Spokane Journal of Business

Hispanic Business Professional Association gains momentum with community support

Latino-serving group aided by Spokane-area philanthropic foundations

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The Hispanic Business Professional Association of Spokane, once an organization grassroots in nature, now has support from beyond the Hispanic community it was originally designed to serve.

With financial backing in the past year from Spokane-based Innovia Foundation, Avista Foundation, Empire Health Foundation, Group Health Foundation, and Washington State Department of Health, the organization now has a full-time, paid executive director, two social workers, one community organizer, and seven student fellows serving it in varying capacities. HBPA also provides professional support to more than two-dozen youths ranging in age from their early teens to their mid-20s.

Last year, BECU awarded HBPA a $15,000 grant for work centered around its youth education programs. HBPA’s board of directors ultimately decided to place $10,000 of the award in a newly established endowed fund at Innovia, the Hispanic Business Professional Association Endowment Fund.

“We wanted to be intentional and think about the future to make sure our legacy of helping students continues,” says HBPA executive director Fernanda Mazcot.

Aaron McMurray, Innovia’s chief strategy officer, says HBPA’s aggressive outreach efforts to economically disadvantaged people during the COVID-19 pandemic helped bolster the nonprofit’s reputation.

“It has been such a privilege to have a front-row seat to the tremendous growth and impact of HBPA in our community,” McMurray says. “I’m convinced that the new HBPA endowment will create even more momentum and impact as HBPA continues to grow and expand its reach.”

Annual community support is critical to building the endowment to invest in the long-term sustainability of the organization, McMurray says.

As testimony to that, on June 23, Avista Foundation awarded HBPA an additional $10,000 to help Hispanic and Latino businesses with capital funding.

Mazcot helps oversee operation of Latinos Unidos en Accion, a student-community engagement program through HBPA designed to introduce Hispanic students to Spokane by connecting them with resources, services, scholarships, and graduation to enhance their academic, cultural, and emotional well-being.

Roughly 200 students are enrolled annually. LUNA also can provide services to students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, she says.

“We have an Anglo student who is an enrolled first-generation college student who wants to learn more about our culture,” she says.

Additionally, a Vietnamese American LUNA fellow recently was matched at the Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center to start her residency. This student was at the forefront of HBPA community pop-up clinics during the height of the pandemic.

Mazcot’s sister, Isabel Mazcot de Torres, recalls meeting one of HBPA’s original founders several years ago. Mazcot de Torres currently serves as the organization’s vice president of business relations.

“What I know is that it started in the ’80s under a different name,” Mazcot de Torres says. “Members flipped through the Yellow Pages looking for Hispanic last names and started calling people and asking them if they’d like to join, and people were excited about that.”

A social group quickly morphed into a volunteer organization before the focus shifted to helping to raise money for student scholarships. That tradition continues today as HBPA has been recognizing Hispanic high school and college graduates since 1993 through LUNA, she says.

Since then, HBPA organizers have done their best to help the nonprofit become a near one-stop shop for the Hispanic and Latino community.

Mazcot de Torres says HBPA estimates there are 175 Hispanic-owned businesses, and businesses that patronize Hispanics, operating across Spokane County.

“Many can be found in our Hispanic business directory that we have on our website,” she says, adding the listing includes many Spokane-area vendors. “They’re often commonly street vendors who are passionate about crafts or art. That is the mentality in Latin America, so we try to bring them up.”

Mazcot de Torres says one of her job duties entails making sure that vendors understand state and federal laws governing business operations.

“I don’t want them to get in trouble,” she says. “I see that they are extremely hardworking people, so I’m just very focused on the education around permits.”

Many of the consultations available to business owners center around administrative operation and business education. HBPA offers business workshops every fall, some of which are held exclusively in Spanish, she says.

“We have the ability to help small business owners pay for licenses and permits to help get them going,” Mazcot de Torres says.

It doesn’t stop with business operations either. HBPA also offers wraparound services to families of its members.

“We build that relationship with the business owner and then take it a step further to see what the family needs,” she says.

In that effort, HBPA uses Esperanza, its bilingual social services program that works with families and individuals to achieve wellness and self-sufficiency through advocacy, assessment, education, and resource management based on the needs and values of the client, she says.

“That’s how we build that trust,” she says.

Mazcot de Torres says HBPA’s executive leadership team recently has been more active in forging a relationship with Greater Spokane Incorporated as it, too, is interested in establishing more relationships with business owners of color.

With a background in finance and having spent several years working at local credit unions, Mazcot de Torres and her husband now run their own business named Torres Tax & Accounting LLC. Nine in 10 clients are Hispanic or Spanish speakers, she says.

“One of the reasons we started this a few years back is because of the needs I started seeing in Spokane,” she says. “Small business owners work, work, work, because they want to be successful and feed their families.”

However, financial details can get overlooked, she says.

“One of my duties with HBPA is to help these business owners navigate the system in the financial industry,” she says.

A resident of Spokane for 11 years, Mazcot de Torres says she can see the rise in Spokane’s Hispanic and Latino population, which now stands at 7%, a little more than double since she arrived. U.S. Census Bureau estimates say that the Hispanic population rate will more than double in the U.S. by 2050.

Though she says Spokane Valley has the largest concentration of Hispanic immigrants in Spokane County, HBPA, headquartered at 308 W. First, in downtown Spokane, continues to tout downtown Spokane as a place for Hispanics to establish businesses.

“We’re very passionate about trying to bring more diversity to the downtown area,” she says.

Kevin Blocker is a veteran Spokane journalist who wrote this article on behalf of the Innovia Foundation, which can be contacted at 509.624.2606 or on the web at www.innovia.org.

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