Business law

The Fresno Program gives immigrants the tools to start and maintain a business



CVIIC celebrated its sixth class at the beginning of August at the Graduation Dinner at the Piccadilly Hotel. Photography by Estela Anahi Jaramillo

The Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC) recently celebrated the 44 graduates of the Immigrant Entrepreneurs Project, the sixth cohort to graduate from the program.

Headquartered in Fresno, CVIIC serves eight counties in the Central Valley and helps Spanish-speaking immigrants take the right steps to start their businesses.

With limited knowledge of the procedures for setting up a business in the United States, many immigrant business owners face significant costs while trying to operate.

Many Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs have found that these types of business courses are offered in English only, with little or no support in other languages.

“We open their eyes to what they can really do, to see their potential as entrepreneurs. CVIIC is trying to achieve this by providing them with training, but also by creating the network so that they can integrate and contribute to local economies from during entrepreneurship.

Forming solutions

CVIIC has its origins in a regional gathering of immigration service providers and advocates in October 2013. It was convened to bring together representatives from a wide range of agencies and organizations interested in building regional capacity with the hope of comprehensive migration reform.

Founded in 2014, CVIIC today has a growing regional network of nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and individuals that provide information and services to immigrant families under policies such as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), AB 60 California driver’s licenses, U visas for victims of crime, and more. Federal and state programs.

Among the various free training programs offered by CVIIC, the Migrant Entrepreneurs Project was created to promote self-employment and entrepreneurship through individual training, support and mentoring.

CVIIC has two sessions per year – the 12-week Spring and Summer cohort and the 16-week Fall/Winter cohort. Each group is divided into two blocks for introductory and intermediate training.

Knowledgeable instructions

The instructors in these courses are business owners who donate time to guide students on their journey to the American Dream.

Fresno insurance broker Belen Sanchez is one of the CVIIC instructors, helping students through the steps of creating contracts, obtaining licenses and permits, and obtaining insurance.

“A lot of times in Mexico, you can just go around the corner and open your business without any problem. But here, it’s not like that,” Sanchez said. “You can’t do that because you’ll be fined. Especially if you are an immigrant, if you want to become a citizen, you cannot keep anything on your record. This will affect you. So, if you start a business, get help here too.

CVIIC offers a holistic approach to supporting migrant entrepreneurship, guiding multi-agency collaboration.

Immigrant Rising is a national immigrant entrepreneurship agency that provides initial training, while adult education partners such as the Sequoias Adult Education Consortium, the State Center Adult Education Consortium and Fresno Adult School have contributed to vocational education.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Foundation for Education and Leadership, and SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network) assisted in the project with their knowledge of immigrant communities and resources in the area. The Justice Action Center has hired pro bono attorneys with experience in business law who assist participants with onboarding support.

Most students who join a CVIIC internship do not have a business, but have an idea of ​​what they want to do. Others own existing businesses but are learning how to improve their organization’s setup and operations.

“We’re changing the narrative, but we’re also opening doors for those who often don’t have a voice,” Carranza said. “We are more focused on impact, understanding the needs of our community and doing something about it.”

Chasing the dream

Mario Ortiz married into a baking family in Nayarit, Mexico. The Ortizes family wanted to continue in the bakery business when they moved to the United States

When his wife discovered CVIIC via Facebook, she signed him up to finally begin their dream of owning a bakery.

They have sold their baked goods from their car in the past, but now through training courses, he knows the steps to take to find a building for his bakery.

“When I started studying here, I thought I knew everything they showed me, and my bakery would have been pretty well known,” Ortiz said. “I’m so grateful that now with this knowledge, I know I can do it.”

Ortiz explained how the CVIIC team helped him believe he would not be alone on this journey, and helped inspire him to reach his family’s dream.

Jacqueline Valverde is from Sinaloa, Mexico. She started her business at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, selling her own approved pesticides. Its product is non-toxic, has no odor, and is not made with poison.

She started out selling with a company but became an independent authorized seller. Through CVIIC, she started her own company and traveled from Sacramento to Tijuana to distribute her product.

“I learned to have all my passes because I didn’t have any,” said Valverde. “I also learned my rights as an employer.”

While she’s working, driving from Northern California to Southern California, she never misses any of her online classes. She has shared her CVIIC experience with other business owners who could benefit from these classes.

CVIIC has many plans ahead, as they hope to hold in-person courses in Madeira soon and create a new food truck program.


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