Luis DeLaHoz was granted asylum and moved to the United States in 2004. By 2005, he was running his own-income tax preparation business in New Brunswick.
He had a good education behind him. Raised in Manizales, in the coffee region of central Colombia, DeLaHoz had a bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degrees in finance and high management. And he had drive.
But those alone are not enough to start a business. Fortunately, DeLaHoz also had access to start-up capital and networks and English-language competency—the very ingredients, he would later learn, that new Americans often lack.
Across the United States, immigrants create businesses at a higher rate than non-immigrants. Many of those businesses are small, neighborhood, cash-starts only. Others never launch. Both types, DeLaHoz says, are hampered by access. Now DeLaHoz, a vice-president of community at BCB Community Bank, is working to change that. It’s a mission that stands to help everyone in the community.
“Ninety-two percent of the businesses in the United States are micro-business, which means they have less than five employees including the owner,” he says. “If one of every three micro-businesses hired one more person, the United States would face full employment. That’s the power of micro-businesses.”
In working with a regional small business development center and a micro-lender, DeLaHoz had spotted the same hulking roadblocks to immigrant entrepreneurship: no credit-history or collateral; few business networks or market access; and an inability to access needed information, which a government agency or nonprofit might send out via email in English, or post at a downtown municipal building.
Through the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he now chairs the board, DeLaHoz helped create the Hispanic Business Expo, an annual event that helps on all fronts and that is now entering its eleventh year. He also works to provide materials in Spanish, a first step toward integration and English-language skills.
“My goal is to elevate the Hispanic community,” DeLaHoz says. “I realize the only thing I have to share is my knowledge and my time.”