• Michele Rave

Rockford celebrates “Support Latino Business Day”

ROCKFROD, Ill. (WTVO) – September 14th has been officially deemed “Support Latino Business Day” in Rockford.

The proclamation came at the same time the Rockford Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce office, 4249 East State Street, Ste. 202, was revealed.

Latinos make up nearly 20% of the local population, and Business Forecasts suggest Hispanic business owners will open even more shops in Rockford in the coming years.

The chamber’s Vice President, Ricardo Montoya Picazo, said the public can support their cause by shopping.

“Go eat, go shop. We have great business owners with jewelry, clothing, downtown at the Broadway intersection,” Picazo said. “We are growing. As you heard the mayor said, we have grown by 23%. That is a big growth.”

The chamber also works with local organizations to promote responsible economic development, as well as long-term sustainability for minority community leaders.

Many Hispanic owned businesses struggled due to COVID-19, but now there is a new resource available to help those place thrive.

Melissa Santillan opened “Beauty by Melissa Santillan” four years ago, but the salon was forced to shut down last year, taking toll on her bottom line.

“When we were told we could no longer work, that was a hard hit that a lot of us took,” Santillan said. “I was unable to work, and it was difficult for us, especially sole proprietors, where they were not sure how to help us with unemployment because we do not get paid by the hour, we get paid by the service.”

Enter the Rockford Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a new resource to provide Hispanic and Latinx business owners the tools needed to succeed.

Sully Cadengo is the President of the Chamber, and she knew this was necessary for the community.

“The pandemic severely affected many of our business owners, specially our Latino community, and did not have access to information or resources, and how to gain assistance to these programs,” Cadengo said. “As a business owner myself, I faced many barriers when I first started, and I realized I may not be the only one. I speak english, so it is easier for me to navigate all of these searches, and trying to find resources.”

Santillan hopes the Chamber can help any Hispanic business owner who needs it.

“There are several grants available currently, and before that I had no idea about that. I qualified for not only for being a sole proprietor or a private business, but also because I’m Latina and I am a woman, so things like that that are brought to the table that help my job be a little bit easier,” said Santillan. “So this is a great stepping stone. We still have a lot of work to do, but this is definitely a start, and I can not wait to see what the future holds.”

Just a few weeks ago, the Chamber held a business workshop, helping out 12 local businesses, eight of whom were eligible for a grant.