After taking a year off because of the pandemic, the Hispanic Business Alliance’s 4th annual Latina Expo 2021 was a chance for business owners and entrepreneurs to meet and learn once again.

The idea of holding an expo for Hispanic females came during research by Tyler Chamber of Commerce Hispanic Business Alliance (HBA) Executive Director Nancy Rangel.

“I was conducting research on Hispanic business ownership and looking at the Latina entrepreneurs,” Rangel said. “According to the census bureau, the number of Latina business owners were higher than other demographic population groups.”

As a result, Rangel said, “This was set up for the Latina woman as an entrepreneur, and that’s why we established this.”

Because of the year off, there was more time for networking before guest speakers took the stage and even a visit from the mayor to kick off the event, which was held at the University of Texas at Tyler Ornelas Activity Center.

Tyler Mayor Don Warren is a board member of the Hispanic Business Alliance.

“On behalf of the City of Tyler, I want to thank you for coming to this event,” Warren said. “I’ve been on the board of the HBA for the past six years and there is nothing more fulfilling than to see new Hispanic businesses come alive and also see Hispanic businesses flourish. I’m prideful and I love being part of this organization ... The participants, the vendors, the board, you all make this possible.”

As vendors gave out samples and talked about products and services, Rangel reflected on the challenges of the past year.

“We were pleased to be able to host it post-COVID. This was our first in-person event since basically the pandemic began,” Rangel said. “We received good feedback from our premier sponsor, UT Tyler and others who wanted us to host it. We knew there would be a smaller turnout than 2019 because there are still some hesitant with congregating at events.

“But we also knew there was a great need for it because so many Latina businesses were affected by the pandemic,” Rangel continued. “We wanted to come together and discuss things that affected us during the pandemic as Latinos.”

Rangel took fun photos at a photo booth and then posed for photos with Warren and other board members. After the event, she said it was a success.

“We had wonderful networking. That is definitely one of the prime reasons we asked Latina women to show up,” Rangel said. “It’s important to meet other women from your industry or any other industry. You share your business and learn about other businesses.

“It was a lot of fun, we had live music, we had food, we had a fashion show, we had raffles and prizes. It was not just the networking piece, the information sessions and presentations, it was an overall fun event,” she continued. “We had a chance to work and focus on our professional and personal journeys as an individual.”

Rangel said another positive outcome was learning about local businesses and not just helping to promote them, but frequent them as a new customer.

“I’ve learned who owns a business, like a boutique, so we want to support that business,” she said. “It’s so important if you have a business or a great product or service you are trying to provide to the community that we help promote it. It’s a great opportunity for anyone.”

When Rangel teaches an entrepreneur program she said, “One of the things I stress is, when we have a business that launches here in our community, it does not just affect the Latino community, it affects everyone and helps us thrive as a community as a whole.”

The HBA did not expect to get into health care information and public relations, but that happened in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic.

“We serve as a primary source for any Hispanic endeavors. We also do referrals. So Smith County and NET Health reached out to us early this past summer, our vaccination numbers are low and we want to increase the number of Hispanics are vaccinated,” Rangel said. “We had never done anything with healthcare with the HBA, but we were a part of the first big outside, mobile clinic. We can now add health care as a component of what we do.”

Rangel is looking forward to Hispanic Heritage Month, which is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

(To see a photo gallery, click on the photos above or CLICK HERE)


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John is a two-time national columnist of the year and AP award-winner in Texas and New York for breaking news, videos and sports. He earned the Thomas J. Bulson Investigative Journalism award and has appeared on CNBC's American Greed, FOX and CNN.