Colorful pinatas. Fresh produce. Hard-to-find spices. Flavorful cheeses.
These are some of the things you’re likely to find lining the shelves at La Tiendona, the region’s newest Hispanic grocery store. Behind the counter, you’ll also find the Salinas family and their employees Ezekiel and Veronica, eager to help and setting a strong example of small business owners in the community.
But what you won’t see, though its influence is everywhere, is the College of Southern Maryland’s (CSM) Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has worked with the Salinas family as they made their dream a reality, offering support and advice on all aspects of their business.
“It’s an ongoing relationship,” shared La Tiendona owner Noe Salinas. “Every time I have a question I’m calling them. I’m always willing to hear what other people have to say so I can learn from them.”
The success of this collaboration was on display on a bright day last month as a small crowd – including representatives from the SBDC – gathered outside La Tiendona for a ribbon cutting on the store, which has been open since June. The store is located at 3655 Leonardtown Rd. in Waldorf.
“It’s always a thrill to recognize and celebrate our small businesses,” said Charles County Chamber of Commerce President Bonnie Grady, at the event.
Reuben Collins, president of the Charles County Board of County Commissioners, was also in attendance to present the owners with a copy of the county seal. He spoke about how valuable small businesses like La Tiendona are to the economic health and growth of the county.
In fact, creating economic impact and a better quality of life in our communities is central to the mission of the SBDC. La Tiendona does just that because it fills an important need for a quality Hispanic grocery store in the area, said Lisa Colavito Creason, the CSM SBDC business consultant who worked with the family to open the store. Helping people turn their ideas into reality is the mission of the SBDC, which provides low-cost training and no-cost consultations for new and existing businesses. The center is part of a national network that can connect business owners with experts and programs throughout the state and country to help them get the assistance they need to be successful.
The Salinas family said that while the large regional chains may carry Hispanic food, those chains may not understand the language and the culture of the area’s growing Hispanic population. He said he wanted to open a store that not only sold authentic food, but understood their customers, while also offering other services that the Hispanic community might want to utilize such as check cashing and money transfers.
“I like the idea of creating a sense of community where people can gather and find the services and products that they need,” Salinas said.
As Salinas and his family worked to get La Tiendona off the ground, the SBDC team walked them through financing options, advised them on layout and displays for the store, and encouraged them to think bigger by getting involved with the county’s economic development team and joining the Charles County Chamber of Commerce. The SBDC also helped them to prepare for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which took place on Nov. 17.
The Salinas family has long found the SBDC to be a valuable resource. The family already own a tag and title in Waldorf, Servicios Hispanos, and has consulted with the SBDC on everything from creating a cohesive brand for that business to getting questions about finances answered.
Creason is quick to point out that although the SBDC is a valuable resource, it is the dedication of the Salinas family that has made both their stores successful.
“Everything that we have talked about, they have risen to the challenge to get ready for the ribbon cutting and build their business,” she said. “They are a really great model for what it takes to own your own business because they are ‘all in.’”
For those contemplating starting a business, the center offers classes and one-on-one consultation to help new business owners make a realistic plan for success. Existing businesses can fill out an assessment form to be connected with a relevant expert or register for one of the many training sessions that fill the center’s calendar.
“We’re exchanging ideas and you’re making your dream happen,” said Creason. “And that is really our role. It can be really lonely to own a small business, but we’re here for anyone ready to take the step.”
Learn more about how SBDC and CSM can help your business succeed, and your dreams of starting a business come true, at https://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/non-credit/businesses/sbdc.html.