What’s great about online media is that it can be used to strengthen the community, not only on the Internet but also local communities within cities and suburbs. In the case of New York, where small Latino communities thrive, George “The Urban Jibaro” Torres uses his social network to help bring an online presence to both Latino culture and identity. I’ve been following and communicating with George for a long time and I see that he has the passion behind the content that he communicates to his followers, which is Latino cultural heritage.
George’s central hub of his social network is his website Sofrito For Your Soul, a site that helps promote Latino art, fashion, music, dance and traditions. His goal on the site is to build a community where people share their experiences of being Latino, discuss current issues affecting the community and reconnect individuals to their Latino heritage. In fact, he also co-created and hosts the Capicu Poetry and Cultural Showcase where Latino artists, performers and poets come to together in an open mic setting to display their creative talent.
His media network doesn’t end there; George is also on Twitter under his nickname @UrbanJibaro, on Facebook and he hosts his own podcast called The Capicu Show, that not only plays Latino music but guests are also invited to discuss Latino issues.
I had an opportunity to interview George about his media work not only for the community but also as a career in his company, Sofrito Media Group. Hopefully other Latinos can follow in his footsteps and utilize today’s media technology that can be used to help promote Latino content.
How did your business come about?
The earliest incarnation of this website was born on 1997 at the campus of SUNY Old Westbury as a webpage on the now defunct Geocities platform. It began as a personal website to share my poetry and thoughts about Latino culture similar to what is today considered a blog. After catching the attention of several student organizations, it was not long before I was accepting submissions from fellow students from campuses all over the country. Today we have a reader base of Latinos in over 50 countries all over the world. The website is also translated in 10 other languages.
The website became a catalyst in my career allowing me to utilize what I learned building it to provide consulting services in customer service, web design / development, marketing, event management and branding to companies looking to engage a Latino audience.
What is the goal of your business?
It depends on what aspect of the business we are talking about. As an umbrella, Sofrito Media Group’s goal is to develop projects that are culturally relevant to audience of 18-44 year old bi-lingual / bi-cultural, social media savvy taste makers who dominate the “New Generation Latino,” demographic. This group consists of predominantly U.S. born second, third, and fourth generation young adults who consume mostly English-language media and represent over $300 billion in purchasing power.
Some of our current projects include; Social Sofrito Networking Events, Latina Empowerment Seminar Series, The Capicu Show on Urban Latino Radio, Latino Community Info (Employment Website), Por Tu Familia (American Diabetes Association), Festival De Salud (local Latino health initiative) and Pa’l Pueblo Holiday Event (our local Christmas charity).
The business has grown significantly, the crown jewel of it is a collaborative event management company I co-founded with Juan “Papo Swiggity” Santiago called Capicu Cultural Showcase. Through this project we have successfully hosted over 50 events in local communities, venues and colleges in the NY Tri-state area.
The showcase attracts internationally renown artists as well as up and coming talent. It is also supported by many of NYC’s local artistic community. Although inspired by themes and artists who emerged in the Nuyorican Poetry movement, all styles of performances from diverse cultures are showcased.
What difficulties did you face starting your business?
Not having a business model to follow has to be the single most challenging aspect of building this company. As we diversified our portfolio of services, we studied business outside of the cultural realm to identify best practices that would ensure success. Even today, our aspirations sometimes are greater than the actual opportunities available in our niche but we have been very successful of building things up from scratch. Chances are if it does not exist, we will find a way to make the opportunities.
What marketing and online media campaigns are you using to help expand the business and brand identity?
Since AOL CHAT ROOMS and the MIGENTE.com era, we have maintained a very strong presence on social media and have developed an amazing community of audience members, artists, performers, poets and taste makers in the Latino community. This collective has served as brand ambassadors for the past few years allowing us to reach way beyond NYC to the global audience we have today.
Our showcases are promoted via opt-in email lists, Internet radio and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. We have partnerships with Urban Latino Radio to help leverage access to our core audience utilizing print, online and video content.
Are you also using your business as a way to help your local community? If so, how?
Our business model is built on community collaboration. The vast majority of the projects that we develop have a community component to them. In fact, I can’t think of a single project that we have worked on in the last 4 years that did not benefit a local community entity in some way.
We also utilize the principles of Edutainment to culturally enrich and empower our community through our involvement with American Diabetes Association’s Feria De Salud health initiative, Casa Ana Orphanage Project, and local initiatives like our “Pa’l Pueblo” Brooklyn Headstart Program and support for XMental University ‘s “Paint Straight” Restorative Justice youth program. We are always looking for community partners that are willing to invest in our community initiatives.
What is one advice that you would like to offer to others who want to start their own business?
Look around and find the resources to start your business the right way. Create a council of people outside your family that believe in your ability but are willing to be brutally honest. Last but not least, do not be afraid to fail… some of the most valuable advice I give to my clients today derive from my failures and have made my business stronger, 14 years later and we are still growing.
If you like to know more about George and his online media accomplishments, please feel free to contact him, he’s always up for a discussion or helping others.
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