OAKLAND -- Casa de Chocolates, which opened last year in Berkeley, makes handmade Latin American chocolates and desserts. Although a relatively new store, Arcelia Gallardo, co-owner and chocolatier, said she expects it to continue to grow and succeed.
However, Gallardo added that she is at a loss for exactly how to foster that growth. She was among thousands of Latino business owners and entrepreneurs seeking ideas Wednesday at the 35th annual California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce convention at the Oakland Marriott City Centerï»¿.
"For us, it's very important to understand where we can take the company," Gallardo said. "We need people guiding us and it's an amazing resource to have people who have done this already letting us know how we can do it."
The CHCC estimates there are 700,000 Latino businesses in California, which generates $100 billion per year in the state alone.
Through a recent study CHCC conducted with the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, it found that nearly 80 percent of Latino businesses expect their business to grow and more than 60 percent say they will hire additional workers over the next three years.
The California Hispanic Business Study was revealed Wednesday on the opening day of the three-day CHCC convention. The study assessed the needs of Latino businesses and found that owners need assistance with marketing strategy, access to capital and business plan development.
Based on the results of the study, CHCC officials said they will try to assist Latino businesses with new programs.
"Now we know what our Hispanic businesses want and the Chambers of Commerce is able to form our strategic plan around that to deliver the services they so badly need," said Ernie Gutierrez, CHCC chairman.
The next two days of the convention will include expos, panels, workshops and a health care reform benefits brief, among other things. Some of the speakers will include TV personality Daisy Fuentes, Richard Montañez, a top Frito-Lay executive who created Flamin' Hot Cheetos and singer and philanthropist Sheila E. .
Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo voiced his support for the convention and its benefit for the city.
"It's really an honor for Oakland to have businesses from throughout the state of California come here to exchange ideas," Gallo said. "It's for Oakland's benefit to establish friends, relationships, because if Oakland is ever going to change it's going to have to change through the business community, by growing businesses."