GWHCC Pres and CEO Angela Franco Vasco

GWHCC Hispanic Business Expo a complete success at LIBizus booth (photo gallery)

Roger Campos, Business Ombudsman with the Office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Roger Campos, Business Ombudsman with the Office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

We finally made it to Washington DC on Monday evening with little traffic. Weather was nice although the cherry trees were not blooming yet despite being the National Cherry Blossom Festival Week. As Pamela Nieto, Director of Marketing and Communications of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GWHCC) put it, let it snow all it wants before the Expo!

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (2)

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Exhibitors and sponsors arrived early to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to set up before the Ribbon Cutting ceremony starting promptly at 9:00 am. Over 150 exhibitors were crowding the convention center’s D-Hall. Roger Campos, Business Ombudsman with the Office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, recognized the GWHCC for their success at the Expo’s sixth anniversary, which attracted more than 1,800 participants and 60 sponsors and partners.

During the ceremony, it was a pleasure seeing Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and some “Latinas in official business” such as Lillian Cruz, Deputy Director of Constituent Services for U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen; Monica Palacio, Director at the DC Office of Human Rights; Ana Harvey, Director of Department of Small and Local Business Development; Jackie Reyes, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs; and Natalia Olson-Urtecho, Regional Administrator for Mid-Atlantic, US Small Business Administration.

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser

Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser gave intro words to the ceremony and celebrated the progress and initiative of the GWHCC has had under the leadership of Mario Acosta-Velez, GWHCC Chairman of the Board, and Angela Franco Vasco, Pres and CEO.

“The Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has become a leading regional business organization with the Business Expo as its premier event for Hispanic businesses to connect, network and grow locally, nationally and internationally,” Acosta-Velez said. “Our Chamber’s commitment is to continue to help Hispanic businesses move forward and succeed. We look forward to another successful Expo on March 15, 2016,” he anticipated.


The event featured speed networking, business matchmaking, workshops, an international row showcasing 15 companies from Latin America looking to import their products and services to the U.S., and the Million Dollar Club panel presenting five Hispanic millionaires who shared how they started their business and the challenges they faced.

Business matchmaking sessions at #HispBizExpo2015_1

Business matchmaking sessions at #HispBizExpo2015

As one of the media sponsors, we received local Latinas in business at our booth and invited them to participate in our LIBizus gallery. We created great excitement –our booth was literally mobbed- with our platform and soon you will see many of their small businesses featured on OUR LIBizus section.

Click on any photo to see the complete photo gallery! We missed a few names, please ladies tell us who you are and we’ll be happy to add your names to the list.

Angela Franco GWHCC

Meet GWHCC Angela Franco the heart and soul of #HispanicBizExpo15

Angela Franco GWHCC President and CEO

Angela Franco GWHCC President and CEO


Coming up next week, the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GWHCC) will hold its Sixth Annual Business Expo: Connections, Opportunities and Growth at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center followed by the Promoting Trade among the Americas International Symposium on March 24th and 25th.  The event has sold out its expositors space and is expecting over 2000 visitors.

The heart and soul behind this initiative is Angela Franco, GWHCC President and CEO, who took the helm in 2009 when the chamber only had around 100 members. Today, that number has gone up to 600 Latino and non-Latino businesses that enjoy the growing benefits of the dynamic organization.

“When I was offered the position, I took it on a part-time basis. I had a small child and had left a 20 year banking career, so I was re-thinking my life and my professional goals,” Angela told LIBizus. “I have always loved to work with people and be involved in the community, give a word of support or a helping hand, so the work at the chamber became a perfect opportunity to realize my professional and personal aspirations,” she said.

She believes it is hard to start a new life and a business as an immigrant. Many acquaintances and friends helped her when she returned to the USA in 2001 after living many years in Colombia so she always thought to “pay it forward.”

“When I came in, the chamber needed a powerful event to attract the interest of small businesses and key leaders in the community. We created the Hispanic Business Expo, the only event of this caliber in the region,” she affirms.

GWHCC Business Expo 2015

You can read:  GWHCC taking Washington Metro by storm at #HispanicBizExpo15


She believes the one strategy that has worked for the GWHCC to bring in new members and produce results is the involvement of local community organizations in this event.  They help promote the expo and actively participate with their presence, which this year amounts to almost 160 expositors.

“For instance, the chamber has been selected as the Federal Exchange strategic partner two years in a row to promote and offer healthcare to the local communities,” Franco shares. “Our effort has expanded over the mere lines of B2B and now we is getting the attention of key stakeholders in the nation, a great benefit for our members.”

GWHCC Hispanic Business Expo 2014 Expositors

GWHCC Hispanic Business Expo 2014 Expositors

Another area the chamber has consistently focused on is minority business certifications for businesses looking to become federal government vendors.  The chamber helps their members get certified as small or minority businesses, disadvantaged and other several categories.

Federal government contracts might have requirements that fluctuate across agencies and contracts. Even revenues requirements might vary from less than $100K to $2M or more a year, a big gap for the caliber of businesses applying to these contracts, Angela explained. Some of these certifications do not require US citizenship.

“We help Hispanic businesses make the tough decisions as they grow,” Angela said. “Especially for Latina business owners, who usually lack access to resources and contacts, we want to be there for them. Having a business is mostly about who can resist the tough times, and leaving out the negative emotions.”

GWHCC Hispanic Business Expo 2014  venue

GWHCC Hispanic Business Expo 2014 venue

In Franco’s experience, Latina women have a great internal strength, are driven and have a lot of determination. “We try to help them understand how the business works, and where the money is coming from; what is going to sell and to have some clarity in their business,” she said.

If you are a Latina business owner in the region, Angela invites you to meet with her personally at the Expo and talk to her about your concerns. Don’t miss this great opportunity to promote your business and find the solutions you need right now!

You can meet Angela Franco at the #HispanicBizExpo15 and follow her on Twitter @AFrancoVasco or @GWHCC

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