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Growing up together: Adapt Marketing Consulting, founded by childhood friends to support minority-owned businesses, could soon double in size

Brian Espinosa and Jonathan Tlahuextl. Photo by Omar Waheed.

This piece first appeared in Blueprint365 Magazine. To request your free copy, click here.

Two childhood friends saw a gap in how minority-owned small businesses got their images out there, and decided to be the service they thought the community needed.

Jonathan Tlahuextl and Brian Espinosa founded Adapt Marketing Consulting, 821 E. Washington Ave., to help minority-owned small businesses that were lacking branding and marketing materials, such as websites, to help them grow their businesses.

Tlahuextl and Espinosa have been friends since childhood. They both worked in banking, which is how they met some of their clients. They noticed a common theme, especially with minority owned businesses: a lot were missing key components to building their businesses and brand images.

“What we noticed is that a lot of these minority owned businesses are underrepresented. As we know, the majority of business owners are white,” Espinoza said. “As minorities, we know the underrepresentation that we have in the system.”

The two, who come from underrepresented backgrounds, also knew that there were not many Spanish-speaking companies to help service the businesses they were coming across.

Tlahuextl and Espinoza got Adapt Marketing started through working with the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce. Being able to speak Spanish and knowing firsthand the challenges that Latino business owners faced equipped them to service clients. The two wanted to create a path for them to prosper along with underrepresented clients and make them feel like they are part of the team too.

“We realized that there’s a lot of people that needed this stuff. They just didn’t have some to do it for them,” Tlahuextl said. “And we always wanted to work for ourselves and own something that is our own.”

Often, they see Latino owned businesses started by people who have worked in specific trades, but lacked the opportunity to start their own business. And when they do start their own business, they may overlook important steps to grow.

“Generally, it’s someone who was working a trade or was working a service job, whether it was a restaurant or something like that, they take the skills that they developed their whole lives,” Espinoza said.

Even closer and part of the team, one of Adapt Marketing’s first clients was Espinoza’s aunt’s company, Yad’s Cleaning. The two used their services to improve Yad’s marketing materials and image to increase business. Yad’s Cleaning was trying to get a commercial contract with Walgreens. Part of the contract required a strong online presence; Adapt Marketing was able to help Yad’s Cleaning reach its goal and secure the contract. 

“She was actually one of our first clients that we made a website for, which gave us an opportunity to see the interactions and test out how we should talk to clients,” Espinoza said. “We noticed that because the communities we’re helping out, which are all minorities or businesses that are getting started off from the very bottom, they just need an online presence.” 

The marketing company offers business consulting to get a fresh perspective to identify areas of improvement and find new opportunities, social media management to help build brand images and, the most recent addition, website development.

Tlahuextl and Espinoza added website development through a subsidiary they called Infinite Sites to meet additional needs of Adapt Marketing’s clientele. It aims to meet needs of quality and affordability that can scale with the client as it grows.

“A lot of new business owners that just want to get their foot in the door — I mean 75% of users that go to an online website are the ones that are going to be the ones judging. If they don’t find a website, they’re not going to purchase the product,” Espinoza said.

Website design has found a stronger footing for Adapt, but now Tlahuextal and Espinoza are looking to pivot harder into Infinite Sites and expansion. It is looking at servicing beyond its current small business clientele to mid-sized and large companies.

To do that, Adapt Marketing is trying to grow its team.

Right now, Adapt Marketing is a team of three with Tlahuextl, Espinoza and another employee that aids in its current service geared towards website design. The company is looking to double the size of its team to help it grow — much as it tries to with its clients.

“The way we’re adapting into medium or large enterprises is that we’ve noticed that they already have a website,” Espinoza said. “The biggest thing is reaching their audience and getting those new leads. We come in with ad management because medium businesses are not spread nationwide. They’re usually just in the area.”

Small businesses typically are missing key marketing materials to start scaling, as noted by Tlahuextl and Espinoza. Medium and large companies already have the basics down, but chasing down new leads and increasing their image to hit audiences past local areas is what they aim to equip businesses with.