hear a lot about is the number one reason why people don't do business with Latinx, or small business owners from different demographics, or don't diversify their suppliers is because they don't know where to find it," Schabel said. "So this is just half of the battle. If you don't know where to find us, we're giving you a place where you can easily find a diversity of suppliers that may be able to meet your needs, and really bring something new to the table."

Sanchez said this project is more than just passion for her, it is also personal. Her mother is a Latina business owner. She said being uplifted by the community helped her own family's business survive, so helping others do the same is important, especially during a month to nationally recognize Latino and Hispanic people in the country.

"We know that there are a lot of different barriers or even hidden biases when doing business with other people from different communities. So we really want to help build a bridge to mitigate some of those biases," Schabel said.

The pair has sent out forms for businesses to fill out themselves in either English or Spanish. Sanchez said a lot of the work has been collaborating with other organizations and leaders in the Latino community to get the word out about the project.