The growth of the Hispanic entrepreneur and small business owner, whether through corporate or individual support, is a positive for the entire state. Photo via Getty Images

Texas’ demographics are changing. The latest statistics from the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau states Hispanic Texans are estimated to be the largest demographic group in the state at 40.2 percent. However, the U.S. Small Business Administration reports Texas Hispanics make up only 29.4 percent of business owners.

Many times, small businesses are a good barometer for an area’s economic health. When Texas’ Hispanic businesses succeed, so does the state’s economy. Therefore, it is imperative for Texans to support its Hispanic entrepreneurs and small business owners so the local economy can thrive. There are a variety of ways to show support, both large and small.

Support supplier diversity

Supplier or vendor diversity programs serve both businesses well. These programs, when founded with the intention to help foster and grow businesses with shared values and behaviors, breed innovation through collaboration. Businesses do not have to be large to implement vendor diversity programs, but it helps if they are established with strong processes in place.

Training can be a major benefit for the entrepreneurs involved in vendor diversity programs. This is the best opportunity for entrepreneurs to fine-tune business processes and to streamline their work to become a more efficient vendor, which is ideal for all parties. In turn, these learnings foster growth, preparing them for more new business opportunities, and it give them the ability to compete at a higher level.

Back innovation hubs

There are numerous innovation hubs across the state where entrepreneurs can come together to research and create. Encouraging Hispanic entrepreneurs to plug into these diverse communities can only help accelerate their business to a profitable state and bring it to scale.

For the Hispanic executives who have found success, it is important to encourage these entrepreneurs and participate in programming. When an entrepreneur sees someone who looks like them succeed, it gives a boost of confidence that success is within reach. Mentoring is another avenue that can lead entrepreneurs to further success. Studies show entrepreneurs who are mentored have more profitable and long-lasting businesses when paired with a mentor.

Support and recommend business

The simplest way for anyone to help a Hispanic entrepreneur, as is the case with every small business, is to patronize and recommend them to others. When an entrepreneur with an exceptional product or service is found, purchasing directly supports the entrepreneur’s dream, and word-of-mouth marketing is priceless. This can be as easy as telling another business owner about their service or posting about it on social media.

At a corporate level, consider these businesses for events. A popular Hispanic-owned catering company could become a preferred vendor for client lunches or sales meetings. Prizes and gift bags are popular at larger events and stocking them with products from local entrepreneurs can help them land another loyal customer. Taking it a step further, highlight these entrepreneurs and small business owners throughout the event, giving them your company’s stamp of approval.

When Texans support Hispanic entrepreneurs and their businesses, there is a significant impact on the economy through job creation, increased wages and tax revenue. The growth of the Hispanic entrepreneur and small business owner, whether through corporate or individual support, is a positive for the entire state.

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Steve Arizpe is president and chief operating officer with Houston-based Insperity.

Supporting and honoring our Hispanic-Latino clients is not just a month-long initiative, it is a long-term, generational investment in America and we are proud to be investing in a stronger economy for Houston now and for years to come. Photo via Getty Images

Expert: Building Hispanic wealth means investing in Houston

Guest column

Every year at this time ― Hispanic Heritage Month ― we collectively celebrate the economic, cultural, and social contributions of the Hispanic-Latino community to our nation. We honor the work of past generations which have allowed children and future generations to benefit from more opportunities.

As diverse a community as is the world, we strive to build a future where there are no barriers for success, and at Bank of America, we do our part to make an impact by helping build Hispanic-Latino wealth in Houston.

The numbers are clear: The 2020 Census revealed that the Hispanic-Latino population in the United States rose to 62.1 million, making up 18.7 percent of the total U.S. population and accounting for slightly more than half (51.1 percent) of the population growth between 2010 and 2020. Hispanic-Latinos now open more small businesses than any other group in the country and are also the fastest-growing demographic of small business owners across the nation. It is not surprising that Hispanic-Latino economic power continues to rise year after year. According to Nielsen Scarborough, the number of Houston Hispanic businesses have increased 85 percent since 2013.

