Gallery Incubator is hosting a panel for Latin American business owners

The Gallery Incubator, a business networking program, held its fourth panel on Wednesday to advise Evanston Latine entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses.

real estate agent Angela McConner, an Argentine resident of Evanston, created the series in collaboration with Angela Valavanis, owner and founder of shared workspace network Creative Coworking. The panel was held at its Davis Street location. The Gallery Incubator is a sister company of Creative Coworking.

“For many years I’ve worked with different companies … and I saw that there were a lot of groups there, but the Latinx companies weren’t,” McConner told The Daily.

She created the series to provide professional development, networking and coaching opportunities for Latin American business owners looking to start or develop their business. The Gallery Incubator also received a grant from the Evanston Community Foundation for programming.

McConner said Evanston’s rapidly growing Latine community needs resources like the panel series to see local representation and forge a community. Although Evanston’s 2020 census data make up about 12% Hispanics, McConner said they’re not well represented in the business community.

No panelist was Latin.

The panel featured an audience of business owners from catering, cybersecurity, cleaning and finance companies.

According to Valavanis, mentoring plays a key role in growing businesses, and networking is a form of mentoring. She said attending events like the panel allows business owners to build relationships with people who could potentially become advocates for them.

“We all have in mind who we just interacted with (at this panel),” Valavanis said.

Valavanis added that learning from other mentors’ mistakes can help owners make informed decisions about their businesses.

Panelist Bob Easter, an Evanston resident and mentor with a gallery space, said he enjoyed opportunities to listen to and offer advice to business owners.

“I love learning from people who have a lot of energy and creative ideas and are willing to put in the work to make their ideas bloom,” Easter said.

Easter invited the audience to raise business-related issues for the panel’s consideration.

According to Valavanis, posting testimonials from previous customers is a great way to build trust with potential customers.

“When it comes to money, people will be very careful because we all know there are idiots out there who will scam them,” Valavanis said. “So you’re fighting the imposters who have muddied the waters.”

She said certifications and endorsements from other brands can also build trust for newer businesses — especially if the owner has a limited marketing budget.

Valavanis said running a business can be isolating, so having spaces like the panels to connect with people in similar situations is empowering.

Valentina Castellano, Events Manager at Food For Thought in Chicago, said that while she didn’t notice many Latino faces in the audience, she was interested in attending and learning strategies for business growth and leadership.

“I’m really interested in events that try to unite the Latin American community,” Castellano told The Daily in Spanish. “A fundamental part of any job or business that makes you feel successful is making it a part of who you are, who you are.”

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