MOUNT VERNON – It didn’t take long for Lili Mendez to secure enough clients to quit her day job after opening her new business, Lili’s Green Cleaning Services, in December 2019.
Her hard work, preparation and planning paid off.
“I love being my own boss and I enjoy this work,” said Mendez in Spanish through an interpreter.
Months earlier, Mendez realized she had no idea how to open a business in the United States. Despite taking ESL classes, her English was not yet fluent.
After asking around, she was referred to Dr. Diana Morelli, the Director of EDASC’s Latino Business Retention & Expansion Program (LBRE Program). Since Morelli often collaborates with Alex Perez, project manager at the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC) to assist clients, they both offered their support to Mendez.
The programs provide free, one-on-one business counseling and broad-based assistance for Latino entrepreneurs and business owners looking to start or expand their business.
“The help I received was very motivating, helping me build the confidence that I could accomplish my goals,” Mendez said. “It opened doors for me that I otherwise wouldn’t have found.”
Latino business support services are important in Skagit County, which has a large Latino population. Language and cultural barriers can be stumbling blocks for starting a successful business.
Morelli has provided free counseling to hundreds of clients since the program was established in 2004. She has also secured over $3 million in loans for local businesses. Morelli and Perez pay as much attention to Latino cultural norms when advising clients as they do to helping a client get a business license, write a business plan or apply for a loan.
This customized approach addresses the client’s specific business needs.
“We identify barriers preventing them from being successful and find resources to help them move forward,” Morelli said.
By following the guidance of both counselors, Mendez became operational within a month. The process included obtaining her business license and writing a business plan, purchasing “green” cleaning supplies, buying insurance, designing and ordering business cards, and creating a website.
Looking ahead, Mendez hopes to continue growing her client base and to eventually become successful enough to hire staff.
“So far, it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be ,” Mendez said. “I am thankful for the support I have received from EDASC and the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.”
Contact the EDASC Latino Business Retention and Expansion program at 360-336-6114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.