There’s a new pipeline on Marine Drive.
Instead of carrying gas or oil, entrepreneur Paola Murillo’s venture is intended to be the North Shore’s pipeline to Latin America’s business community.
With office space in short supply and Metro Vancouver rents running from the unreasonable to the astronomical, Murillo founded the Latin Innovation Hub on Marine Drive near Capilano Road to give budding businesses the visibility and credibility of office space.
“It’s about ‘what do you want to create?’” she says.
Murillo previously founded the website Latincouver.ca, which sponsored festivals, business breakfasts, trade expos, and worked to facilitate trade with Latin America. Her new venture is essentially a bricks and mortar continuation of the website, something she hopes will “create a sense of belonging” for Latinos in Metro Vancouver.
“We have to create awareness that Latinos exist in B.C. That we have a voice,” she says.
Murillo says she’s spent eight years searching for a space for her project. Her search wasn’t aided by government funds, she reported.
“I do understand that for a government and for the city, it’s hard to say: ‘We’re going to support a specific ethnic group,’” she says. “I think it’s us who has to help ourselves.”
It took about eight years to find the space but Murillo was persistent.
Given that she once tied a rope across a street in her hometown of Bogota, Colombia to better sell candies to captive motorists, it shouldn’t have been surprising.
Murillo said she envisions as the hub as something akin to a town plaza – a place where everyone is welcome and relationships can form.
“It’s not free space of course, because real estate in B.C. is crazy,” she explains.
As it is, Murillo said the hub has 22 office spaces starting at $375 a month.
It’s not meant to be a permanent accommodation, but rather a stepping stone for new businesses, Murillo explains.
“Once they finish, maybe they don’t even have to be in the Latin Innovation Hub anymore because they need a huge office.”
Murillo says she started the Latincouver website after discovering the difficulties of connecting with her community in North Vancouver.
While first-generation immigrants often maintain a strong bond with their heritage, that bond tends to wither in subsequent generations, Murillo notes.
“They are losing who they are. They don’t know where they belong,” she says of second- and third-generation immigrants.
Part of the aim of the Latin Innovation Hub is to afford younger North Shore residents of Latino descent a greater understanding of their parents’ culture.
“It’s not isolating a community, it’s helping to integrate into a new place.”