SEMINOLE, Fla. - As Tampa Bay’s Hispanic population continues to grow, there’s a new way for Latin business owners in Pinellas County to connect, through the newly created Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Pinellas County.
Bella Rincon and her husband marked three years as small business owners Friday. The couple opened Southie Coffee in 2019 – offering local customers a taste of their heritage. They own two locations in Pinellas.
Like others, they faced challenges the pandemic brought in 2020. The problem, say the Rincons, was there was not a support network, connecting business owners who had similar experiences.
"One of the biggest issues was mentorship, who to go to with questions," she said.
Businessman Joe Lugo, who is the vice president for the chamber, says that gap has now been filled.
"The reason for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is we understand the culture and the traditional challenges in this county and throughout the Tampa Bay region. We understand growing up Hispanic, I didn’t have business mentors," Lugo said.
Hispanics make up around 11% of Pinellas County’s population; a number that is projected to grow over the next several years.
Lugo says this couldn’t have come at a better time for the 65 businesses who have joined the chamber.
"Thank god for this, because now we can connect, we can network," he said.