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We talked to Marlene Orozco, an editor and author of Advancing U.S. Latino Entrepreneurship: A New National Economic Imperative.

The book, also edited by Alfonso Morales, Michael J. Pisani, and Jerry I. Porras, examines business formation and success among Latinos by identifying arrangements that enhance entrepreneurship and by understanding the sociopolitical contexts that shape entrepreneurial trajectories.


Q: What makes the goal of advancing US Latino entrepreneurship so important?

Marlene Orozco: It is commonly known that the Latino population in the United States is large, representing nearly 60 million people, or 18% of the total US population. What is less well known, however, is that Latinos are starting businesses at a much faster rate than their population growth and Latinos are outpacing the growth in businesses among all other demographic groups. Over the last 10 years, the number of Latino business owners grew 34% compared to only 1% for all business owners. We titled the book, Advancing U.S. Latino Entrepreneurship as we are a group of scholars from a number of disciplines including sociology, economics, history, policy, and geographical sciences and together we are advancing the study of Latino entrepreneurship with this volume. Each chapter takes on Latino entrepreneurship from the discipline of its coauthors to focus on micro, macro, or policy perspectives. The second part of the title, A New National Economic Imperative, is a call to action advanced by interview subjects, business owners and leaders, to policy makers, capital providers, and other stakeholders to take note of the trends among Latino-owned businesses. We estimate there are roughly 5 million Latino-owned businesses in the US, thus, the opportunities and challenges to business growth will be important for understanding current and future contributions to the US economy.

Decorative Book Cover

Q: Why is this a particularly important time to advocate for Latino businesses?

Orozco: In the midst of a global pandemic, the impacts of COVID-19 are certainly being felt by nearly all businesses, big and small. Beyond impacting local and regional economies, Latino-owned businesses are global businesses as Latinos are more likely to export their products and services relative to all other groups in the US. We also highlight other important characteristics of Latino-owned businesses. For example, immigrants are more likely to start businesses, and are among the most successful Latino-owned businesses and Latinas are driving much of the growth of new businesses. Understanding the profile of Latino-owned businesses, including capital experiences and relationships with government and corporations, informs not only academic work and questions but can also have policy implications. For the purposes of addressing the Latino business needs during this epidemic, stakeholders may provide a more targeted response by understanding the reach of Latino-owned businesses and other characteristics such as their social network utilization (Chapter 9) and business language needs (Chapter 11).


Q: What are some of the institutional barriers Latino entrepreneurs face? And how does your book address them?

Orozco: Studies on minority entrepreneurship often depict this group of entrepreneurs from a deficit perspective – severely capital constrained, lacking in skills and higher education, and devoid of professionalized businesses. Indeed, access to capital remains an important institutional barrier and the chapter by Monika Mantilla (Chapter 14) provides a practitioner’s perspective on capital solutions. However, this book also highlights the assets of the Latino business community where in fact Latino business owners are more highly educated than the general Latino population and are creating innovative businesses in tech and non-service industries. Several chapters, including the ones I have authored, highlight the growing segment of Latino firms poised for growth and those generating over $1 million in annual revenue. The stories of these entrepreneurs are expanding the narrative and the face of Latino businesses, highlighting the substantial and significant contribution to the U.S. economy made by Latino-owned businesses as a whole.


Q: The word “Latino” in this context is certainly describing a group that in a large number of ways is quite diverse, how does your book balance the diverse needs and desires of the Latino population?

Orozco: We acknowledge that Latinos are not a homogenous group. Importantly, there is an early chapter in the book that addresses the historical conditions that shape the experiences of Latino subgroups. Nonetheless, there are also lots of commonalities and shared experience among Latino business owners even among those with differing national origins, including histories of immigration and bilingualism with the Spanish language. Importantly, as one of the primary data sources, the SLEI Survey of U.S. Latino Business Owners gathers detailed data on the Latino business owner and their business beyond what any government survey collects. Thus, among the chapters that leverage this quantitative data set, the authors model differences across gender, immigrant status, region, language, and national origin to paint a holistic and nuanced understanding of the Latino business population.


Thank you so much to Marlene for her time! If you would like to know more about the book you can get your own copy or request it from your local library.

Through April 30 you can get 40% off Advancing US Latino Entrepreneurship and any other Purdue University Press book by ordering from our website and using the code PURDUE40 at checkout.