8 KC Latino Entrepreneur Stories to Inspire You during Hispanic Heritage MonthDavid Cawthon
Diversity makes Kansas City shine. From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, KCSourceLink joins in the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and remembers some of our most inspiring stories of these doers, dreamers and makers.
Hispanic entrepreneurs help shape our community. We’ve been fortunate to feature and learn from some of the best. So as you’re looking to discover more and support local Latino businesses, keep these go-getters in mind.
Lisa Peña had a big idea: leading hikes around urban landscapes. She loved hiking but didn’t know anything about starting a business. Thanks to guidance from KCSourceLink Resource Partners like Block Knowledge, SCORE KC and Square One Small Business and Workforce Development Services at Mid-Continent Public Library, Lisa turned her side hustle into a successful, full-time venture.
Matthew and Nancy Kost adapt seeds to push local food production in the Midwest. Originally from Bolivia, Nancy grew up harvesting quinoa and potatoes in a sustainable system. KC native Matthew earned a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology. With a focus on resiliency and sustainability, their Buffalo Seed Company helps Kansas Citians grow food that’s as local as it gets.
This one-of-a-kind coffeehouse specializes in Latinx coffee and expresso drinks. Café Corazon is the premier Midwest café for yerba mate tea. Miel Castagna-Herrera, Curtis Herrera and Dulcinea Herrera share a deep appreciation for the art and tradition of the foods and beverages they serve. Their family business sources locally, supporting other area entrepreneurs along the way.
Entrepreneurs find inspiration everywhere. For Celeste Aguirre, it came from her grandpa, who left Mexico in the ‘60s to make a better life for his family. Celeste thought, “The least I can do is start my own business.” Thanks to mentors and the support of friends and family, Celeste opened her massage therapy practice in early 2020. Careful planning has helped the business thrive despite COVID.
Joe Vazquez turned a layoff into an opportunity to start his own business. The Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center, U.S. Small Business Administration in Kansas City and Hispanic Chamber of Greater Kansas City helped Joe get the certifications and build the connections he needed. Fortune has named his business to its list of 100 fastest-growing inner-city businesses in the country.
Paletas are Mexican ice pops with a deep history. But they were almost unknown in Kansas City until José Luis Valdez and Lucia Fonseca opened Paleterias Tropicana in 2004. Now, their family business serves 180 outlets and has five restaurants. Jose Luis credits the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce with helping the family meet their goals.
Art and entrepreneurship go hand in hand for Luis Garcia. His business Hecho KC creates hand-made décor that reflects Hispanic roots. Luis found inspiration from his mom, who is an artist. Now, his heritage is evident in everything he makes. Thanks to the support of groups like GUILDit, Luis has turned his passion into a business. “Entrepreneurship has changed me for the better,” he says.
Iveth Jalinsky is passionate about renewable resources. When she learned that her company could make bamboo masks that are effective against dust and pollution, she got to work. With COVID, the need jumped dramatically. Support from the Missouri Department of Economic Development is helping GRC keep up. “As Americans, the opportunities in this country are endless,” she says. “Be a part of it.”
How to build your business
Whether it’s National Hispanic Heritage Month or any other time of year, there are resources in KC to help you meet your goals. We’re fortunate to have active organizations like the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City supporting local entrepreneurs.
You can also find help through the KCSourceLink Resource Navigator. This list includes more than 200 organizations and programs that offer free or low-cost assistance to entrepreneurs. And if you need a little más ayuda, we’ve got your back. Our Network Navigators can put together a free Personal Action Plan to help you meet your entrepreneurial goals.