Client Stories: NOVA Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

A Diverse Chamber of Commerce Fighting to Preserve Small Businesses in Northern Virginia

As COVID-19 continues to alter our way of life, it is of the upmost importance that we find time to pause, take a moment of reflection, and recognize those who are continually devoting hours of their time in the fight against COVID-19. To those serving on the front lines – who are risking their lives, to save the lives of the others – we say thank you. To those acting as a beacon of hope and providing sustained optimism for others in their communities, we say thank you. And to the many who are helping those directly impacted by COVID-19 through donations of any sort, we say thank you.  

As a part of our Client Stories – which will be published periodically throughout the coming weeks – we hope to highlight some of our admirable Clients, who have scarified their time and effort for the betterment of our society in the fight against COVID-19. 

“Money didn’t disappear or evaporate, money just moved,” explained Mrs. Susana Marino, Founder, President, and Chair of Northern Virginia’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is providing its members – primarily small businesses – with resources and guidance to get through COVID-19 and emerge as our countries newest and brightest leaders and entrepreneurs. 

Sited at Carr Workplaces Tyson’s location, the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – or more commonly abbreviated as the NOVAHCC – seeks to foster a variety of business and trade opportunities for its members and partners. 

From cultivating B2B (business to business) and B2G (business to government) opportunities, to promoting trade between international commodities, and to even providing potential career opportunities for its members and partners, the NOVAHCC strives for a better business climate in Virginia through the formation of a stronger economy on which these businesses can grow and develop. 

“Our chamber is looking to create bottom-line opportunities between buyers and suppliers,” explained Mrs. Marino. “While we have far fewer social gatherings than most chambers [because] we are more concentrated on producing results that are creating those interactions between buyers and suppliers.” 

“We invest our resources in technology or artificial intelligence, to connect our members with the target audience in perpetuity. That’s something that we do, over and over again,” she added. 

Although known as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber welcomes members of all nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and gender. 

“We work with people of all backgrounds,” Mrs. Marino said. “That’s not even a question that you will find yourself havingwhere you are fromwe don’t care. It doesn’t matter. The word diversity is really who we are – an international business, a community that creates opportunities for growth, here at home and beyond our borders.” 

But it is without question, that the Chamber’s mission of fostering trade and business in a diverse community has been altered due to the coronavirus. Primarily that of serving and aiding small businesses, a large makeup of the Chamber’s members, who have been severely affected by COVID-19. 

As she has always done, Mrs. Marino rolled up her sleeves and thought about how the Chamber could continue to provide the resources that her members need to brave these tough times. 

As the NOVAHCC has heavily invested in technology over the yearsthis has allowed the Chamber to provide its members with a variety of online modules that Mrs. Marino felt were underutilized in the past – which have now taken center stage because of COVID-19. 

“We were already planning for the future. We are still in the process of getting there so we’ve invested heavily in technology and it’s been available to us from day one since we opened our doors,” explained Mrs. Marino. “These programs that we have been delivering for over two years are now more relevant than ever.” 

“These programs were built by business owners for other business owners. They don’t come from a textbook, they don’t come from a university, it’s very practical. Every business owner that I have seen take our trainings, they have seen good results because we are speaking their language.” 

Along with offering modules to teach and assist businesses, the Chamber has synthesized a number of resources for its members which are directly available on its website. 

These include direct links for small business to access disaster assistance as well as steps these businesses can take to complete and apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration Loan. 

Along with providing technical resources for her members, Mrs. Marino offered emotional sentiments throughout her discourse – emphasizing the understanding she had of the challenges that so many of her members are currently facing. 

When examining these difficulties, Mrs. Marino looked to the future and posed the question of, “How do we put people back to work [after COVID-19]?” She then subsequently presented an encouraging thought as a response to this question, to give hope to those struggling to find work right now. 

“A lot of people that are facing difficulties finding work right now are going to be the new entrepreneurs after COVID-19,” she said. 

“I [want to say that I] saw their potential to do something great, it’s just that they didn’t know at the time,” she said. “I can’t wait to meet them, and I can’t wait to see them succeed and say, hey look, I knew that you were going to be able to do this.” 

With this on her mind, Mrs. Marino and the NOVAHCC are now looking to and planning for the future so that the Chamber can better assist these new business owners, thought leaders and innovators when ‘business-as-usual’ resumes. 

She provided three central pieces of advice to aid these entrepreneurs and their businesses in succeeding in a changed economic landscape following COVID-19. 

First, “Follow those who are spending the money,” she said. Then, “Solve the known problems that exist within the new economy with solutions that are better, faster, and cheaper than the competition,” she explained. And finally, “Communicate in their [the consumer’s] way, not yours.” 

While the light at the end of the tunnel may currently seem distant and dimly lit, Mrs. Marino and the NOVAHCC are optimistic that as we emerge from this crisis, new opportunities will be prevalent. 

Opportunities not just to make money, but opportunities to rebuild and strengthen our communities and the opportunity to get back to work – as we have done for so many years. 

“There will be tons of opportunities out there, it’s just now you’ll have to go and find it,” she added. 

It’s just taking that first step to get back on our feet. 

To learn more about the Northern Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, click here. 

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