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August 17th is National Nonprofit Day. VIP’s Ask an Attorney program has been providing one-hour virtual and in-person consultations to nonprofit clients since the beginning of the pandemic, and many businesses throughout Philadelphia have taken advantage of the wisdom and guidance of expert lawyers. Today, we are celebrating a nonprofit that took advantage of the free legal help: the Association of Mexican Business Owners in Philadelphia. We spoke with Hector Herrada, the Board Chair. Read the conversation below:
“The Association was formed as a response to the pandemic in 2020. The co-founders felt alone as Mexican business owners, especially because all of them are first generation immigrants and faced barriers as both migrants and business owners. They couldn’t qualify for funding, so they chose to support each other instead.
One of the community members invited me to join because I had experience in the nonprofit setting. I asked what they needed help with. Initially they told me it was just finding funds for rent. So I threw a fundraiser and we raised more than $40,000, which was distributed between 12 business owners. And from there it grew from just a group of community members to a nonprofit that partners with other businesses around Philadelphia.”
“The group decided we wanted to do something more meaningful as we were getting more funding. And the first step was becoming an official organization. So I started looking into what it took to become official and quickly realized it was too difficult for me to navigate on my own. One of my community members knew about Ask an Attorney and recommended reaching out to see what VIP could do to help us. And from the initial conversation it was clear that VIP would take the time to understand what we need and place us with the right volunteer.”
“Our volunteer lawyer was great. We worked with a partner from Ballard Spahr, Steve T. Park. He was incredibly responsive and willing to answer any question, even if they felt silly or unimportant. He worked alongside us to make sure that everything was correct and accurate. And when it became time to pay the fees for the articles of incorporation, he let us use his business account. We successfully incorporated and obtained 501(c)(3) tax exemption because of his help. We are now able to raise funds and conduct fundraisers to do more for our community, and that wouldn’t have happened without the support of Mr. Park and VIP.
The ability to present our organization to people as a nonprofit, as opposed to just simply an organization, helps us in the long run as well. Now, others view us not simply as a group of business owners or Mexicans. Now we are an official nonprofit trying to connect the community, and because of this we can do more things to make a difference. Because my ultimate goal is that everybody feels welcome in this community, and knows that they can be just as supported as anyone else in this country.”
“Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for something you need. That’s what I did with VIP, and look what happened for me. The worst thing you can get is a no, but a lot of people are willing to help. So find the support, then create and do meaningful things with it.”