Q&A With Astrid Chirinos: Having A Business Is Not Only About Having A Job

Charlotte Business Resources had Q&A With Astrid Chirinos

The Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte is an organization devoted to offering a sustainable bilingual platform of programs, events, and services. They engage, empower, and support both Latino and non-Latino businesses, entrepreneurs, and professionals, with the goal being to accelerate their access to resources, growth, and success when navigating this new economy together. In fact, their mission, as listed on their website, is “To foster the economic growth and development of the Latin American business community in the Charlotte region.”

We recently had the opportunity to speak to Astrid Chirinos, the President of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte (LACCC), an organization that she helped establish nearly 20 years ago. At the LACCC, she develops, manages and deploys a robust platform of programs, events and opportunities focused on the economic development, growth, sustainability and prosperity of the Latino Business community in the Charlotte Region. We encourage you to learn more about her extensive background experience and accomplishments here.
CharlotteBusinessResources.com (CBR): To start, let’s talk about your own personal experience with LACCC. How did you first get involved with the organization? What is your current role?

Astrid Chirinos (AC): The Latin American Chamber of Commerce started in Charlotte in 1995 as the Las Americas Business Council where I served on the Executive Committee. It was a part of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. In 2001, the LACCC was chartered by the State of North Carolina as a separate chamber and began connecting and empowering the Latino and non-Latino business communities in Charlotte. The LACCC established permanent offices at the BIZHUB Entrepreneurial Center at the CPCC central campus in 2006 with 13 board members. There are now over 20 board members representing corporations, entrepreneurs, and professionals from the Charlotte region. I am currently serving as President of the LACCC, where I develop, manage, and deploy a robust platform of programs, events, and opportunities focused on the economic development, growth, sustainability and prosperity of the Latino Business community in the Charlotte region.

CBR's meeting with Astrid Chirinos, the President of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte (LACCC), an organization
Astrid Chirinos (left)

CBR: How has being a part of LACCC affected your life?

AC: LACCC has helped me ground my identity and values as a Latino professional. I have been able to connect with the Latino professional community and realize what challenges and gaps are still permeating the workforce, such as stereotypes and language barriers. These things could block the growth and contributions of the Latino business community. Personally, it has been an opportunity to grow and to see the needs we have in this community. This is why I welcomed becoming President after the collapse of the economy—even when the gaps and barriers became even bigger. It challenged me to create something that would support the growth of Latino people in the workplace in Charlotte.
CBR: What are your organizational goals for the future?

AC: We strive to reach out to Latino entrepreneurs and business professionals to connect them to the community at large. We want to continue connecting, empowering, providing access, and advocating for the Latino business community. We also want to solidify our organization’s infrastructure to make us sustainable over time.

CBR's interview with Astrid Chirinos, President of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte (LACCC)
CBR: What is LACCC’s mission, and how is it achieved?
AC:

Vision:
To be the World-Class organization for a thriving Latin American business community in the Charlotte region.

Mission:
To foster the economic growth and development of the Latin American business community in the Charlotte region.

The Purpose:
The purpose of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte (LACCC) is to offer a sustainable bilingual platform of programs, events, and services that engages, empowers, and supports both Latino and non-Latino businesses, entrepreneurs, and professionals in order to accelerate their access to resources, growth, and success when navigating together this new economy. This platform includes networking, mentoring, retooling, training, leadership development, supplier diversity, and acculturation opportunities in collaboration with the LACCC Foundation and many other strategic partners across the region and the I-85 corridor. This purpose supports both the Mission and Vision of the organization.

More information can be found at http://www.LACCCharlotte.com.
CBR: In what ways can LACCC benefit Charlotte? And, specifically, in what ways can it affect the small business owners of Charlotte?

