By Ken Liebeskind
Latinos are behind a number of new and successful business ventures that are making their mark on commerce in Connectict.
Lillian Santiago Bauza, a former Norwalk, Conn., resident currently living in Massachusetts, started Bauza & Associates with her husband, Hector.
The marketing agency promotes products to the Latino community, from State Farm to Six Flags New England.
“We started the agency in the living room of our home and got the account of Balise Auto Sales,” Bauza said. “Our ads are geared to the Hispanic market. We do TV, radio, print, web and pr and oversee Hispanic marketing events.”
The Hartford based agency has nine to 15 employees depending on the projects it is working on.
“We’re a small business looking for the right opportunities. We work with corporations and general marketing agencies to develop their communications for the Hispanic market,” Bauza said.
When asked why Connecticut is a good state for a Hispanic marketing agency, Bauza said, “It’s a more sophisticated market than other states with more Spanish media outlets. We’ve been welcomed by the mayor of Hartford and the economic development agency that helped us find offices. When you open a business, not everything is money. It helps to have good partners. We’re part of the Latino community and are challenged to find the right staff to work with the accounts. The last few years have been difficult, but the world is changing and you need to change with it.”
Gabriel Castor, of Bridgeport, Conn., changed his world by starting Touch of Heaven Paint Services in June.
“I do all kinds of indoor and outdoor painting, including epoxy floors,” he said.
He started his own business after losing a job with a fencing company.
“You have to get fired from many jobs, and that’s why I started my own business because I was tired of people telling me I’m not good enough.”
He said he was fired from the fencing company because he was perceived as a threat to the Mexican employees because his English was perfect and he was a hard worker.
“They saw me as a young, strong Puerto Rican male, and we got to get this guy out of here. They went to the boss and told him I wasn’t good enough. I pleaded with him because of my family but he said I don’t need you.”
His first painting job came from a friend who wanted to get his garage done. He charged him $500 for a job that would normally cost $1,500.
“If I did a good job, it will open the door for more work. I acid washed the floor and patched and laid epoxy. He loved it and said it was amazing. He has a GMC truck and a Mercedes that look great in the newly painted garage.
He said, ‘What do you need?’ and I said business cards so he designed them for me and they look great.”
Castro, 28, is married with a 6-month-old daughter, who he plans to support with his new venture.
“The business will blow up and I’m planting seeds now. I did an estimate last week and I also do carpentry and masonry. I like working with concrete and my wife is an electrician so she’ll help me out with the jobs,” he said.
Ernesto Trujillo, also of Bridgeport, operates GI Plumbing, a home and commercial plumbing service. He repairs leaky faucets, hot water heaters and boilers. He promotes his business via word of mouth from satisfied customers around Fairfield County, from Bridgeport to Westport and Stamford. “Satisfaction is my goal. It makes me feel good to help someone with heat and hot water when they’re in need,” he said.
Trujillo, 29, started his business a year ago.
“I’d been doing plumbing for 15 years and wanted to open a warehouse, but you have to start small before you go big.” He works on his own for the most part at reasonable rates. “It’s very economical, priced fairly,” he said.