Juan Ramirez is founder and president of Minneapolis-based Grupo Avance, a business that helps companies expand sales into Mexico, Latin America and U.S. Hispanic markets. A native of Mexico, Ramirez studied business and marketing at the Universidad Vercruzana in Mexico and at Miami University and the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. Prior to starting Grupo Avance, he worked at IBM, GE and other technology consulting firms as a sales and marketing executive.
Grupo Avance works with companies that want to export to Mexico and Latin America, but are unsure of the rules and regulations they may encounter in the target market country. The firm helps clients overcome language barriers and cultural issues, and can identify Mexican and Latin America suppliers. Market analysis, and customization of products and services to meet the specific needs and preferences of Mexican and Latin American markets are additional services offered.
The market potential for selling to Mexico and Latin America is huge. Mexico is the United States' second largest global trading partner. Since 1993, the value of two-way trade with Mexico has almost tripled from $81 billion to $232 billion.
Grupo Avance also helps companies market to the growing Hispanic population in the United States. Hispanics are the largest minority group in the country. There are more than 35 million persons of Hispanic descent representing 13 percent of the population. Hispanics in the U.S. have a buying power of more than $500 billion annually. One in 10 businesses in the U.S. will be Hispanic-owned by 2007. Between 1993 and 2001, the Hispanic teen population grew by 30 percent. Currently, one of five teens in the U.S. is of Hispanic descent.
It is no wonder that companies large and small have taken a keen interest in reaching these markets. Grupo Avance helps clients analyze the domestic Hispanic market and then develop strategies to reach that customer base that include legal and cultural considerations. Grupo Avance also provides translation services.
Recently, Juan Ramirez received assistance to help finance a client project through SBA's Export Express Loan Program. Ramirez was working with Ryan Kanne of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Commercial Services. Ramirez was in the process of contracting with DOC for a market feasibility study of a product his client was considering marketing in Mexico. The DOC Commercial Services provides a variety of assistance through its Embassies worldwide, including feasibility and market studies. Ramirez needed working capital to help finance the market research study.
Nancy Libersky, SBA's Minnesota District Director (formerly the International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Minneapolis) provided Ramirez a list of lenders who might be able to help him with an SBA Export Express Loan. Ramirez contacted Kim Storey of Highland Bank who approved his loan request. The study was completed and delivered to the client.
SBA's Export Express loans help small business exporters participate in foreign trade shows, translate brochures or catalogs, purchase equipment to be used in production of export orders, and provide general lines of credit for export purposes. Lenders use their own loan analyses, loan procedures and loan documentation to process loan applications. The maximum loan amount is $250,000. Juan Ramirez is a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota, the Minnesota Entrepreneurs and the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council. He teaches International Business and Corporate Strategies at Northwestern College in St. Paul.