Mentor Protégé Program Grows Successful Business Partnerships

The Indy Chamber’s Hispanic Business Council is dedicated to providing opportunities for Hispanic businesses to grow in Indianapolis. Pairing Hispanic entrepreneurs with larger mentor firms, their Mentor-Protégé Program has been a catalyst for Hispanic small business owners.

One of the mentor protégé pairs turned into a profitable opportunity for both parties.

At the time of the Mentor Protégé partnership, Gary Hentschel was the president of KeyBank and Fernando Aguilar was a hospitality start-up business owner. Aguilar was in the process of successfully growing ECU Staffing, a regional employment firm focusing on the Hospitality industry. Together, Hentschel and Aguilar shared many ideas and strategies as ECU grew rapidly to in excess of $20M in revenues. Aguilar and his partner successfully sold the company in 2014.

“During our time together in the program and keeping in touch with Fernando after the sale, I was fortunate to learn a great deal from his keen business intellect as well as his people evaluation and development skills,” said Hentschel, who is now the CEO of United Labor Group.

"Through the Mentor Protégé program, Gary provided guidance on how to apply best practices to find sustainable growth and profitability. Many times, we were challenged about our decisions which enabled us to become more competent and committed to be better. Rather than taking a business-centric approach, the HBC program gave us the insight to build long-last friendship and to understand the importance to be part of networks and relationships," said Aguilar.

After acquiring an equity interest in ULGCompanies in 2015, a multi-dimensional staffing company focused in industrial skilled trades, Hentschel approached Aguilar a number of times to discuss business strategy and execution. These conversations led to a new partnership between the two, with Aguilar becoming President of ULGHospitality, United Labor Group’s newest business division focused on serving the hotel and food service industry in southern California.

Reflecting on his experience, Hentschel said, “The truest partnerships result from mutual learning and benefit. I am very fortunate to have met Fernando through the Mentor Protégé program where the roles of mentor and protégé have reversed many times.”

The Mentor Protégé program was designed to develop and grow one to two Hispanic-owned businesses each year for a two-year period.

“The program aims to motivate and encourage mentors to assist protégés with business development, foster the establishment of long-term business relationships between protégé companies and majority corporations, and enhance the capability of the protégé participants to compete more successfully in the marketplace,” explains Gustavo Escalante, Hispanic Business Council Manager at the Indy Chamber.

To learn more about the Hispanic Business Council and the Mentor Protégé program, contact Escalante at [email protected]

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