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Minority-owned in South Dakota businesses face unique challenges

"Guaguas de Pan," or "bread babies," are a traditional treat during the celebration of <em>Día de los Difuntos.</em>
Amy E. Robertson
"Guaguas de Pan," or "bread babies," are a traditional treat during the celebration of Día de los Difuntos.

Operating a business takes skill and unwavering commitment. Minority business owners play a large role in their cultural communities, but some say they lack support.

South Dakota is home to a wide demographic of people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2022, Hispanic or Latino people represent 4.9 percent of the state’s population.

Latino business owners who spoke with SDPB say they have a hard time connecting to the wider business network.

Ivan Romero owns a salon and production company in Sioux Falls. He said it has been hard for him to find local support as a business owner.

“I speak English, I’m out in the community and all this stuff and very few people have ever, in the 12 to 13 years that I’ve been a business owner here, have reached out to me to either join an organization with them or participate in an event or come and give us any sort of support for our business," Romero said. "So, we don’t see any of that support from outside our Latino community."

Romero’s company, SM Productions, is a comedy production company that brings in international artists from Mexico to perform in Sioux Falls. He said Latino business owners often lack the resources necessary to thrive in the state.

“We don’t have any networks such as radio, or TV, or newspaper networks that can help us advertise for businesses, so that has been a challenge for us," Romero said. "So we have to rely on handing out business cards, or putting up posters, or word of mouth, to be able to grow the business.”

Selene Zamorano-Ochoa is the President and CEO of the South Dakota Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She said the development of the organization rose out of necessity during the pandemic.

“We got together with some of our business friends and decided that since we could not find that help, we would become that help for ourselves and others. So that is where it got created," Zamorano-Ochoa said. "It wasn’t just to focus on the businesses or business owners, it was in all of the areas that we, at the moment, are still struggling because there is a lack of resources that we as Latinos need.” 

Zamorano-Ochoa said the support the Latino community needs is in the form of education. Education in health care, ways to find work, learning English, and how to find ways to thrive, not just survive.

She said her organization goes beyond helping individuals with paperwork and sticks with their clients, providing constant assistance until their needs are met.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.