Weather Forecast


Programs expand at Multicultural Business Center

Owner Angie Sanchez, right, cuts Westley Gutierrez's hair Friday at Cutting Edge at 501 South First Street in Willmar. Sanchez worked with Roberto Valdez Jr., director of the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center, when she was launching her business. Tribune photo by TJ Jerke

WILLMAR -- Many new small businesses face an uphill climb to success. For those that succeed, things like good planning and strong mentoring relationships can be important.

The Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center in downtown Willmar is using a $240,000 grant and some new partnerships to provide the keys to success for low-income business owners in Kandiyohi and Meeker counties.

The Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center, formerly the Willmar Area Multicultural Market, is based in Willmar. The Community Economic Development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is intended to help job growth in low-income communities. The business center has also entered into a partnership with the Latino Economic Development Center based in Minneapolis.

All business owners who meet the grant criteria may seek advice or technical assistance from the business center.

Though the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center often works with minority business owners, "our doors are open to all nationalities," Director Roberto Valdez Jr. said last week.

The business center has been providing advice and help with business paperwork for some time, but Valdez did it by himself for some time.

Now, outside business consultant Jeff Madsen is available to work with businesses, too. Madsen owns The Logan Business Consulting Group of Willmar. He serves private clients in his business in addition to his contract work with the business center. Madsen grew up in Willmar and moved back after completing his master's in business administration.

Madsen said he can help businesses with business and marketing plans and is available to offer other advice as needed.

He has been doing a lot of hands-on work with clients who meet the criteria for the grant program.

"They walk out of here with a better snapshot of their situation," he said. They also have a better idea of "strategic marketing" for their businesses.

"A lot of ethnic businesses have the information in their heads," but a lender wants to see a written plan, Valdez said. "He (Madsen) helps them move into mainstream lending."

The grant will allow the organization to offer some business loans, too. The loans are not going to be large, Valdez said, but the funding could help leverage financing from local banks or the Southwest Initiative Foundation.

Anel Espinoza of Willmar is working at the downtown Willmar office as a representative of Latino Economic Development. She has lived in Willmar for 12 years and has worked for the Willmar School District and Heartland Community Action Agency.

Espinoza is doing outreach to the community and has been working with the Association of Latinas in Action to provide resources for business training.

Some of the training that will be provided in the coming months includes classes in accounting, IRS regulations, marketing and food manager licensing. Those classes will be open to anyone, but they will be taught in Spanish.

Another consultant assisting with the business development grant is Jaime Villalaz. He is based in St. Cloud and works for Latino Economic Development, assisting businesses in nine counties. He is in Willmar one day a week.

"At the end of the day, it's about creating jobs," Valdez said. "We do all this free of charge with the hopes they will become socially responsible in the community, part of the community and do what they can do for the community."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340