Gallery Incubator, a business networking program, hosted its fourth symposium on Wednesday, offering Evanston Latin entrepreneurs advice on growing their companies.
Realtor Angela McConaughey, A resident of Evanston, Argentina, created the series in collaboration with Angela Valavanis, owner and founder of shared workspace network Creative Coworking. The group was held at the Davis Street location. Gallery Incubator is a sister company of Creative Coworking.
“Over the years, I’ve started working with different entities … I see representation from many groups out there, but not Latino businesses,” McConaughey told the Daily Mail.
She created the series to provide professional development, networking and mentoring opportunities for Latin business owners looking to start or grow their businesses. Gallery Incubator also received a programming grant from the Evanston Community Foundation.
McConaughey said Evanston’s fast-growing Latino community needed resources like the panel series to learn about local representation and build community. Although 2020 census data shows that Evanston is about 12 percent Latino, McConaughey said they are not well represented in the business community.
No panelists were Latino.
The panel is open to an audience of business owners of catering, cybersecurity, cleaning and financing companies.
Mentorship plays a key role in business development, Valavanis said, and networking is a kind of mentorship. Participating in events like groups allows business owners to build relationships with people who might become their advocates, she said.
“Our biggest concern is who we just interacted with (in this group),” Valavanis said.
Valavanis added that learning from the mistakes of other mentors can help owners make informed decisions about their businesses.
Panelist Bob Easter, an Evanston resident and gallery space mentor, said he enjoyed the opportunity to hear ideas and suggestions from business owners.
“I love learning from people who are energetic, creative and willing to put in the work to make their ideas come to fruition,” Easter said.
Easter invited the audience to pose business-related questions for the group to consider.
Posting testimonials from past clients is a great way to build trust with potential clients, says Valavanis.
“People are very protective when it comes to money because we all know there are jerks out there who will scam them,” Valavanis said. “So you’re fighting crooks who are muddying the waters.”
Getting certified and recommended by other brands can also build trust for a new business — especially when the owner has a limited marketing budget, she said.
Running a business can feel isolating, Valavanis said, so having a space like the panel to connect with others in a similar situation is empowering.
Valentina Castellano, Events Manager, Food For Thought, Chicago, Said that while she didn’t notice a lot of Latin faces in the audience, she was interested in attending and learning strategies for business growth and leadership.
“I’m really interested in events that try to unite the Latin community,” Castellano told the Daily Mail in Spanish. “A fundamental part of a job or company that makes you feel successful is that you make it part of who you are, your being.”
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