Latina Entrepreneurs in Arizona.
By Christine Bolaños.
During the Great Recession, which lasted from the late 2000s to early 2010s, businesses in Arizona, including those owned by Latinos, grew by 2 percent. The 2017 DATOS: The State of Arizona’s Hispanic Market published by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce states: “The evidence suggests that in the face of higher-than-average job layoffs among Hispanics our state’s Hispanic entrepreneurs and especially Latina entrepreneurs, decided that despite the economic recession (or perhaps because of it) the time was right to start a business.”
That tenacity of Latina entrepreneurs to take control of their own financial future has not diminished post-Great Recession. Experts say they see Latinas opening businesses in various industries, ranging from food and retail to technology and media.
“Aspects and approaches I believe are key to the new normal in growth for Latinas is regionalization and expanding external partner alliances beyond one’s comfort zone —- be that geographically, demographically or ideologically,” says Lydia A. Aranda, who serves as interim president at the Tucson Hispanic Chamber and Southern Arizona Affiliates.
“As Latinas, our dedication to family and self-improvement is frequently top of mind in a pursuit of best practices towards our best business selves,” she adds.
The Chamber emphasizes small business growth by offering resources and programs in both formal and informal settings. Some of these include regular gatherings over coffee, the Women’s Center of Excellence initiative, which is augmented with other programs in the region such as YWCA’s Women’s Business Center, the SBA’s local Small Business Development Centers, and other tailored programs; and, the International Welcome Center initiative, through which the Chamber brings entrepreneurs from the neighboring Mexico State of Sonora.
There is also support for young Latinas through the Young Entrepreneurs Academy “Collectively, I ask all entrepreneurs: “When you take a look around your environment, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to make it better? How can I be part of the solution?’,” Aranda says. “If the answer doesn’t help your neighbor as well, revisit the drawing board until you can.”
Erica Cardenas, who was named LATINA Style Advocate of the Year, and is founder and co-owner of inspireHER, an inspirational T-shirt line for girls and women that shares the message of love, hope and truth “one T-shirt at a time,” couldn’t agree more. She started her business to share her story with, and offer encouragement to, other girls and women.
“Being a Latina business owner has opened up a whole new community to me and has provided me the opportunity to get connected with other local Latina entrepreneurs,” she shares.
She believes Latinas are widely represented in all industries and mentioned her friend, Monica Robles, a graphic designer who also creates custom woodwork furniture and installations.
Maria Powell, an associate broker at Help-U-Sell Galleria Realty and producer and host of Maria Powell TV for Azteca, entered the real estate business because as a single mother she needed a flexible work schedule. But helping families find their dream homes is what truly gave her a sense of fulfillment.
Her television program helps her connect with, and positively influence her audience, helping them make the most informed decisions for their daily lives.
“Do not be afraid to ask for help. In my opinion, the most successful people want to help other people succeed,” Powell advises. Mary Rabago, President and CEO of Mary Rabago Productions and recently-named Entrepreneur of the Year by LATINA Style, says that it’s also imperative that a Latina fulfills her passion through entrepreneurship, so as not to view their endeavor as just another job.
Her journey toward entrepreneurship began five years ago when she left Univision to find a creative way to educate and empower the Latino audience. Her immigrant background allows her to connect with her audience in unique and authentic ways.
“We’ve been able to really connect corporate America to the buying power of the Latino community in a way they can identify with, resonates with them and they understand how the services and products will really enhance their lives,” Rabago explains.
According to Rabago, her company is changing lives and believes this type of success doesn’t happen without collaboration. She applies the same mindset of, “It takes a village to raise a child,” to running a business.
Maria Luna is CEO and Co-Founder of BRAVO Pay, a Smart phone application that provides a fast, secure and seamless way of tipping. The app aims to financially empower hard workers and has helped, in part, create jobs for more than 80 families.
It launched in Phoenix and will soon go global. “It’s especially hard for Latinas to raise capital,” Luna says. “Look for investors as early as possible. Equip yourself with resources. This is how you can achieve a sustainable business model.”
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