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Boot Camp Helps Small Business Owners Build Entrepreneurial Strength

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News
PCW, a small construction business in Austin, Tex.

Hispanics are twice as likely to start a small business as any other group in the United States, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

But the failure rate for small businesses is high – nearly 50 percent don't make it. An organization in Austin hopes it can train small business owners the skills to succeed.

Al Lopez leads the "Small Business Boot Camp" in Austin.

While he isn't going to get in your face and yell Full Metal Jacket-style, he will tell you some harsh truths about small business failure rates.

Lopez says inexperienced entrepreneurs don't often realize the magnitude of the investment they need to make.

He says people often ask him, "How do I start a business without spending any of my money?" or, "how do I start a business without having any liability?" or [how do I start a business] without paying any taxes?"

Lopez tells them that's not the way businesses work. "What I tell people is, if you don't want to pay taxes, then have a business that doesn't make money."

Obviously businesses intend to make money, and city governments intend to collect taxes on that money. 

So what advice does Lopez give his boot camp entrepreneurs to build successful businesses?

He says coming up with adequate startup funding is key, but he cautions that raising enough can be difficult – it's not like on ABC's Shark Tank where investors eagerly await the perfect business opportunity at which to throw their money.

That's why Lopez teaches his boot campers how to create a sound business plan.

"Nobody is going to give you a bunch of money to start a business. So you are going to have to boot-strap." He teaches businessmen and businesswomen "how to manage every nickel."

The TV network Univision is partnering with Lopez in Austin and with other "boot camp trainers" throughout the U.S. to reach the nation's Hispanic community. The goal is to lower the failure rate of small businesses. In Austin, Hispanics make up about 35 percent of the population. Lopez's next boot camp is March 25 at 6 p.m. at 1144 Airport Boulevard.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.