Investing in business

Investing in Hispanic-Latino wealth means supporting entrepreneurs so they are set up for success. Early-stage funding is critical for the growth of a new business, especially when Hispanic-Latino entrepreneurs are still faced with gaps in financial literacy and business education, funding, and networking opportunities.

According to data from Crunchbase, Latino-founded startups accounted for only 2.1 percent of venture investments in the U.S. last year. This is unjustifiable.

As part of our commitment to advancing racial equality and economic opportunity, we have dedicated $350 million in minority- and women-led companies through capital investment by mission-focused venture funds. Of the funds we have in our portfolio, one in every four are led by Hispanic-Latino managers, providing capital that will help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their businesses, create jobs, and improve financial stability.

An important element to creating opportunities for Hispanic-Latinos to build wealth, whether as a business owner or an employee, is ensuring that young people recognize higher education as a pathway to achieve success. That means partnering with colleges and universities and investing in job creation, skills-building, and support services for students to do so. Locally, we do this with EMERGE Fellowship and with the University of Houston College of Medicine. When we invest in students, we are investing in future professionals and business leaders who will build Hispanic-Latino wealth and contribute to Houston’s economy and culture. This is something we can celebrate together for years to come.

Investing in sustainable homeownership

Sustainable homeownership provides a lasting investment for future generations and cycles capital into the community. The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) recently released data showing an increase in Latino homeownership, from 47.5 percent in 2019 to 48.4 percent in 2021, the highest level since the mid-2000s. Through the Community Homeownership Commitment, which provides low down payment loans and closing cost grants, families can take their savings and turn them into lasting legacies. It is a pillar for families to build wealth.

Here in Houston, we also support organizations that assist with homeownership, like Tejano Center, Avenue CDC, and Houston Habitat for Humanity. Building Hispanic-Latino home equity increases the amount of capital families can use now or in the future helping build our Houston economy.

During the past decade, the rate of Hispanic-Latino economic development has far outpaced rates among non-Hispanics. Supporting and honoring our Hispanic-Latino clients is not just a month-long initiative, it is a long-term, generational investment in America and we are proud to be investing in a stronger economy for Houston now and for years to come.

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Rick Jaramillo is the market executive for Bank of America Houston.

What's an employee group and why do you need to know about it during Hispanic Heritage Month? This Houston expert explains. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: How employee groups help Hispanic professionals win in corporate America

guest column

Making a name for yourself in corporate America is no easy task. It is especially hard if you are the first generation in your family to attend college in this country and the first to take a stab at climbing the corporate ladder. The secret behind those who successfully make it to the top is access to a strong support group.

Finding the right support system, one that provides professional and personal mentorship and one that you identify with culturally, can help you navigate the business world and help you achieve your career goals.

Many Hispanic/Latino professionals have found that support system in employee groups, or EGs.

What are EGs and how can they help Hispanic professionals succeed?

EGs are employee-led groups that foster inclusivity and build community. The purpose of the group is to provide personal and professional support to its members, who usually share certain characteristics in common – like being Hispanic, or those who simply have interest in learning about a culture that is not unique to them.

AT&T has 14 EGs, including HACEMOS, which was established in 1988 and is dedicated to supporting Hispanic employees and the communities they live in. There are 36 HACEMOS chapters across the country supporting more than 8,500 members. The Houston chapter currently supports 278 members – all in different phases of their career.

HACEMOS members believe that “Juntos HACEMOS más,” which means “Together we do more.” Under that guiding belief, members work together to support each other in advancing their careers. Through HACEMOS, AT&T employees can participate in various professional development learning opportunities and have access to one- on-one mentorship sessions with members from the leadership team.

For many members, the group offers a safe environment to engage and learn from other professionals who understand their personal and professional hurdles from a cultural point of view.

At a personal level, the support I receive from HACEMOS has helped me to better understand and be proud of my heritage. HACEMOS has embraced my “Latina” identity, encouraging me to continue using my Spanish skills to serve our Latino customers within AT&T.

EGs provide members with a sense of community and belonging. 

Most EGs have a community aspect to them that allow members to work together to address needs in their communities. HACEMOS members in Houston take pride in organizing, volunteering, and participating in various initiatives that provide support to the most vulnerable members of their community.

