Social Capital: a Cornerstone to Business Development
In 2008, a group of Adelante Mujeres staff were sitting in an office and brainstorming the best way to support aspiring Latino small business owners. At the time, the organization was offering a 10-week business development course, which introduced basic business vocabulary and skills, and we were providing additional individualized support when necessary. But was there more that we could do? What other support did our business owners need? The primary need that we identified was increased social capital.
Social capital is defined as “the network of social connections that exist between people, and their shared values and norms of behavior, which enable and encourage mutually advantageous social cooperation.” Social capital is an asset that we each have within our community. Think of the last time you asked friends if they knew of a good dentist or if you could borrow their lawn mower. These are both examples of leveraging your social capital. The Latino community supports one another in many ways, but we started to question whether our business owners had sufficient connections in the business world and in their target markets to successfully launch and grow their businesses.
In order to grow this social network we built a program that allowed our participants to leverage Adelante’s social capital within the community and also learn from other participants. Over the years this has been one of the most successful components of the program. We have seen businesses refer clients to one another and also build strong relationships with their clients. This allows them to continue to build their own social capital which helps grow their business. Recently I received the following recommendation from one of Blanco’s Green Cleaners clients. To me it exemplifies our success at supporting the development of our business owners’ connections in the community through building social capital.
To potential clients of Blanco’s Green Cleaning Service:
If you need a cleaning service, consider yourself lucky for having found Blanco’s Green Cleaners.
Fernando and Venicia are hard workers and are willing to do nearly anything you need done, the way you want it done. I have never found that kind of flexibility when I have used a cleaning company. In fact, I find the rules that company workers must follow to be rigid and limiting.
Blanco’s Green Cleaning Service is easy to work with. They are pleasant and friendly, but not intrusive. They are consistent, prompt and respectful. The products they use do not leave a chemical odor behind. If something isn’t quite to my liking, they want to know about it before they leave. If I want more attention paid in a particular area on a regular basis or I would like something to be accomplished differently, I simply show them on the next visit.
After working together for a while and establishing a trusting relationship, they have taken the initiative to get some things done that I have been rather lax about handling. Of course, Fernando either asks before diving in or simply knows from previous visits that I want the chore done but haven’t prepared for it. One day, he simply worked around my clutter in one troublesome room and got it done. It was such a pleasant surprise.
I encourage you to give Blanco’s Green Cleaners a try. If you would like to speak with me personally, please feel free to call.
To learn more about the work that Adelante Mujeres is doing to grow the social capital of Latino owned businesses or to hire one of our businesses please visit the website at www.adelantemujeres.org or contact Ali Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Alison Brown, Director of Adelante Empresas