Marisol Rodriguez helps Hispanic businesses grow

Marisol Rodriguez helps Hispanic businesses grow

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally appeared in El Perico


With professional educators as parents, Marisol Rodriguez and her two siblings grew up in Colombia with the expectation of attending college and embarking on careers of their own.

“Education is a value my parents definitely gave to all three of us,” says Rodriguez, whose hometown is Cucuta, a commercial center bordering Venezuela.

Her work today as director of the Nebraska Business Development Center’s Lincoln (Neb.) Service Center is education-focused. The NBDC is a nonprofit resource for start-up and existing businesses. As service center director she consults with clients about all aspects of business — reviewing business plans, doing cash flow analysis, offering loan application assistance and developing financial projections. She partners with other organizations to present workshops.

NBDC services are free.

To further her professional growth she’s received certification in leadership and management from the NBDC and as an economic development finance professional from the National Development Council.

The bilingual Rodriguez specializes in assisting the Spanish-speaking community in and around Lincoln and Omaha, where she lives, through NBDC and her work as a board member with both El Centro de las Americas and Community Development Resources.

Her support of emerging small businesses led to her being named Heartland Latino Leadership Conference Business Award winner in 2010.

“For me, it’s recognition and commitment.” she says of the honor. “Recognition, because in Colombia I worked with the community and since coming to the United States I have been working with the Hispanic community. Commitment, because it doesn’t stop with winning the award. No, on the contrary it’s to continue working and trying to improve the quality of Hispanic businesses. I can contribute to that.”

She long ago set her sights on doing something in a public service capacity.

Intrigued by numbers, she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in her native Colombia. She worked as an accountant before moving to the United States about a decade ago. She and her husband settled in Omaha, where extended family members resided.

She then decided to broaden her skill set by earning an associate’s degree in management information systems at Metropolitan Community College (MCC).

To improve her prospects in the business field she obtained her master’s degree in economics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She began working with NBDC, a department in the UNO College of Business Administration, while in graduate school.

She says the center’s mission of “helping small businesses to become better” appeals to her. “I really enjoy meeting with clients — business owners or people who want to start small businesses. I really like to share information with them so they have more chances of being successful with their business.”

Since taking up residence in Nebraska she’s noted “the growing” Hispanic business sector here. She’s also noted that more Hispanic entrepreneurs “need to understand the importance of a business plan and the process of starting a business and maintaining a business.” Too often, she says, Hispanics miss out on larger marketplace opportunities by only appealing to Hispanic customers.

If Hispanics are to maximize their business potential, she says, “they must educate themselves,” and that’s where NBDC comes in.

She’s an advocate of entrepreneurs, Hispanic or not, taking advantage of the networking and professional and personal growth opportunities that forums like the Heartland Latino Leadership Conference afford.

Rodriguez, who recently gave birth to her first child, teaches Intro to Entrepreneurship at MCC and a zumba dance fitness class at the La Vista Community Center.

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