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ECDC Collaborates with Latina/o Law Student Society to assist Latina Entrepreneurship Academy

UC Law’s Latina/o Law Student Society assisted the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) in providing legal training to the Latina Entrepreneurship Academy at the Hamilton County Business Center.

Cincinnati, OH – “We live in a world, country, and community that is becoming more and more diverse,” said Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic Director and Professor Lew Goldfarb. “It’s important that the ECDC provides access to legal services to all people who choose to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams but may have limited resources.”

This summer, the Hamilton County Business Center (HCBC) conducted their inaugural Latina Entrepreneur Academy (LEA), a 14-hour business certification entrepreneurship course offering a series of informational sessions to better prepare Latinas entering the world of entrepreneurship.

Karla Boldery, a business coach at the HCBC, sought ways to enhance the learning potential of LEA students, who all speak Spanish as a first language. Interested in collaborating with the ECDC and the Latina/o Law Student Society at UC Law, a conversation was under way between Prof. Goldfarb and Gibran Peña-Porras, president of the student organization.

“I became the president of the Latina/o Law Student Association this year,” said Peña-Porras. “Before that happened I reached out to a couple of different organizations here that work with the Hispanic community. I contacted Prof. Goldfarb and he said he’d be willing to meet and talk about it. After having coffee with Karla Boldery, I told her the Latina/o Law Student Association is ready to help out any way we can, in any way we could be of service.”

This is where the ECDC came in. The clinic is designed for students to gather hands-on experience representing local small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs on transactional legal issues critical to their success. The ECDC does not charge for it’s services to entrepreneurs, and gives students a tremendous learning experience while contributing to the economic development and revitalization of Cincinnati and the surrounding communities.

In their collaboration, the ECDC and the Latina/o Law Student Association assisted the LEA in providing legal training throughout the summer. In June, the LEA hosted the presentation “Choosing the Proper Legal Structure for Your Business.” With support from Prof. Goldfarb, Peña-Porras developed the presentation with a power-point in Spanish. The class of nearly 40 entrepreneurs responded with questions, for which Prof. Goldfarb was able to answer via Peña-Porras’ translation from English to Spanish.

“We have assimilated into the Cincinnati culture, and now we’re trying to contribute to it in any way we can,” said Peña-Porras. “It’s not necessarily about just accommodating people who don’t speak English. Alex Valdes (another UC Law student who assisted) and I are fortunate enough to know two languages, and we’re able to help them assimilate into the culture they’re living in. Even though you have someone living in the community, they can be isolated from what’s surrounding them because of the language barrier. We help them get out there and become a part of the community.”

After their initial success, the ECDC and UC Latina/o Law Student Society continued the collaborative efforts by assisting LEA students at four sessions over the summer. The ECDC students provided legal counsel under the supervision of Prof. Goldfarb and attorney Tom Cuni, with translation services provided by Peña-Porras and Valdes.

“Latina entrepreneurs kind of have two strikes against them,” said Valdes. “Entrepreneurs are trying to get their businesses off the ground and might not always have the means to pay for legal work, which is one difficulty where the ECDC helps a lot. Also, the language barrier can be difficult to overcome. If you have both elements working against you, it can be very difficult to get your foot in the door.”

The partnership ran successfully. According to Prof. Goldfarb, the only obstacle faced was “the air conditioning unit at the HCDC on a 95-degree day during the presentation. Gibran loosened his tie and handled it well, despite the hot conditions!”

Though this was the first time the ECDC and the Latina/o Law Student Association worked together, additional projects are already underway. Peña-Porras has made another legal presentation to a group of Latino entrepreneurs participating in training classes at the Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative. There’s also an effort by the ECDC and Latina/o Law Student Association to translate the application, website, and all other materials all to Spanish, to be more inclusive of their services offered.

“These are people who are trying their hardest to get out there and make something of themselves,” said Valdes. “It helps these people individually, but it also helps this community financially.”

“They’re trying to make it here and be an integrated part of the community,” added Peña-Porres.

The most rewarding part of the program, according to Prof. Goldfarb, was “the sense of fulfillment obtained from doing something that is new in the Cincinnati entrepreneurship community, making a difference in the lives of our clients, while providing a unique learning experience to our students.”

Writer: Kyler Davis, communication intern