While we’ve been privy to the Pew studies and the like stating the phenomenal rise of minority Internet use—mainly African American and Hispanics—, AOL has actually taken these case studies and created viable subsidiaries dedicated to these markets. With Black Voices and AOL Latino, the online monolith has created an outlet for these sectors not just to be statistics that beget online’s meteoric rise, but to exist as tangible properties with powerful advertising potential.
But if numbers must be the totem of success, the Latino population has planted its flag in the marketplace, and has capitalized on the power of the Web. According to a 2005 AOL/ Roper ASW Hispanic Cyberstudy, 63% of online Hispanics, ages 18-34, want to own their own business vs. 36% of the online general population. Additionally, 47% of online Hispanics are very or somewhat likely to invest more in 2005.
But AOL Latino seemed to have realized the promise of this entrepreneurial market ahead of time, having formed an immediate partnership with Ford Motor Company in 2004. Together, the two entities launched a co-branded site, coined Mi Negocio (“My Business”), which serves as an online hub for Latino entrepreneurs and emphasizes community in the process.
In 2005, the companies took their relationship and cause to the next level by launching an Apprentice-style elimination contest that would award $100,000 in cash prizes and a Mercury Mountaineer to the most driven, entrepreneurially-focused participant.
Leading the sales and advertising front at AOL Latino is Mark Lopez, who himself had worked in senior-level positions at companies like Terra Networks and J2 Communications prior to moving up the ranks at AOL. Lopez, who also happens to be an MIT Business grad, fits the mold of both a motivated exec and as a legitimate voice in his community. Recently, ADOTAS had a lengthy chat with Lopez to discuss the purpose of and current goings on at his outfit, and how he views the Latino online marketplace today.
Hi, Mark. So what’s the background on AOL Latino and Mi Negocio? What services does it provide?
Mark: With Mi Negocio, we’re in the third year of the site that we’re doing with Ford and it targets Hispanic small businesses, giving them the tools and some of the insight to really grow their small business or if they’re thinking of starting their own small business. It gives them pointers on how to get started and it gives them sort of a network of other folks that are either other services or like them starting out. So it provides a forum that, three years ago when we started the site, wasn’t available. So we’ve grown the audience and tools available to our users significantly.
Was this something that there was a demand for at the time or was this something where you guys were thinking ahead of the curve, saying that this is really a burgeoning demographic online and it would be good to jump on it before other people do?
A Hispanic audience…is very entrepreneurial in nature, so I think that the need for a hub or a network has always existed. What we know is that within a lot of networks and outside the Internet for a number of years, there wasn’t anything national that really attracts the small business segment. So Ford felt very strongly, and we felt very strongly, that the creation of a site like Mi Negocio could definitely help the small businesses on a national level.