Gallery Incubator hosts business advice panel for Evanston Latine entrepreneurs


Astry Rodriguez /The Daily Northwestern

The Gallery Incubator hosted a panel at Creative Coworking for Evanston Latine business owners.

Astry Rodriguez, Reporter

The Gallery Incubator, a business networking program, hosted its fourth panel Wednesday to advise Evanston Latine entrepreneurs on growing their companies. 

Real estate agent Angela McConner, an Argentinian Evanston resident, created the series in collaboration with Angela Valavanis, owner and founder of shared workspace network Creative Coworking. The panel was held at its Davis Street location. The Gallery Incubator is a sister company under Creative Coworking. 

“For many years I started working with different entities … and I saw that many groups were represented there, but the Latinx businesses were not,” McConner told The Daily. 

She created the series to provide professional development, networking and coaching opportunities for Latine business owners seeking to launch or develop their business. The Gallery Incubator also received a grant from the Evanston Community Foundation for the programming. 

McConner said Evanston’s rapidly growing Latine community needs resources like the panel series to see local representation and forge community. Though 2020 census data reported Evanston is about 12% Latine, McConner said they aren’t well represented in the business community.

No panelist was Latine. 

The panel presented to an audience of catering, cybersecurity, cleaning and financing company business owners. 

Valavanis said mentorship plays a key role in growing businesses, and networking is a form of mentorship. She said attending events like the panel allows business owners to build relationships with people who could possibly become advocates for them. 

“We all have top of mind who we just interacted with (at this panel),” Valavanis said.

Valavanis added that learning from other mentors’ mistakes can help owners make informed decisions about their business. 

Panelist Bob Easter, an Evanston resident and mentor with a gallery space, said he has enjoyed opportunities to listen to and advise business owners. 

“I love learning from people who have a lot of energy, creative ideas and are willing to put in the work to make their ideas blossom,” Easter said. 

Easter invited the audience to voice business-related issues for consideration by the panel.

Valavanis said publicizing testimonials of past clients is a great way to build trust with potential clients.

“When it comes to money, people are going to be very protective because we all know there are jerks out there that are going to scam them,” Valavanis said. “So you’re fighting against the scammers who have muddied the waters.” 

She said having certifications and referrals from other brands can also build trust for newer businesses — especially when the owner has a restricted marketing budget.

Valavanis said running a business can be isolating, so having spaces like the panels to connect with people in similar situations is empowering.

Valentina Castellano, event manager at Chicago’s Food For Thought, said although she didn’t notice many Latine faces in the audience, she was interested to attend and learn strategies for business growth and leadership. 

“I am truly interested in events that try to unite the Latine community,” Castellano told The Daily in Spanish. “A fundamental part of a job or company making you feel successful is that you make it part of yourself, your being.”

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Twitter: @Astry_tpwk

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