This year, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Houston HACEMOS Chapter will be hosting events throughout the city, helping support our youth and instill the importance of continuing their education and striving for success. Our national group is actively volunteering on efforts to help close the digital divide (the gap between people who have reliable internet access and those who do not) which is more likely to impact people of color, especially Hispanic families.

EGs create a win-win for employees and employers. 

EGs are beneficial to employees and employers. It’s true, EG members are engaged and develop strong relationships with their colleagues from other departments resulting in a collaborative environment.

Also, the company benefits from the knowledge and skills EG members gain through the various workshops and learning resources. In addition, EG members serve as brand ambassadors in the community for the company while they participate in community volunteer events.

So, if the company you work for currently does not have an EG you identify with, it’s easy to build your case to launch one. And if your company has an EG you identify with, then I encourage you to join it today – I can ensure you, it will be a rewarding experience that can help you advance your career.

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Erika Portillo is the Houston HACEMOS president for AT&T.

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Growing Houston startup moves into 43,000-square-foot facility amid 'hypergrowth phase'

major milestone

A Houston startup has moved into a new space that's more than four times larger than its previous setup — a move that's setting the company up to scale its business.

NanoTech Materials celebrated its move into a new facility — a 43,000-square-foot space in Katy, Texas, this week. The materials science company currently distributes a roof coating that features its novel heat-control technology across the company. Originally founded in a garage, the company has now moved from its 10,000-square-foot space at Halliburton Labs into the larger location to support its growth.

“The new facility allows us to not just focus on the roofing, and that’s growing at a pretty rapid pace, but also stand up different production lines for our next iteration of technologies coming-out," Mike Francis, co-founder and CEO of NanoTech tells InnovationMap.

The space allows for a 340 percent increase in the manufacturing and operational capabilities, including producing 55 million square feet a year of roof coating. Francis says the new products he's focused on launching and scaling include a wildfire protectant coating and liquid applied insulation for trucks and containers to control heat for driver and worker safety.

Francis adds that he will be expanding the company's team to support this growth.

“We’re constantly hiring now,” he says. “We have about 25 employees right now. Next year, we’ll probably be double that. We’re kind of in a hypergrowth phase."

Francis likes to credit Houston in part for NanoTech's ability to grow at this pace and to be successful.

Mike Francis is the CEO and co-founder of NanoTech Materials. Photo via LinkedIn

“Houston has a shot at being one of the top startup cities of the world — I think it’s going to take a lot of time and capital, but what makes Houston different is its ability to scale existing technologies,” Francis says.

“I really think that Houston is already the spot to take an existing technology and build a team around it to turn it into a company because you have all of the players — whether it’s the end customer or the incubators and 'scalerators' — and you have all of these pieces coming into place," he continues. "Maybe it’s not the best place to start a company, but it’s definitely the best place to scale a company because of the ecosystem is really willing to participate and raise up startups like ours."

As the first company selected for Halliburton's incubator, Halliburton Labs, when it launched in 2020, NanoTech has worked closely with the company that housed and supported them for years.

“Once you’re in the Halliburton Labs fold, they are always just a phone call away from making something happen," he says. “We’re transferring all that knowledge into a bigger facility — growing up and graduating from what they gave us.”

Last year, NanoTech raised an oversubscribed funding round that brought on a handful of new investors. The details of the round were not disclosed, but NanoTech did release that the round included participation from three institutional investors, two corporate-strategic investors, and seven family offices. The company originally raised its seed round in 2020.

The NanoTech team, including Francis and Carrie Horazeck, chief commercial officer, joined the Houston Innovators Podcast last year to discuss how they've rolled out their first line of business.


Texas lands in top 10 most-expensive cities for running a new business

pay up

Everything is bigger in Texas — or at least somewhat bigger — and that appears to include the cost of running a new business.

A new ranking from business consulting firm Venture Smarterputs Texas at No. 9 among the states with the highest expenses for starting and operating a business.

New York appears at No. 1 on the list, followed by Washington and Massachusetts.

The cheapest state? Mississippi. It was preceded in the ranking by Kentucky and North Dakota.

To come up with its list, Venture Smarter looked at eight metrics, including corporate tax rate, average LLC filing fees, average real estate costs, and minimum wage.

