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Owner of Santa Rosa's Soluna Outreach Solutions wins North Bay Latino business leadership award

Hugo Mata

Principal and owner

Soluna Outreach Solutions

2455 Bennett Valley Road, Suite B314, Santa Rosa 95402

707-494-1699

www.solunaoutreachsolutions.com

Quick takes

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Bill Gates

Current reading: “Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains” by Deborah M. Kolb with Jessica L. Porter

Most want to meet: Barack Obama

Stress relievers: CrossFit and hiking our amazing Sonoma County Regional Parks

Favorite hobbies: Reading, hiking and interacting with the community I live in.

Read about other winners of this year’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.

Current economic challenges will only help him and his company grow, says Hugo Mata of Soluna Outreach Solutions, a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.

Professional background: C2 Alternative Services, director of Media and Community Outreach; Soluna Outreach Solutions, principal/owner; Red Latin-X Hub, chief of operations

Education: Santa Rosa Junior College (associate of science and associate of arts degrees), San Francisco State University (bachelor’s degree, radio and television), Leadership Institute for Ecology & the Economy (program) and Leadership Rohnert Park (program)

Staff: 5

Tell us your story and that of your organization: I have been a resident of Sonoma County for over 30 years and originally I am from the state of Jalisco, Mexico, before I immigrated to California.

Being bilingual and bicultural provides a great asset when communicating with the Latino community and living in California and United States.

I established Soluna Outreach Solutions in 2017, a bilingual environmental consulting business to expand education and outreach across the Spanish-speaking community, with a primary focus on conservation, sanitation and health.

Before creating Soluna Outreach Solutions, I worked for 15 years with C2 Alternative Services, a regional leader in environmental consultation to municipal agencies.

Soluna Outreach Solutions now supports LatinX communities and LatinX-serving companies in 20 counties.

While building my own business, I helped launch a Facebook Live series, “Poder de Saber” (the Power of Knowledge), “providing technical support to LatinX-owned small businesses. The series now has a more than 2,000 followers and a live broadcast three days a week, expanding the topics to include community, environment, local economy, education and continues to grow and expand to different topics and areas.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

In the past few months, I collaborated with other Latino community leaders to form LatinX and create Red LatinX Hub, a physical space which provides resources such as conference rooms for meetings, short-term office space, guidance in business practices, voting information, environmental programs, referrals to health services, and much more.

As a start-up, incubated in the Hub, my partners Mariana Gomez Almaraz, Hector Velazquez and I have developed LatinX Radio, an internet radio station now broadcasting to the community, and with the ultimate goal of replicating this in other counties creating a network of resources and direct communication to Latino communities.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

The creation of my company Soluna Outreach Solutions and the work we do to keep our environment healthy, safe and clean.

What is your biggest challenge today?

There will always be challenges; which play a huge part in the overall success I have had. The biggest challenge has yet to come as we have seen this past year and continue to see with many changes and challenges to be prepared for what may come next.

What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?

I have been conducting outreach to the Latin-X community for more than 20 years in various capacities and have seen a tremendous increase in Latino Leaders involvement in the community. Seeing this collaboration and continuous work to empower not only the Latino Community, but the community at large is very powerful and something to be proud of.

The Latino community faces many challenges starting with the negative perception that Latinos are here undocumented and taking jobs from American citizens, they do not care about the environment, they do not pay taxes etc.…the list goes on.

Unfortunately, in many cases this perception has been nurtured and augmented by the media and even by some politicians.

Other challenges include the lack of diversity representation in local government positions and other local organizations. Although Latinos represent the largest minority group in Sonoma County, it is the most disproportionately impacted by the lack of affordable housing, access to health care and access to information.

Words that best describe you: Dependable, determined, happy, compassionate, strong, respectful, and fun.

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

The biggest obstacle I have had to overcome is navigating the educational system. There were instances in which people that were there to guide you, instead discouraged me from pursing a higher education.

Hugo Mata

Principal and owner

Soluna Outreach Solutions

2455 Bennett Valley Road, Suite B314, Santa Rosa 95402

707-494-1699

www.solunaoutreachsolutions.com

Quick takes

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Bill Gates

Current reading: “Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains” by Deborah M. Kolb with Jessica L. Porter

Most want to meet: Barack Obama

Stress relievers: CrossFit and hiking our amazing Sonoma County Regional Parks

Favorite hobbies: Reading, hiking and interacting with the community I live in.

Read about other winners of this year’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.

Because of my accent, I was told to pursue a vocational career as it was the easiest thing to do. I ended up doing my own research and attended the university I wanted. The rest is history.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

The LatinX community continues to increase and the need for bilingual information continues to increase with it. I believe the need for environmental community bilingual outreach and engagement will continue to be of great need. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have found other ways to continue to outreach the community with environmental programs. This will include the use of more technology.

Who was your most important mentor?

There have been many people through my life that have shaped who I am and what I do.

One of those people has been my friend and colleague, Connie Cloak, from C2 Alternative Services. Connie was instrumental in getting me involved in the community outreach programs I run today. Her knowledge, passion and dedication have been a great example to follow and inspires me to remain dedicated, determined and diligent in all that I do.

Tell us about your community involvement: I have been involved with the community for more than 20 years and in many capacities. I serve on the regional committee of Vision y Compromiso, a statewide organization with more than 4,000 “promotores” serving 13 regions of California. The promotores are community members who are a bridge to community resources.

Broadly, the mission of Vision y Compromiso is to help the Spanish-speaking population to access health care resources and to be better educated and productive citizens.

I have served as a board member of the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation for the past five years where I’m a strong and effective advocate for environmental education programs for Spanish-speaking children and families.

I also produce and hosts “Nuestra Tierra” (Our Earth), a one-hour radio show that serves as a resource hub that provides a voice to different environmental topics to Spanish-language audiences in Sonoma County and surrounding areas where KBBF’s signal is broadcasted. I’m also a frequent guest on Spanish commercial stations in the Bay Area.

What advice would you give to a young person today?

Stop texting and explore the real world. There is so much you are missing. Find your passion, volunteer for one of the organizations that closely resembles that passion, learn as much as you can, practice those learnings and then teach others. You will be surprised on what you can do.

It’s a challenging time for all but the COVID-19 virus has been especially tough on the Latino community. Tell us your experience either personally or with the group or company you work with in dealing with the economic impact of the virus.

It has definitely been a tough situation (in many ways), but I always like to focus on the positive.

All these impacts have encouraged Latino leaders, local organizations, and Latinos in general to work together, find ways to help our local businesses and inform the community on availability of resources.

Through Red Latin-X Hub, the Poder de Saber program, Latin-X Radio and collaboration with local community and government organizations including the SBDC and the Sonoma County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I will continue to do my part to help navigate these challenging times as best as possible.

What are the lessons of this difficult year – including the COVID-19 virus, the economic downturn and the fires – for you and how has it changed your outlook for the future?

As I have said before, I’m a very positive person and welcome all challenges; which in turn will help me and Soluna grow.

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