Tags:As a traveler in Guatemala, Jamie Beasley was astonished by the level of hospitality he encountered in a country so poor and war-ravaged. And with Adelante, he aims to repay that generosity by helping the Asheville area's burgeoning Spanish-speaking population.
The new business's name says it all. Literally, it means "move forward, go ahead," says Beasley, a former grade-school Spanish teacher who works part time at Mountain Bizworks helping Latino-owned businesses develop. But "Adelante" is also a ubiquitous greeting meaning, "Come in."
The idea, he explains, is to bridge the gap between local businesses and the Spanish-speaking community. Accordingly, Adelante certifies and promotes local businesses deemed "Latino-friendly." In its first 10 months, Adelante has certified 13 businesses and nonprofits. And while Beasley aims to turn a profit, he also envisions helping other local businesses increase their customer base while making Latinos feel more comfortable and less bewildered in their new country.
It all began with a chicken. Beasley spent a year in Guatemala living with a poor mountain family of corn farmers and factory workers. "The way they accepted me into their home and treated me was a level of hospitality that I can honestly say I've never seen in my life," says Beasley, who was born and raised in Memphis amid a regional culture fabled for its hospitality.
"On the first night I was there, the rooster above the house kept me awake," he recalls. "I went to the city the next day to check my e-mails and when I came back for lunch, [the mistress of the house] had cooked chicken soup out of the rooster. She knew it kept me up the night before and that I wasn't used to it, so she made that sacrifice for me. At the time, it seemed like no big deal -- until I realized the value of that rooster was a lot higher than I knew. As my time there developed, I realized just what a big act of service that really was. So that might have been the moment when I realized that these people are willing to do everything they can to make sure I feel welcome in their country.
"The other part of it is, my Spanish wasn't very good when I got there," he adds. "So people did whatever they had to do to make me feel welcome, and I think that's extremely important. While this is very much a business, these Latinos that are here are people, and their need for services and for businesses that can provide for them and help them achieve the American dream is real. I think not only does it make good business sense to be the one that steps in there and gets businesses new clients, I think it's important we take care of each other. [The Latinos] are here, and we have services, and I think we should find ways to bring them together."
A booming market
Unlike some less formal programs that cater to specific groups of people, getting certified by Adelante requires a higher level of commitment.
To make the grade, businesses and other organizations must meet four criteria: 1) Latino customers feel welcome and are served by the business' staff without reluctance. To ensure this, a representative of the business must attend a cultural-sensitivity workshop designed for Adelante by the Latino Advocacy Coalition. 2) A written description of services is always available and is offered to Spanish-speaking customers without their having to ask. 3) Spanish-speaking customers can set up an appointment by phone to conduct business with a bilingual member of the business' staff or with an interpreter available. 4) Business transactions are clearly defined in written Spanish, and a bilingual staffer or Adelante representative is available by appointment to explain the agreement orally in Spanish if necessary. (In special cases, such as legal documents that must remain in English, they must be explained orally in Spanish.)
In addition, says Beasley, businesses seeking certification must pledge to "create a hospitable environment for Latino clients, to foster mutual trust and respect, and offer high-quality Spanish services."
Adelante offers an array of services, including written translations as well as oral explanations both on-site and by phone. Once certified, businesses pay a monthly fee to remain on the list. Nonprofits pay between $75 and $125 per month; the business rate ranges from $125 to $200 per month. Certifications are maintained quarterly, so if a business no longer wants to be involved after three months, it can opt out, Beasley explains.
In return, certified businesses gain the right to display Adelante's logo (a vivid green arrow) on signs, letterhead, storefronts, advertisements, phone listings, Web sites and so forth. This tells potential Latino customers that they're welcome and that the business is fully able to serve them. In addition, says Beasley, Adelante will work to build trust, assuring Latinos that they can feel comfortable using the business' services and encouraging them to do so.
Certified businesses will also be featured in a monthly column in El Eco de las Montañas and La Voz Independiente, Asheville's two Spanish-language newspapers. "We work hard to promote your business in the Latino community through personal appearances at local Latino events, brochures placed in organizations that Latinos know they can trust, local and regional advertisements, the Adelante Web site and many other outreach activities," Beasley explains.
But with the Latino population growing astronomically both here and nationwide, the real payoff for businesses is being able to tap into that booming market.
In the Asheville area alone, Hispanics and Latinos spent more than $219 million in 2004, according to a 2006 study of the Hispanic population's statewide economic impact.
The first comprehensive assessment of the state's Hispanic population and its economic impact, it was conducted by John D. Kasarda and James H. Johnson Jr. of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill for the North Carolina Bankers Association, in cooperation with the Mexican Consulate of Raleigh. The study also identified potential business opportunities provided by this fast-growing market.
"Hispanic purchasing power is only partially tapped in a number of localities," the study concluded. "Opportunities exist for these localities to retain more of the Hispanic consumer dollar. ... In some N.C. counties, Hispanic buying power exceeds their economic impact, because communities lack sufficient retail and service facilities to meet the consumer needs of Hispanics.
"If recent migration trends continue, the total economic impact of Hispanic spending in North Carolina could increase to $18 billion by 2009. Clear opportunities exist for financial institutions and other businesses statewide to capitalize on this increasingly significant market," the study says.
"It just makes good business sense to appeal to the widest market you can," notes Beasley. "What I'm simply doing is saying there is a market out there that speaks Spanish, you should be the first to get there, and I can help you. I'm providing a very user-friendly way to tap into this market."
To find out more about Adelante and how to become certified, check out the Web site (www.adelante-usa.com), call Beasley at 215-6722 or e-mail him at Jamie@adelante-usa.com.