Hispanics are far from a niche market. Consider that there are 60 million Hispanic people in the U.S., generating more than $500 billion in annual sales. Connecting with this large segment of the population and harnessing its consumer power is good for all businesses, said Hello Alice co-founder and CEO Carolyn Rodz in a lively Hispanic Small Business Town Hall, hosted by Hello Alice and Inc. on Friday, September 25.

Rodz moderated a panel on the challenges and opportunities facing Hispanic-American entrepreneurs. Here are three key takeaways:

1. Validate 

One of the most important things Hispanic business leaders can do is validate their community, said Beatriz Acevedo, a serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is an in-development fintech called SUMA. When she co-founded Mitú--an entertainment company aimed at the bilingual, English-dominant youth market--it sought to communicate: "I see you, I hear you, this is the place for you."

2. Listen

Reach out directly to customers and listen to their needs, said Kim Gamez, founder and CEO of Mi Padrino, an event planning and ecommerce platform. As she built her business, Gamez went on a listening tour to hear what Hispanic consumers needed while planning events like weddings and quinceañeras.

"I built my platform for them, not for me," Gamez said. To better serve your audience, listen for cues and ask, "What are these people really saying?"

3. Engage

"Not only talk with [customers], but engage with them," said Claudia Romo Edelman, founder of We Are All Human, a diversity and inclusion advocacy group. Connecting with Hispanic consumers means more than merely translating ads into Spanish, she said. It's about seeing them as unique. "We're going to be seen, we're going to be heard," Romo Edelman said.