Empezando & Arranque Empresarial

A entrepreneurial skills class and business networking group committed to assisting immigrants in developing small businesses


  • Immigrants living in Albuquerque and Española
  • Small business owners
  • Business professionals and leaders

Desired Outcomes

Arranque Empresarial  assists immigrants in starting small businesses by offering expert advice from industry professionals and legal guidance during monthly meetings. Empezando, an 11 week course, provides immigrants the necessary and practical skills needed to run a business.

How Empezando & Arranque Empresarial Build Relationships?

These programs offer immigrants a way to legitimize and succeed in running their businesses. They are able to move out of poverty and provide for their families. Some family members and children come back to seek help from Ross Griego and his programs.


  • $4,500 for Empezando class (typically covered by a sponsoring agent. If not, Ross teaches pro bono.)
  • $50 per hour for business consulting (around 100 hours)
  • $500 for teaching, meeting, or class materials, like resource binder.

Time Resources

The Arranque Empresarial meetings happen monthly  from 6pm – 8pm. Empezando classes are 11 weeks long. The first week is orientation and the eleventh week is graduation. Classes are twice a week usually from 6pm – 9pm.

Other Resources 

Students receive a resource binder which includes the curriculum and class syllabus. Ross Griego partners with community colleges in the area for free use of their classrooms and technology for Empezando. Accion and Independent Development Accounts help immigrants with funding their small business and building credit. Professional business owners and industry experts come in Arranque Empresarial meetings to offer their advice and guidance to new business owners. Guest speakers are advised to bring handouts of their key points to meetings for students to add to their resource binder. Anyone that speaks in class must include literature written in Spanish. 

Direct Partners

For Arranque Empresarial & Empezando

  • New Mexico State Economic Development Department
  • Valley Entrepreneurial Network
  • Greater Española Valley Community Development Corporation
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory Connect

For small business owners

Our Story: "Here people can speak from heart."
Empezando and Arranque Empresarial assist immigrants in starting small businesses by offering legal guidance and expert advice from industry professionals. Empezando, an eleven week class, teaches immigrants of any status entrepreneurial skills and strategies to maintain a business. Arranque Empresarial meets once a month to allow graduated Empezando students and other local business owners to exchange ideas and advice. Arranque provides an optional opportunity for further networking in Española, New Mexico, but graduated Empezando students need not attend Arranque Empresarial.

Ross Griego, the founder of Arranque Empresarial and Empezando, first developed the idea for Empezando in 1999 while living in California and working as a business consultant. On Thanksgiving, his youngest daughter noticed that many people were still working, even though it was a holiday. Many of these workers were Mexican immigrants, documented and undocumented, working overtime because they needed the money. The more Ross thought about these workers, the more he realized that immigrants in the US do not have many opportunities to build their own businesses. Ross created Empezando in 2001 to encourage immigrants both to create their own businesses and to legitimize already established enterprises. When Ross moved to New Mexico in 2013, he wanted to continue teaching Empezando, but he also wanted to make sure that his graduated students and other business owners could stay connected. Ross created Arranque Empresarial for this purpose: to bring professionals to advise and collaborate on businesses and foster the leadership of the owners. Ross taught Empezando in Albuquerque in September 2014 and again in February 2015 after a positive response and request from the Chamber of Commerce. Also in 2015, he brought his class to Española, NM where he also intiated Arranque Empresarial.

They have the skills, just not the guidance.

 Today, Empezando coaches students as they create business plans and one year vision boards. Ross also helps students get connected with Accion, an international organization that funds small businesses and builds credit history, and Independent Development Accounts (IDA) which are federally funded entities that help small businesses establish savings accounts and that respective organization matches the money saved. Ross knows that many are undocumented, but no law prohibits undocumented immigrants from starting a business. He helps his students register their businesses legitimately by obtaining an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Individuals with an ITIN qualify for a Employer Identification Number with which they can register their businesses with having to disclose any personal information. Students also collaborate with the whole class to fundraise for a non-profit organization of their choice and eventually donate any profits to the organization. Throughout the collaborative fundraising process, students practice public speaking skills. At the end of the 11 weeks, family and friends join to celebrate the accomplishments of the students at their graduation. While Ross was in California, Empezando graduated around 3,500 students. So far, 116 students have graduated from his Albuquerque classes and 65 from Española.


Arranque Empresarial consists of structured monthly meetings. The meetings start with a “Welcome.” Then, the meeting invites Jovenes de Inspiracion, who are local youth starting their own business ventures or positively contributing to their communities, to introduce their work. After, newcomers to Arranque Empresarial give a 60 second “elevator speech” on their business and what their goals are. Next, the Business Profile section where the owners and professionals invited contribute to improving the businesses. Finally, the Training and Leadership sections allows everyone at the meeting to choose discussion topics about business practical skills and leadership.

Empezando and Arranque Empresarial empowers participants and their families because of the opportunities the programs provide to bridge out of poverty. Ross says, “when people come to this country they do not know the laws and customs, but they try to make a living.” Often, he explains, many immigrants run or work for underground businesses where they are underpaid, underprivileged, and vulnerable. Before taking the class, Ross’s students typically make $10,000 – 17,000 a year to sustain themselves and a family. After Empezando and 2 years of registering their businesses, many of his students are making $40,000 – 60,000 a year, doubling or even tripling their net worth. He is proud of the services he provides because they are making true differences in the lives of the people he comes into contact with. He hopes to bring Empezando and Arranque Empresarial to more communities so more immigrant business owners can succeed.

When it comes to funding Empezado and Arranque Empresarial, Ross tries to negotiate contracts with local entities, like banks and community development centers. Ross has also attended city council meetings to request modest funds between $1,000 – $10,000 to run his programs. Currently, he receives funding from the New Mexico State Economic Development Department, Valley Entrepreneurial Network, the Greater Española Valley Community Development Corporation, and Los Alamos National Laboratory Connect. When Ross does not receive funding, he will continue to teach and coach pro bono.


After participating in Empezando and Arranque Empresarial, business owners and their families living in poverty can often grow their businesses and receive a middle-class income. Empezando classes help develop the necessary and practical skills needed to run a business. At Arranque Empresarial meetings, owners can gain inspiration through collaboration with other small business owners and industry experts. On a larger scale, these programs inspire the whole family, especially the children. Often, parents will bring their children to meetings so they experience what their parents are learning. It allows them to see the importance of having business skills and connections. Some children even come back to Ross Griego to seek help with other personal endeavours, such as college applications.


Ross Griego explains that some community leaders are not receptive to working with undocumented immigrants. Ross also shares that many undocumented immigrants fear becoming legitimate business owners because of the threat of deportation should their status become public. To challenge this, Ross sometimes invites Department of Homeland Security representatives to Española, NM, to inform communities about their legal rights as business owners.

Things to Remember

  1. Be patient, caring, and understanding.
  2. Stay attentive to the community you work in, especially in regard to culture and individual need.
  3. Guide every individual every step of the way so they receive all of the necessary tools to be successful as business owners.

Learn more about this project from the people who created it: