When Carolina Ramon joined the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, she knew she could draw on her extensive history of launching business enterprises and designing entrepreneur programs to move the needle on successful small business startups in Georgia. She decided to focus first on underrepresented entrepreneurs.
She reached out to entrepreneurs and small business owners across the state to see if they were benefiting from the SBDC programs.
“I wanted to make sure we were training the entire community as it needed,” Ramon says.
Based on specific feedback from the Hispanic community, Ramon created two business development programs, the Hispanic Entrepreneur Series and the Premier Development Program, designed to help Hispanic entrepreneurs do business with the federal government and the private sector. Program graduates have expanded their businesses, created jobs in their communities, and developed joint ventures with other program participants.
In September, for the second year in a row, Ramon was listed among the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Most Influential Hispanics in Georgia. The selections are based on an individual’s degree of influence exhibited in their role as a representative of the Hispanic community. More than 300 individuals were nominated.
Ramon points to partnerships between the SBDC and the chamber, as well as companies like Georgia Power and Sun Trust Bank, that have helped Hispanic entrepreneurs become successful by offering them resources, services and scholarships throughout Georgia.
Carolina’s enthusiasm and energy for helping others is inspiring. We are incredibly fortunate to have her at UGA.” — SBDC Director Allan Adams
People from underrepresented populations have a harder time getting loans than white-owned businesses. Many have little or no credit and aren’t eligible for big bank loans, she said.
“The key to me was to create collaborations,” she said.
In the past two years, 36 percent of the SBDC’s clients statewide have been from underrepresented populations, said Allan Adams, UGA SBDC director.
“Carolina has been a critical part of the SBDC’s effort to reach this significant sector of the Georgia business economy by helping provide targeted assistance to help firms understand various financing options, explain procurement systems for government and larger company purchasers, as well as providing Spanish language training in accounting systems and strategic management,” Adams said. “Carolina’s enthusiasm and energy for helping others is inspiring. We are incredibly fortunate to have her at UGA.”
A year of challenges
In announcing the 2020 list of influential Hispanics, Chamber Interim President and CEO Gabriel Vaca noted that those selected had been forced to persevere this year more than in the past.
“This year has been different dealing with the virus pandemic and civil unrest,” Vaca said. “However, despite the circumstances, these 50 Most influential Latinos of Georgia have continued to impact the Hispanic community by supporting and helping those in need and lifting others to their full potential.”
Since the pandemic began, Ramon and her team helped Hispanic business owners secure more than $6.8 million in federal loans available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, approved by Congress in March.
“We conducted the Small Business Administration Emergency Loan programs overview in Spanish every two weeks from March to July,” Ramon said. “We trained over 600 Hispanic business owners.”
Ramon also trained 400 Hispanic business owners to apply for the funds themselves, and offered no-cost training programs and webinars that covered the federal loan programs.
“We are very established in the Hispanic community in Georgia,” Ramon said.
Webinars about the federal loan programs were also provided to other groups whose first language is not English and were conducted simultaneously in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese. More than 323 Pan Asian business owners attended.
In addition to Ramon, the most influential list includes people from business, sports, entertainment and politics, including such notables as John King, Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner; Mexican Consul General Javier Diaz De Leon; Atlanta Public Schools Board Chair Jason Esteves; TV journalists Astrid Martinez and Mariela Romero; Georgia Power executive Misty Fernandez; soccer star Josef Martinez of Atlanta United; and Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University.
This year’s Hall of Fame included judge Dax Lopez, Latin American Association CEO and former GHCC president and CEO Santiago Marquez, and Latino Community Fund Executive Director Gilda (Gigi ) Pedraza.