Budding entrepreneurs pitched their small business start-ups, from custom-made piñatas and mobile mani-pedis and pet grooming to catering and financial coaching, to a crowd of about 70 guests at the Bohrer Park Activity Center on Saturday, June 23, 2023 for Identity’s first Entrepreneurship Expo. The fifteen entrepreneurs are participants in Identity’s intensive year-long Entrepreneurship Program.

Guests had the opportunity to discover the wide range of products and services that Identity’s enterprising clients plan to offer. While some clients used the event to launch their brand-new business ideas, others reframed and adapted skills and experiences honed in their home countries to meet the shifting demands of Montgomery County’s small business scene. At one end of the room, an auto service technician stood side by side with a mixologist showcasing Latin-inspired craft cocktails. At the other, the cuisines of Venezuela, Guatemala, Peru and Bolivia were all on display, from sweet chocotejas to savory salteñas.

Representatives from USG’s Entrepreneurship Lab and Maryland Small Business Development Centers were also on-site to provide information about resources available for local entrepreneurs.

The fifteen entrepreneurs are not an anomaly. Nationally, Latino-owned business are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. business sector: From 2009 to 2019, the number of Latino-owned businesses grew by 34% according to the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Each client put in long hours to bring their business ideas to life, completing an intro course, preparing a business plan and producing marketing materials. One client began to tear up as she described how Workforce Development Specialist Daniela Torrico supported her through the six-month process of studying for her Nail Technician certification and preparing to launch her mobile mani-pedi service, all while living in a shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

While every client has their own unique story, they share a determination to push past seemingly insurmountable barriers to realize their goals. Identity is very proud to serve as a platform for these talented individuals to share their ideas with the community.

The Expo was funded by WorkSource Montgomery through the Workforce Recovery Network 2.0 program, which supports workforce initiatives that assist Montgomery County residents who experienced hardship due to the pandemic.