AC: LACCC provides a hub for the community at large to engage with the Latino business community. We focus on making things happen and developing relationships. We help members make contacts that will create more opportunities. It’s a place where the community at large can engage and understand how to contribute and collaborate with one another. LACCC is specifically designed to move Latino entrepreneurs and professionals up vertically on Maslow’s Pyramid. We are focused on helping the Latino business community move to the next level in their development, beginning at whatever stage they are in, until they reach self-actualization in their business and personal life. Community engagement is very important, and that’s what the Chamber provides.

Individuals and businesses can connect with LACCC through Charlottebusinessresources.com
CBR: How can individuals participate in the programs and services offered by LACCC?

AC: Individuals and businesses can connect with the LACCC through our website. They can engage with us through our strategic partners, like you, CharlotteBusinessResources.com. Our programs and events are listed on our website and people can register online! We have a variety of diverse events happening at different times of day in different locations all over Charlotte. There is no excuse for people not to attend! These events are open to everyone. They are in English and provide a great networking opportunity. Our Chamber is very open. Membership is 50/50 Latino and non-Latino.

LACCC offers its members:

• LACCC monthly Lunches, Tapas and Breakfasts with presentations from local, national, international, private, public, non-profit sector speakers and community leaders
• LACCC monthly seminars with a broad range of topics from member and guests speakers such as, How To Start a Business, Certifications, Marketing Strategy, Profitability, Cash Management, Time Management, Voluntary Benefits, and much more
• LACCC biweekly radio program with a LACCC Member Spotlight and their contribution to the community
• Special programming in collaboration with strategic partners
CBR: Do you offer any services assisting small business owners who are new to Charlotte?

AC: The LACCC Foundation was established in 2006 to provide resources and scholarships. A formal executive director was appointed in November 2010 to create an effective platform of programs and services that would help grow and support the Latino business community in the region after the economic downturn.

Some of the programs we offer are:
1. LACCC Business Builder – To facilitate and accelerate, for 20 LACCC Small Business members, the process of integration and success in the new economy, by retooling them with new skills and providing the ACCESS, CONTACTS, CONTRACTS, MENTORS, RESOURCES, OPPORTUNITIES, and BUSINESS ACCULTURATION that will enable them to more quickly achieve the goals within their business plan.

2. LACCC Leadership Development Institute – To facilitate and accelerate VERTICAL MOBILITY for Latino professionals in the U.S. workplace by developing leadership, team-building, communication, decision-making, problem-solving and other necessary skills for successful engagement and their effective integration in the workplace and community.

3. LACCC Train-the-Trainer Program – (Natan Feldman Scholarship Fund) To design and adapt curriculum that will cultivate and develop BILINGUAL TRAINERS with cross-cultural competency to effectively deploy LACCC Programs.

4. LACCC Young Entrepreneurs Program – To capture and develop entrepreneurial desire, skills, and knowledge for young Latino entrepreneurs (middle school and high school students) through the Ultimate Life camp experience in collaboration with partner organizations. This process is designed to ultimately engage them in an educational track.

We also have monthly seminars featuring member- and guest-speakers who cover a broad range of topics, such as how to start a business, certifications, marketing strategy, profitability, cash management, time management, community engagement, and professional development.

We do have some events that are in Spanish only, but the majority are in English. There are many chances for members to become engaged with one another and within our community.

CBR shares about LACCC develops Latino Business community in the Charlotte Region
CBR: What is something that most people might not know about LACCC that you think they should know?

AC: People assume that we conduct our events in Spanish. This is not true. We are all bilingual, and all events are conducted in English. Everyone is welcome to attend. It’s not just for Latinos.
CBR: Anything we forgot to ask that you’d like to add?

AC: LACCC operates with a very small staff! We make great use of our wonderful volunteers and interns. They have been very supportive as we grow our staff. We are being very careful not to over promise and under deliver. Planning is very critical to our success. Not only do we have to be efficient in our work, but we have to be sustainable. The same is true for business owners. We teach them that having a business is not only about having a job. It’s not how much you bring in, but how much you retain. If we can help them understand that it will help them grow much faster!

Thank you for your time, Astrid! It was wonderful speaking with you. Be sure to visit their website to learn more about the LACCC.

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