The Business Certificate Program is a six-week course that aims to improve opportunities for small businesses in Southern Arizona. Through six business classes, taught once a week for three hours by Eller College faculty and affiliated professionals, participants learn management, marketing, sales, accounting, finance, and legal issues. The certificate program is offered in English in the Fall, and in Spanish in the Spring.
"Whether participants need help marketing their products, understanding financial analysis, or improving their negotiating skills, the Business Certificate Program will help them achieve their business goals and aspirations," said Ildefonso "Poncho" Chavez, director of the McGuire Center's Economic Development Programs. In addition to the Business Certificate Program, the Center's Economic Development Programs include the Business Consulting Program, which helps grow local small businesses through consulting services offered by Eller undergraduate students under the guidance of faculty and volunteer local business professionals.
The emcee at the Business Certificate Program graduation in May knows these offerings well. Abel Leon, owner of Perfecto's Mexican Restaurant, participated in the Business Certificate Program and received advice for his family business through the Business Consulting Program. Now he’s pursuing his undergraduate degree through Eller.
This is the sort of success story Edward A. Altamirano, Vice President-Business Banking Area Manager, Arizona South, for JPMorgan Chase Bank, loves to hear. Chase is the main sponsor of the Economic Development Programs, and Altamirano provided the welcome remarks at the graduation ceremony.
"JPMorgan Chase realizes the importance of nonprofit programs like this one offered by the University of Arizona to help small business owners get the training they need to achieve long term success," he said. "We are very proud to be here and to be a part of the Eller College Business Certificate Program."
Leon shared his personal story next, and introduced each of the other eight panelists, two of whom were representatives of Wells Fargo Bank, which also sponsors the Economic Development Programs:
- Jose Arias – Vice President, Relationship Manager III, Chase Business Banking
- Ana Perreira – Founder and CEO of Yellow Brick Coffee.
- Jose Vargas, CPA – Founder and CEO of Azteca Financial Services, and Co-Founder of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
- Cecilia Arosemena – Owner of Dish for Dosha, and former participant of the Business Certificate Program and the Business Consulting Program.
- Sergio A. Acosta – Wells Fargo Business Tucson Regional Vice President
- Damarice Martinez – Co-Owner of several small business, a former participant of the Business Certificate Program, and an Eller undergraduate alumna.
- Ivan Gurrola – Owner of “Sky Harbor Express”, and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.
- Zulma Cardenas – Wells Fargo Business Branch Manager.
After the speakers, a musical group, AMIGOS, performed music from the Andes in honor of the McGuire Center’s new director, Remy Arteaga. Arteaga told his entrepreneurial story to the standing-room-only crowd, which was filled with people who had come out to support the graduates. Having started as the McGuire Center Director in December, this was Arteaga’s first Business Certificate Program graduation ceremony, and he was pleased to watch the participants’ faces light up as their names were called.
"It's clear that the McGuire Center’s Business Certificate Program is a catalyst for economic development here in Southern Arizona," he said. "Being able to provide quality business training to underserved populations is so important to strengthening our community."
Of the 140 participants in the Spring cohort, 138 were Hispanic and 107 were women. Five participants were between the ages of 18-24, and two were older than 65. About half of the participants already own a business of some kind, and the remainder aspire to do so. Completing the Business Certificate Program is a good way to take steps toward achieving their professional goals, said Chavez, but the benefits of a program like this extend well beyond the individual participants.
"Giving back to the community through the Business Certificate Program is a win-win situation," said Chavez. "When we help individuals achieve their business dreams, our community wins and our economy wins."