In Talentos Latinos, we bring you the story of Guillermo Cisneros, the executive director of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
After having a job and a stable life in Spain, Guillermo Cisneros left everything behind to start from scratch, like many other immigrants in Western Michigan.
“I came in mid-2009 from Madrid, Spain. I am originally from Mexico, but in Spain I had the pleasure of meeting my wife, who is from Michigan. It was a very complicated year in terms of work and professional development,” says Guillermo.
In 2009 the country was in the midst of the economic crisis, so he had to wait nine months to solve his immigration situation and have a work permit. During this time, he devoted himself to study English, did an advanced writing course in English, and a human resources course at Cornell University while waiting for his work permit.
Although it was not easy, his determination was the key to success. His first job opportunity was at a HOME DEPOT as a supervisor. “I was working there for a year and a half. However, it was an area where I didn’t feel comfortable, and I wanted to return to my professional career,” he says.
In 2011 he had the opportunity to work for an insurance firm with a national presence. Although it was the opportunity he had to return to the corporate environment, he did not feel at ease as it was difficult for him to adapt to the community.
In 2012, someone invited him to attend a membership meeting at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of West Michigan in Grand Rapids. To his surprise, there were 50 Latino professionals. From that moment, everything changed.
“When I realized this, I thought: – hey, I have wasted a lot of time -. So, I decided to volunteer for this organization. I came to every meeting every month. I got involved in the ambassadors’ committee, and after a couple of years they invited me to be part of the Board of Directors in 2014,” says Guillermo.
In 2017 the then Executive Director resigned to pursue another job. He realized that his passion was in this organization, helping Hispanic businesses in the area and, therefore, was assigned as the new president.
“Since 2017, we have been working intensely with different corporate partners to have resources for our Hispanic community. We have a quite big Hispanic community in West Michigan.”
17% of the West Michigan Latino community lives in Grand Rapids, and 25% belong to the Holland area. “These numbers will change after the 2020 census results. There are many opportunities to support our community, both for businesses and Latino students,” he concludes.