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Charlotte's Latin American Chamber will launch an e-commerce site for small businesses

The Latin American Chamber of Commerce received a $200,000 grant from Bank of America to launch an e-commerce site for small businesses.

Bank of America is awarding Charlotte’s Latin American Chamber of Commerce with a $200,000 grant to launch an e-commerce platform to promote and sell products and services from Latino-owned local businesses.

The online platform will be called La Plaza. Gris Bailey, president of Charlotte’s Latin American Chamber, says the site will help close the digital divide many small minority-owned businesses face.

“It's going to be an opportunity for our members to market and promote their products online with our help,” Bailey said. “ We're going to be the promoters, the marketers for their services and their products by teaching them how to do all of this.”

The chamber will partner with students from UNC Charlotte through internships during which the students will be trained on how to use the e-commerce platform.

“That way we can send these students out into the community, into the small businesses,” Bailey said. “And they will be teaching the small business owners how to do everything that we've taught them.”

Bailey points out that the online site will give small businesses the ability to ship their products or have an online order ready for pickup. Those are capabilities some of the businesses might not currently have.

The chamber will also use a large portion of the $200,000 grant for marketing.

“We're pouring marketing dollars into businesses that can't afford to pour marketing dollars into their business themselves,” Bailey said.

La Plaza is still in its development stage. The chamber will start building out the site in November and plans to launch early next year.

The e-commerce platform will start out with 50 businesses owned by members of the chamber and will add 50 more every six months, according to Bailey.

“There's no reason why we shouldn't have this support for our community,” Bailey said. “It's building trust in our community and it's tailoring all the services that you know that our community needs to our community.”

The grant shows the importance of private and nonprofit organizations coming together to work on the same goal, Bailey said. In this case, it's supporting small and minority-owned businesses

“It's a tall order for us, but we're willing to put in the work,” Bailey said. "We're not going to do this alone. We're going to do it with the community.”

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Maria Ramirez Uribe is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte.