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The Power of Cross-Cultural Inclusion with Paulo Hutson Solórzano
In this season 3 episode of Back of the Napkin, Paulo Hutson Solórzano, owner of A Medida Communications in Chattanooga, TN, talks the importance of cross-cultural inclusion, overcoming self-imposed barriers to networking, and the power of tooting your own horn. Read more.
From superheroes to how couples fell in love to the inspiration behind a small business, many people find origin stories fascinating. For Paulo Hutson Solórzano, owner of A Medida Communications in Chattanooga, TN, his story begins as the son of missionaries in rural Nicaragua. He believes the early life lessons of being active in his community and finding a way to make a difference for those around you impacts how he operates a small business and the projects he takes on.
Building Bridges with DEI
Since opening his business as a cross-cultural marketing and advertising agency in 2015, Solórzano has established an impressive client roster, featuring government, non-profit and corporate clients. While varied, his client roster is also uniquely connected through Solórzano’s focus on celebrating the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) that enriches communities. The mission of A Medida is creating inclusivity by working across diverse markets, to maximize mainstream resources and reach.
“Creating inclusivity is vital for this world to continue going round and round,” said Solórzano. “To effectively communicate with someone, you must understand that way of life to provide the equitable distribution of education, resources and services that are available in a community. It is really understanding what different walks of life are and how you can incorporate that in the general market.”
Solórzano notes that A Medida clients seek to tap into multicultural markets with goods, services or resources that target diverse communities. A Medida looks to bridge the gap by accessing the appropriate platforms to communicate with those communities, like the local health department. “COVID 19 had a disproportionate effect on vulnerable populations. A lot of it was language and cultural barriers, and how that plays into the medical system when it comes to accessing vaccines, testing and so forth,” said Solórzano.
Knowing how and where your target population seeks information and who is a trusted messenger is the starting point to all education campaigns. According to Solórzano—who works with organizations across the country—the Latino community in Chattanooga is completely different than that of Texas or Florida.
“It's all about surveying the community and working in partnership with key leaders, whether that's in the faith-based space, the school system, or different grassroot groups,” said Solórzano. “We then onboard and learn from them. The first step is identifying the players—who are they, where are they and how are they getting their information—and then applying that message on the right platforms.”
Those platforms can be as wide-ranging as putting a group on WhatsApp or printing a poster and distributing it on foot. “It is about understanding the platforms that a specific community is using and placing the message right in front of them,” said Solórzano.
If You’re Not Networking …
Solórzano was recently named to the 20 under 40 by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and honor he relishes. He recognizes, however, that some small business owners are hesitant to toot their own horn. “It's important for folks to really broadcast the work they do,” said Solórzano. “The response that we're getting is really great to see, and let's share it with everyone.”
He also advocates small business owners schedule time for network. He acknowledges that networking doesn’t come naturally to many. “Networking hasn't always been easy for me, but it’s a skillset, which means it can be developed and honed with practice,” said Solórzano.
Solórzano has an acronym—FROD—he employs when meeting someone new.
“I first talk about family, then recreation, then different opportunities, and then dreams. If something connects, then there is something that brings us together,” said Solórzano. “Networking takes practice, and you are going to get nervous, and you're not always going to want put yourself out there. But if you push yourself, I promise, it'll be worth it.”
Community Connection and Business Growth
Corporate social responsibility, or when a business reflects customer values in its operations, is a trend Solórzano embraces as a human, and a business owner. He suggests there is absolutely a business case for reaching out to underserved communities.
When his corporate position was eliminated, he said it made him think of the particular products that were—or weren’t—being offered, and how he could reach the people who weren’t being served. “Taking that simple concept and then applying across a broader band with important topics, such as health or equitable access to resources that are available, is a viable business proposition,” said Solórzano.
Solórzano serves as a board member for area companies and organizations. He believes community involvement is critical to his success—as well as for any small business owner. ”You get really in-depth insight on what's happening locally, what's happening nationally,” said Solórzano. “It's a way for me, personally, to not only be involved, but also have the opportunity to give back and really see what's happening in my community.”
He also sees that diversity and inclusion brings a vibrancy to his business and his life by allowing him to tap into different people and their stories. “I hope that, as we move forward, in bigger businesses and in smaller businesses, leaders choose to be intentional with DEI,” said Solórzano. “That you're really given opportunity to really have your brand, your organization, your company be vibrant with the diverse talent that exists.”
Solórzano brings a passion to his work but understands that there is more he can do. “We had a good year during unfortunate circumstances, but it goes to show the importance of this work,” said Solórzano. “I think we're on a trajectory now where folks are really getting it, and it's not just going to be applied to the Spanish-speaking community, but there's also other communities that need the same kind of support and advocacy and inclusion.”
He sees the impact that he can have to serve and help other communities, whether that be the African American or LGBTQ communities, different underrepresented, underserved populations “That's what we're continue to identify,” said Solórzano. “Different ways that we can help organizations really tap into these different groups and really share what they do and different resources and services.”
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