Veronica Ramirez Garcia is a full-time mom. And for the past nine months, she's also been the full-time executive director of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Her focus on minority business growth and developing core values for local entrepreneurs and employees is the driving force behind the chamber's impact in West Michigan. But the chamber doesn't just touch the Hispanic community. Veronica emphasizes integration between other local chambers, "and various other organizations that are focused on helping businesses and the growth of community."
Each business contributes to local society as a whole, Veronica said, and business owners are the pieces of the puzzle that could bring economic development and sustainability to West Michigan. Collaboration, Veronica said, is key. "I think if everybody works together, we'll have a great economic impact … If your neighbor is doing good, that means you are doing good … If we're all reaching toward the same goal, in the end, the economic impact will be greater."
The chamber is also an available resource for those who need help understanding and completing the piles of paperwork that go hand-in-hand with owning a business. Veronica said many times, small business owners think they must take on every aspect of the company themselves, but they get lost in the details, regulations, and procedures. She and the chamber are here to remind you that you're not alone. "You can't do everything. Even though it might save you some money in the beginning, you'll have a headache in the end."
That's why it's so important to the Hispanic Chamber to provide business development opportunities for everyone in the West Michigan area. "The chamber is bilingual, but anyone can join," Veronica said. "You don't need to be Hispanic or even speak Spanish. It's an opportunity for you to interact and network." And with the seminars and summits she has planned, business owners across county lines will want to be in attendance at Hispanic Chamber events. Upcoming workshops and presentation topics include those that provide resources for companies and employees alike. Click here for a full list of upcoming chamber events.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, nine percent of the population in Ottawa County, 9.9 percent of the population in Kent County, and 5.1 percent of the population in Muskegon County was Hispanic or Latino. In 2007, 1.8 percent of firms in Ottawa County were Hispanic-owned, two percent of firms in Kent County were Hispanic-owned, and 1.2 percent of firms in Muskegon County were Hispanic-owned.
But what matters more than numbers is heart, and the Hispanic Chamber has that in droves. Veronica is advancing the entrepreneurial impact on the communities of West Michigan as she strives toward a cohesive, educated, empowered business community.
Born in Mexico City, Veronica moved to the Holland area as a three-year-old and grew up in West Michigan. It's a friendly place, she said, a welcoming and calm place to be. Between the lakeshore in Holland, South Haven, and Grand Haven, and Grand Rapids' nightlife, West Michigan has everything you need, she said. When she's not forging business opportunities through her work at the chamber, Veronica enjoys spending time with her family and playing soccer.
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it.