In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, The Hartford Chamber of Commerce is highlighting local Hispanic businesses in our Small Business Spotlight series. Learn more about The Latino Way, a Hispanic owned and operated marketing and media group specializing in Hispanic marketing, advertising, and publishing.

Mario Lino, Principal at The Latino Way spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about her passion for supporting Hispanic businesses in the Hartford area.

NAN PRICE: You have an interesting career path—all with a theme of providing a voice for the Hispanic community here in Hartford. Tell us a little about your evolution from newspaper publisher to news anchor to business owner.

MARIA LINO: I started out in journalism; I’ve always loved that field. It’s the way I created my own path when I moved to the United States in 2005. I began with some office work and I soon realized journalism and communications were kind of weak in representing the Latino community. Greater Hartford has a large Puerto Rican population and emerging communities like Peruvian, Colombian, and Dominican, among others, but we didn’t have a strong platform of journalists and news production.

So, in 2008 a business partner and I created The Post Latino, a free publication that was available in Latino groceries and libraries. And then, in 2012, I realized that, at the TV level, we didn’t have any kind of local news in Spanish. We created a partnership with Telemundo to provide local news. I became the news anchor, producer, salesperson—everything from the beginning to the end. That opportunity gave me a deep sense about our communities’ needs and frustrations. It also created a platform for politicians and other organizations to communicate with the Latino community. A lot of times, they’re trying to understand different communities, but they don’t have a bridge or somebody to be that middle ground between the community and the market.

NAN: You saw another opportunity.

MARIA: Yes. In 2012, I created The Latino Way. It was challenging at the beginning to shift from communications to marketing, because a lot of people knew me as “the lady from the news” and then I was trying to pitch them marketing. But I gradually created my networks and built the company.

The small businesses in Hartford were my cheerleaders—C-Town Supermarkets, the Latino restaurants —were encouraging me. I appreciated what they did for me at the beginning; they were my key partners to implement my marketing efforts at the next level.

NAN: That’s what’s amazing about the business community in Hartford. There are many ways to support one another and form collaborations.

MARIA: Exactly. And for us, it’s because we are part of something here. We’ve created ties. I don’t want to sound cliché saying we’re family, but we are. We’re pushing for the same market, in this case, Hartford. Whether they’re family businesses or immigrant businesses, everybody is eager to succeed and working hard to have their business stay afloat. They have the same dreams, whether they’re Dominican grocery store owners or Peruvian and Columbian restaurant owners. Our common goal is to make Hartford successful and, have a city where every business, big or small, plays a key role in the economy of the city.

From the small business connections, I developed connections with some state agencies and local nonprofit organizations, creating campaigns that resonate culturally and socially with our many Latino Communities. Since 2012, I began providing political consulting too. I was fortunate to work for Governor Malloy and Mayor Pedro Segarra.  2018 was a busy year for us, managing the Hispanic Media Buys and PR for Governor Ned Lamont, Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Senator Chris Muprhy, State Rep. Edwin Vargas and this year, focused on the re-election of Mayor Luke Bronin who won the Primaries looking forward to the November elections.

NAN: Again, you’re able to provide that communication bridge.

MARIA: Right. I can provide that knowledge about subtle nuances and behaviors, cultural elements you need to know when you’re creating a political campaign. The message needs to unify the community, so you need to speak individually—to reach everyone from Peruvians to Puerto Ricans—but globally at the same time. It’s challenging.

NAN: Let’s talk about your business growth and the impact you’re making on the community here.

MARIA: I’m proud to work for Connecticut Lottery. This is our fourth year providing them with Hispanic creative.

Also, many state agencies like Department of Consumer Protection and creating campaigns for CT Department of Public Health about Lead Awareness and Zika Prevention.

We’ve also spent the last three years marketing the Hartford Yard Goats’ Spanish league, Los Chivos de Hartford (Hartford Yard Goats in Spanish). We’re creating inclusive opportunities for communities to enjoy the sport with different nights to celebrate: Puerto Rican Night, Dominican Night, Peruvian Night, and Mexican Night.

Last October, we launched a new project under The Latino Way, CT en Vivo (Connecticut Live), which covers daily news in Spanish. I’ve rented a bigger place with a studio and CT en Vivo has a full team separated from the agency work, covering news in Spanish every day. So, now I’m managing two businesses that require my attention 24/7. Sometimes I wonder: What am I doing!? But I see there was a need and my clients are happy because now I have a platform where I can provide messages about them to a broader audience. And, through news, I’m opening new doors to develop a stronger network and get the community more involved.

Most recently, CT en Vivo created a partnership with Fox 61 and CW20. It’s a great collaboration. We’re thrilled to have them as partners! They are providing us with breaking news footage, air time, and opportunities to develop news projects together. In exchange, we’re providing our expertise and knowledge about the Latino Market to have the networks close to the communities we serve.

NAN: Why Hartford?

MARIA: I’m proud to be from Hartford. Hartford is a big part of my story as an immigrant. This is the market that has been loyal to me since the beginning and I would like to see everybody flourishing with their businesses. Every time I see a new Latino business opening in Hartford, I see my story and dreams there. We need to develop fresh and creative strategies for our Spanish businesses. We need them here. It’s our responsibility to create sustainable plans for them.

[Photo: The Latino Way at the 2018 Latino de Oro Awards Party. Left to right: Bruce Mandell, Maria Lino, Sara Bronin, Mayor Luke Bronin, and Alejandro Estrada.]

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