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Hispanic Business Owners Gather For Annual Expo

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A business expo at Navy Pier on Thursday highlighted the growing number of Hispanic-owned businesses.

WBBM Newsradio's Nancy Harty reports more than 5,000 Latino business owners came out for the annual Hispanic Business Expo.

Laura Sanchez, CEO of Swatware, said she considers herself a pioneer, as a Latina running an information technology business.

"We're not just working the kitchens, or in the gardens; we can do IT, and we can do it very well," she said.

Sylvia Maldonado said she sees her heritage as a huge plus for her family's wholesale food company that opened in the West Loop in 1957.

"Being Hispanic, and actually offering Hispanic products, it's a huge plus, and that's something that's very rare," she said.


Patricia Aguilar, who runs a marketing company, said she's following in family footsteps.

"My father owned his own business. I come from an entrepreneurial background," she said.

Like many at the expo, Aguilar appreciates government rules mandating a certain percentage of contracts go to minority-owned companies, but wonders if they will be unnecessary one day.

"You need to have the qualifications to do the job," she said

Juan Gaytan, who has run Monterrey Security Consultants for 15 years, said he sees a common thread among the various Hispanic entrepreneurs.

"I think the only thing that Hispanic businesses are looking for is an equal opportunity at providing the services; and sometimes – unfortunately, even in today's world – you don't get that equal shot," he said. "That's all we're looking for here, is just someone to help open that door to get us in there, and show that we have the qualifications."

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