Texas scored 59.74 out of 100 for startup expenses, with a higher score being worse.

The Lone Star State tied with Tennessee for the highest initial LLC filing fees ($300). But unlike many other states, Texas doesn’t require business owners to pay LLC filing fees each year to keep a business incorporated.

Texas fared well on several counts, though, such as no corporate tax, a low state-mandated minimum wage ($7.25 an hour), and relatively low real estate costs.

“This research aims to provide valuable insights into the business climate across various states, offering new entrepreneurs the information they need to make well-informed decisions on their entrepreneurial journey,” Venture Smarter says in a statement. “By understanding the unique characteristics and challenges of each state, aspiring business owners can navigate the complexities of different markets and optimize their chances of success.”

How to evaluate an IPO, according to Houston researchers

houston voices

Many investors assume they can judge the strength of an IPO based on the reputation of the underwriter supporting it.

However, a recent study by Rice Business professors Anthea Zhang and Haiyang Li, along with Jin Chen (Nottingham University) and Jing Jin (University of International Business and Economics), proves this is only sometimes true — depending on how mature the stock exchange is.

Getting your company listed on the stock market is a big step. It opens new opportunities to raise money and grow the business. But it also means facing increased regulations, reporting requirements and public scrutiny.

To successfully launch an initial public offering (IPO), most companies hire “underwriters” — financial services firms — to guide them through the complex process. Because underwriters have expertise in valuations, filing paperwork and promoting to investors, they play a crucial role in ushering companies onto the market.

In well-established markets like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), an underwriter’s reputation carries immense weight with investors. Top-tier banks like Goldman Sachs have built their reputations by rigorously vetting and partnering with only the most promising companies. When Goldman Sachs takes on the role of underwriter, it sends a strong signal to potential investors that the IPO has met stringent standards. After all, a firm of Goldman’s caliber would not risk tarnishing its hard-earned reputation by associating with subpar companies.

Conversely, IPO firms recognize the value of having a prestigious underwriter. Such an association lends credibility and prestige, enhancing the company’s appeal. In a mature market environment, the underwriter’s reputation correlates to the IPO’s potential, benefiting both the investors who seek opportunities and the companies wanting to make a strong public debut.

However, assumptions about an underwriter’s reputation only hold true if the stock exchange is mature. In emerging or less developed markets, the reputation of an underwriter has no bearing on the quality or potential of the IPO it pairs with.

In an emerging market, the study finds, investors should pay attention to how much the underwriter charges a given IPO for their services. The higher the fee, the riskier it would be to invest in the IPO firm.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers leveraged a unique opportunity in China’s ChiNext Exchange. When ChiNext opened in 2009, regulations were low. Banks faced little consequence for underwriting a substandard IPO. Numerous IPOs on ChiNext were discovered to have engaged in accounting malpractice and inaccurate reporting, resulting in financial losses for investors and eroding confidence in the capital markets. So, for 18 months during 2012-2013, ChiNext closed. When it reopened, exchange reforms were stricter. And suddenly, underwriter reputation became a more reliable marker of IPO quality.

“Our research shows how priorities evolve as markets mature,” Zhang says. “In a new or developing exchange without established regulations, underwriter fees paid by IPO firms dictate the underwriter-company partnership. But as markets reform and mature, reputation and quality become the driving factors.”

The study makes a critical intervention in the understanding of market mechanisms. The findings matter for companies, investors and regulators across societies, highlighting how incentives shift, markets evolve and economic systems work.

The research opens the door to other areas of inquiry. For example, future studies could track relationships between underwriters and companies to reveal the long-term impacts of reputation, fees and rule changes. Research along these lines could help identify best practices benefiting all market participants.

“In the future, researchers could explore how cultural norms, regulations and investor behaviors influence IPO success,” says Li. “Long-term studies on specific underwriter-firm pairs could reveal insights into investor confidence and market stability. Understanding these dynamics can benefit companies, investors and policymakers alike.”

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and was based on research from Yan “Anthea” Zhang, the Fayez Sarofim Vanguard Professor of Management – Strategic Management at Rice Business, and Haiyang Li, the H. Joe Nelson III Professor of Management – Strategic Management at Rice Business.