From culture, to taxes, to the economy, the debate over how Latinos contribute to our country is often plagued by misperceptions. Too often, assumptions about Latinos in the U.S. are based not on facts, but on stereotypes, fear and hyperbole. In this environment of rising walls and burnt bridges, where “facts” can be created on the fly, accurate data is a breath of fresh air.

Earlier this year, we helped launch the State of Latino Entrepreneurship (SOLE) 2016 research report, a collaborative effort of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Latino Business Action Network. A much-needed whiff of fresh air.

The SOLE report uses primary and secondary research to examine the state of Latino-owned businesses, expanding our understanding of the Latino entrepreneurship segment of the U.S. economy, which comprises about one in every eight (12 percent) U.S. businesses.

Sol Trujillo and Rupert Murdoch at the launch of the State of Latino Entrepreneurship report

Sol Trujillo and Rupert Murdoch at the launch of the State of Latino Entrepreneurship report

If your perception of a Latino-owned business (LOB) is a taco truck on a street corner in an L.A. suburb, think again. These businesses range widely in size, industry and the owner’s country of birth. Most importantly, they are highly integrated in the overall economy, which means that when Latino-owned businesses thrive, the community thrives with them.

Not surprisingly, almost 60 percent of LOBs are located in the four states with the largest Latino populations: California, Texas, Florida and New York. Yet, far from being niche-market endeavors, these companies are tightly woven into the broader community. The SOLE report found that:

  • 74 percent serve non-Latino clients
  • 54 percent employ mostly non-Latino workers
  • About 70 percent are owned by U.S.-born Latinos
  • They range across industries, with most in professional & business services, manufacturing & construction and education & health care

It is estimated that Latinos own 4.23 million businesses in the U.S., a number that has grown twice as fast as the national average since 2012.

This strong entrepreneurial spirit, which is actually a major pillar of the U.S. Latino identity, was particularly evident during the recent recession. Despite the economic downturn, between 2007 and 2012 the number of LOBs grew by 46.3 percent, vastly outstripping the overall pace of U.S. firms, which grew by only 2 percent.

Latinos are also overrepresented in small and medium-size business ownership. Despite this, brands and agencies too often ignore them when developing B2B strategies.

While the SOLE report demonstrates the strength and dynamism of Hispanic entrepreneurship, this data should not be taken to suggest that Latinos are a monolithic community. Quite the contrary, this community is diverse and multilayered.

So, forget the taco truck stereotype and look at the data. The numbers tell the story of a driven, resourceful and resilient community that is proud of its culture while at the same time fully integrated into U.S. society. Latino entrepreneurs are ready to surmount any challenges thrown at them, and they’re increasingly unapologetic about their place in our nation.

Making headway in the U.S. Latino market therefore requires a nuanced communications approach that takes account of its inner complexities. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work to engage Latinos anymore, if it ever did.