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Online Firm Promoting Latino Small Business

May 10, 2000|LEE ROMNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new online venture is offering Fortune 500 companies and Latino entrepreneurs a chance to do business together in a matchmaking experiment that, if successful, could increase the flow of dollars to Latino enterprises.

Atlanta-based HispanBiz.com launched its procurement site (http://www.hispanbiz.com) Friday as a digital business-to-business marketplace to facilitate transactions between big corporate entities and the nation's growing number of Latino small businesses.

Unlike aggregated procurement sites--such as those formed this year by the Big Three auto makers and the world's top tire makers--HispanBiz will not favor buyers but rather create a level playing field for buyers and sellers, said founder and Chief Executive Alex Suarez, a former investment banker with Deutsche Bank.

Suarez, who also recently launched a bank in Atlanta that caters to Latino entrepreneurs, said the site's mission is to join the fastest-growing segment of small business owners in the country (Latino entrepreneurs) with the most powerful sector (Fortune 500 companies).

"We think we're uniquely capable of selling Fortune 500 companies and the Hispanic business decision maker," he said.

Buyers can search by industry, product or affinity, such as ethnic heritage. Also featured on the site: a payment system that ensures the security of big transactions.

Bringing members to the site is another matter. The company has begun courting Fortune 500 companies but does not expect to announce any firm commitments for a month or two. Then it must bring in Latino entrepreneurs, who numbered 1.4 million in 1997, according to the Census Bureau.

The cost to join: $10,000 for small service-related companies, $50,000 for companies with product catalogs that need to be integrated onto the site and up to $250,000 for Fortune 500 companies.

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